Canine Cataracts: What To Know

dog catract

Canine cataracts can be an upsetting and frightening diagnosis for any dog owner to face. Paw Nation spoke with Donna J. Spector — a board-certified veterinary Internal Medicine specialist from VCA Animal Hospital — to learn exactly what every dog owner should know about the ocular disease.

What are dog cataracts?
Cataracts are a dense opacity (cloudiness) in the lens of the eye. The normal lens is clear and transmits light onto the retina in the back of the eye. A cataract will block this transmission, leading to vision impairment or even full blindness.

What are some signs that your dog might have cataracts?
On examination, you may see a blue, gray or whitish color change in the center of the eye. This should not be confused with nuclear sclerosis, an aging change that causes cloudiness in the lens but does not cause blindness. Dogs with cataracts will often bump into things or be hesitant in unfamiliar environments. They often don’t want to use stairs or jump. They may appear disoriented or even acutely blind in some cases.

What are the treatment options?
Currently, the only treatment option for cataracts in dogs is surgical removal of the lens. Your veterinarian is likely to recommend a visit to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) for a thorough evaluation of eye health and vision before being considered a candidate for cataract surgery.

How do cataracts form?
Cataracts are frequently inherited in the dog. Over 40 breeds are predisposed to getting them. Cataracts form for a variety of other reasons, including trauma, diabetes, and nutritional imbalances during puppyhood. They also can be secondary to other eye diseases. In these situations, the lens becomes damaged, which leads to the development of a cataract that can progress very rapidly or very slowly. Vision impairment ranges from mild to complete blindness.

Is there a prevention for cataracts?
There is no medication or lifestyle change that can prevent cataracts. If you have a dog with a genetic predisposition to cataracts, perform weekly at-home eye exams and contact your veterinarian if you detect any changes. Early diagnosis and treatment of eye problems in any dog will help prevent damage to the inside of the eye which could cause cataract formation.



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