All You Must Know About Canine Cataracts

Dogs have a different way of seeing the world compared to humans. They can’t see the full range of colors that we can. However, they share the same eye structure as us, making eye health an important concern for dogs. One common concern is cataracts, which can affect their vision and lead to complications. Here’s what you should know about cataracts in dogs, including signs, diagnosis, and treatment.

Understanding Cataracts

Both humans and dogs have a layer of tissue at the back of the eye called the retina, which senses light and sends messages to the brain. The lens, located behind the pupil, is responsible for focusing light onto the retina for clear vision. A cataract is a clouding of the lens, which can affect a dog’s ability to see clearly.

Belgian Malinois head with wide eyes looking scared.
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Dr. Chantale Pinard, a veterinary ophthalmologist, explains that cataracts are caused by a clouding of the lens due to improper fiber orientation. This cloudiness can be focal or diffuse and may start developing during fetal development or later in a pet’s life.

Causes of Cataracts in Dogs

Cataracts in dogs can be caused by nutritional deficiencies, congenital issues, eye trauma, or inflammation. However, the most common causes are genetics and diabetes. Some breeds are predisposed to developing cataracts earlier in life, such as Bichon Frise, Boston Terrier, and Labradors.

Diabetes can also lead to cataracts in dogs by causing a rush of water into the lens, resulting in misalignment of lens fibers. This rapid development can lead to blindness in a short period of time.

Signs of Cataracts in Dogs

The first sign of a cataract may be redness around the eye due to protein leakage from misaligned lens fibers. As the cataract progresses, vision loss and a white pupil may become evident. Dogs may exhibit signs of discomfort and vision impairment, such as bumping into objects or missing thrown items.

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It’s important to differentiate between cataracts and nuclear sclerosis, a condition that occurs in older dogs and affects their vision in low-light environments.

Diagnosing Cataracts in Dogs

Your veterinarian will perform an eye exam to diagnose cataracts in your dog. They may use special equipment to examine the lens for opacities and measure the eye pressure to assess any inflammation related to the cataract.

Australian Cattle Dog having its eyes checked by the vet.Australian Cattle Dog having its eyes checked by the vet.
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Treating Cataracts in Dogs

If your dog’s vision is not significantly affected by the cataract, your vet may recommend monitoring the situation and prescribing anti-inflammatory eye drops if needed. Surgery is the only option for restoring vision in dogs with impaired sight due to cataracts.

Surgical removal of the cataract and replacement with an artificial lens can greatly improve your dog’s vision. However, the surgery is costly and comes with potential risks and complications. Your vet will assess whether your dog is a suitable candidate for surgery based on their overall health and the extent of the cataract.

After surgery, your dog will need time to recover before fully regaining their vision and enjoying activities like playing fetch or exploring the world around them.

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All You Must Know About Canine Cataracts