Cataracts in Cats

Overview of Feline Cataracts

A cataract is any opacity of the lens of the eye. The normal lens is translucent (clear), and it transmits and focuses light onto the retina in the back of the eye. A cataract within the lens may block the transmission of light to the retina.

Below is an overview of Cataracts in Cats followed by some detailed and in-depth information about the diagnosis and treatment of this disease.

There are many causes of cataracts. Cataracts may be inherited or related to some other disease process. Most cataracts in the cat develop secondary to inflammation within the eye, from trauma or some other eye problem. Rarely, cataracts in the cat may be inherited, may arise with abnormal development of the lens, or may occur in association with nutritional abnormalities in the young cat.

Cataracts are not the same as nuclear or lenticular sclerosis, an aging change that often occurs in the feline lens and does not cause blindness. Cataracts are not as common in cats as they are in dogs. The finding of a cataract in a cat’s eye should lead to a search for an underlying problem.

Cataracts cause varying levels of vision impairment and may lead to blindness.

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Cataracts in Cats

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

Treatment of Cataracts in Cats

Home Care and Prevention of Cataracts in Cats

It is important to have all cats with cataracts examined early in the course of their disease as the cataract is frequently a sign of another underlying problem. Inflammation in the eye (uveitis) is the most common cause of cataract development in the cat, and uveitis often indicates the presence of a systemic disease; therefore, it is important to examine and perform diagnostic tests in all cats with cataracts.

Even if the cat is not a candidate for surgical removal of the cataracts, there may be other medications needed to treat underlying diseases. If your cat has inoperable cataracts, he may require help adjusting to his blindness. Be sure to keep objects around the house in a consistent place and confine the cat to the house or an enclosed porch, patio or yard. Most blind pets function extremely well in familiar environments.

There is nothing you can do to prevent cataracts.

In-Depth Information on Cataracts in Cats

Various eye diseases can cause a cloudy white appearance similar to that observed with cataracts. Many such diseases result in poor vision or blindness. Your veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist will be able to tell you if the white appearance and vision loss is caused by cataracts, by disease of the cornea – the clear outer covering of the eye, or the retina, which is the specialized light receptor layer in the back of the eye..

There are several causes of cataracts including:

Veterinary care includes diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis In-depth on Cataracts in Cats

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize cataracts and exclude other diseases. These tests may include:

Treatment In-depth on Cataracts in Cats

Treatments for cataracts may include one or more of the following:

Regardless of which type of procedure is used to remove a cataractous lens, there are many postoperative medications and important home care instructions to be followed after the surgery.

Surgical Complications of Feline Cataract Surgery

Non-Surgical Cataracts in Cats

If your pet’s cataracts are secondary to some other eye disease, removal of the cataract is frequently not indicated.

Medical therapy may be necessary to control inflammation within the eye, to combat any glaucoma present, and to treat underlying illnesses, even when the cataract cannot be removed. Periodic follow-up examinations are required to keep the eye healthy and the cat comfortable.

Home Care of Cataracts in Cats

After cataract surgery, the first one to two weeks are the most labor-intensive. The cat must be kept quiet and calm. Usually an Elizabethan collar is used to keep the cat from rubbing the eye or grooming the area around the eye.

Follow all instructions your veterinarian gives you for medications. Several topical (drops) and oral medications may be used after surgery, such as: anti-inflammatory drops (prednisone/prednisolone, dexamethasone); dilating drops (tropicamide, atropine); antibiotic ophthalmic drops; oral anti-inflammatory drugs (prednisone, baby aspirin or ketoprofen); and oral antibiotics (amoxicillin, cephalexin).