post image

Cataracts in Dogs

Overview of Canine Cataracts

A cataract is any opacity in the lens of the eye. The dog’s 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.

There are many causes of cataracts. The most common form of cataracts in the dog are genetic, inherited types. For genetic cataracts, the age of onset and severity varies among the various breeds of dogs.

Cataracts may also develop following trauma to the eye, in association with metabolic diseases such as diabetes, from nutritional disorders during puppy hood, or secondary to other eye diseases. Cataracts may develop spontaneously in old age, but should not be confused with nuclear or lenticular sclerosis, an aging change that often occurs in the canine lens and does not cause blindness. Rarely cataracts may develop following exposure to certain drugs, toxins, concentrated microwaves, radiation, or following electrocution.

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

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Cataracts in Dogs

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

Treatment of Cataracts in Dogs

Home Care and Prevention for Dogs with Cataracts

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.

Information In-depth for Dogs with Cataracts

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 ( the specialized light receptor layer in the back of the eye).

Causes of Cataracts in Dogs

There are several causes of cataracts including:

Veterinary care includes diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis In-depth of Cataracts in Dogs

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

Treatment In-depth for Dogs with Cataracts

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

Cataract Surgery for Dogs

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 surgery.

Surgical Complications

Non-Surgical Cataracts

If your pet’s cataracts are secondary to some other eye disease, removal of the cataract is frequently contraindicated.

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.

After cataract surgery, the first one to two weeks are the most labor-intensive. The dog must be kept quiet and calm. Usually an Elizabethan collar is used to keep the dog from rubbing or traumatizing the eye. This collar should stay on at all times. Playing, barking and jumping should be discouraged and all pressure around the head should be minimized. Use of a harness rather than a collar is recommended for two to three weeks after surgery.

Follow-up Care for Dogs with Cataracts

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, flurbiprofen, diclofenac); dilating drops (tropicamide, atropine); antibiotic ophthalmic drops; oral anti-inflammatory drugs (prednisone, carprofen); and oral antibiotics (amoxicillin, cephalexin).