A cataract is an area of opacity on the lens of the eye. It inhibits the passage of light through to the retina, disrupting vision. While small cataracts typically don’t interfere much with vision, the condition is progressive. Left unchecked, cataracts often become larger, thicker, and more dense- further interfering with a dog’s ability to see. In addition, cataracts can become mobile, settling in a location where they obstruct tear drainage, possibly causing glaucoma and irreversible blindness. Cataracts can also dissolve, triggering severe, deep, and painful inflammation in the eye.
Causes of Cataracts in Dogs:
While all dogs can develop cataracts, a few breeds are particularly susceptible. These include golden retrievers, terriers, poodles, cocker spaniels, and miniature schnauzers. Cataracts are most often inherited in dogs. In such cases, they may be present at birth or they may develop in the first few years of life.
Cataracts can also develop as a dog ages or in response to an eye trauma. The condition is also associated with certain diseases, especially diabetes. Hypocalcemia, or low calcium levels in the blood, and uveitis, which is inflammation of the eye’s uvea, also commonly cause cataracts. Exposure to radiation or toxins, such as naphthalene and dinitrophenol, can also lead to the development of cataracts in dogs.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Cataracts in Dogs:
The primary symptom of cataracts is cloudiness or a bluish-gray coloration in one or both of the dog’s eyes. There may also be indications your dog is having difficulty seeing, depending on the severity of the condition. Keep in mind, though, that dogs’ eyes may naturally develop a cloudiness or bluish-gray color with aging.
Regardless of your dog’s age, these symptoms warrant an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will take a medical history, ask about your dog’s symptoms and their progression, and perform a physical examination. Once a diagnosis of cataracts is given, underlying causes, such as diabetes, are considered.
Treating Cataracts in Dogs:
If your dog is deemed a suitable candidate, your veterinarian may recommend surgical removal of the affected lens to eliminate the cataract and restore vision. The lens is replaced with an artificial substitute. This procedure has a high rate of success, but dogs require considerable postoperative care. Your dog will need a protective collar while the eye heals and you’ll have to administer eye drops a few times every day for two weeks or longer. Recovering dogs also need a stress-free environment.
Small cataracts associated with an underlying condition are often manageable by controlling the root cause. For example, if a cataract is not interfering notably with your dog’s vision and it is related to diabetes, the condition may not progress to the point of requiring surgical intervention if you successfully manage the diabetes.
Information provided by VetDepot.com, an online retailer of pet meds and supplies.
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