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Cataracts in Dogs

By: Dr. Jennifer Welser

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Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests are necessary to recognize cataracts and exclude other diseases. Tests may include:

  • A complete medical history and physical examination.

  • A complete eye examination. Most veterinarians have the tools with which to confirm the presence of a cataract in the lens, but it is often necessary to visit a veterinary ophthalmologist to have a more thorough examination performed using an indirect ophthalmoscope and a slit lamp biomicroscope.

  • Blood tests to determine any underlying causes

  • An ultrasound examination of the eye if the cataract is too opaque to allow examination of the retina.

  • Possibly an electroretinogram to evaluate the function of the retina, especially if the cataract blocks visualization of the retina.

    Treatment

  • There is no medical treatment available to reverse cataracts, to prevent cataracts or to shrink cataracts.

  • Cataracts that are inherited or are not complicated by other eye diseases may be surgically removed. Cataracts associated with other eye diseases, such as inflammation (uveitis) cannot be removed surgically until the inflammation is brought under control.

  • Whether a dog is a candidate for cataract surgery can be determined by a veterinary ophthalmologist.

  • Treatment must also be instituted for any underlying causes, such as diabetes, etc.

    Home Care and Prevention

    It is important to have all dogs with cataracts examined early in the course of their disease to determine whether the cataract is inherited or is secondary to other conditions. It is also important to determine whether the cataract itself is affecting the eye, such as causing inflammation or glaucoma. Early evaluation by a veterinary ophthalmologist allows appropriate therapy to be instituted for ancillary problems and allows a determination to be made as to whether the dog is a candidate for cataract surgery.

    If your dog has inoperable cataracts, he may require help in adjusting to his blindness. Be sure to keep objects around the house in a consistent place. Confine the dog to a fenced yard or leash walking. Most blind pets function extremely well in familiar environments.

    There is little you can do to prevent cataracts. If your pet is diagnosed with inherited cataracts, notify the breeder so that no other litters are produced from the same sire and dam.

    If your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, then monitor blood and urine sugar as recommended by your veterinarian. Maintain good control of the diabetes.

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