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A cataract is described as an opacity in the lens of your dog’s eye. This causes blurry vision, and sometimes even loss of sight. Cataracts in dogs can range from mild to severe, and may become thicker as time goes by without treatment. If left untreated, cataracts can cause glaucoma. Glaucoma is caused when the fluid from the cataracts spread around the eyes. Not only that, but when a cataract begins to dissolve, it may cause serious pain inside your dog’s eyes.
Cataracts in dogs may affect any breed of any age. Some dogs develop cataracts over time, and some dogs are even born with cataracts. Fortunately, cataracts in dogs can be treated if they are caught early enough. It is important to understand the risks associated with cataracts and how your dog may have developed them. Once diagnosed, cataracts can be surgically removed and treatment may be administered to ensure they do not reappear.
What Causes Dog Cataracts?
There are a few different reasons why dogs may develop cataracts. Often times, cataracts are simply a part of the aging process, called senile cataracts. However, there are certain breeds that are known to be born with cataracts or prone to cataracts later in life. These include Highland White Terriers, Boston Terriers, German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies and Miniature Schnauzers. If your dog develops cataracts, it is important to be able to tell what type of cataract it may be.
Inherited cataracts – As mentioned, certain breeds may be more susceptible to dog cataracts. Often times cataracts are part of an inherited ocular disorder.
Senile cataracts – These dog cataracts will likely start to develop at 7 years of age and older. It is important to remember that many dogs have gray, blurry eyes when they begin to age, and this is not always caused by cataracts. Regular check ups at the vet will help to diagnose cataracts.
Congenital cataracts – These types of cataracts are present at birth. These types of cataracts in dogs are often caused by a type of infection or toxin that affected the developing pup in the womb.
Developmental cataracts – These are also known as juvenile cataracts. These may be caused by a few different things such as diabetes mellitus, bacterial infections, trauma to the eyes or inheritance. Poodles, Cocker Spaniels and Huskies are known to develop juvenile cataracts.
Symptoms of Dog Cataracts
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms when dealing with a possible case of dog cataracts:
Change in eye color: This is the most obvious symptom, as the eyes themselves are directly affected. Look for a gray, white or bluish hue inside your dog’s eyes. This color change is caused by protein build up, which creates the cloudy effect. The color change may be in one or both eyes, depending on which is infected.
Loss of sight: Your dog may begin to run into things or trip very easily. When a dog has developed cataracts, his vision is restricted to simply shadows. In worst case scenario, the cataracts may claim your dog’s entire vision. If left untreated, cataracts can cause complete blindness.
Pain and inflammation: Prior to the cloudiness affecting your dog’s eyes, they may become red and inflamed. Always bring your dog to the veterinarian if you suspect he may be starting to develop cataracts.
Hesitancy: Dogs are natural scavengers and love to explore. If your dog appears to be hesitant when entering a new area, jumping up on the couch or other activities, he may have trouble seeing, which could indicate cataracts.
If your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, it is important not to wait to seek treatment. The earlier your dog is treated for cataracts, the less severe they become. If left untreated, cataracts may lead to glaucoma, which can cause permanent eye damage and loss of sight.
Treatment for Dog Cataracts
Once your dog has been properly diagnosed with cataracts, it is important to figure out a treatment plan. The most effective form of treatment to completely remove the cataracts and restore your dog’s vision is with surgery. Unfortunately, there is no medicinal cure for cataracts. Sometimes, your dog’s cataracts will dissolve, but this can cause extreme pain for your dog.
It is important to not that not all dogs can have cataract surgery. Your veterinarian will perform a series of tests in order to determine if your dog is fit for cataract removal surgery. However, if the surgery is performed, the success rate is very high and your dog’s vision is usually fully restored.
After surgery, your vet may prescribe some antibiotics to help ease inflammation and pain during the healing process. It is important to note that cataracts cannot be prevented; they are simply a part of life that an owner needs to deal with.