Does Your Dog Have Cataracts?

Does Your Dog Have CataractsDoes your dog have a cloudy appearance to their eyes? Maybe their vision is not what it once was, and you may notice them bumping into objects around your home. Though our dog’s eyes can undergo normal changes as they age, they can also experience an eye condition called cataracts.

So what are cataracts and how do they affect our dogs?

In this article we will discuss the details of cataracts in dogs, and what it means for your furry friend if they are diagnosed with cataracts in the future. 

What Are Cataracts in Dogs?

Cataracts in dogs are essentially a cloudiness in the lens of the eye. Cataracts will start off small and may not affect a dog’s vision at first. They can often grow if they are left untreated. Since the lens is such a vital part of their vision, a growing cataract can cause a dog to go blind over time.

In a dog without cataracts, light will pass through the lens and make its way to the retina. Since the light is unable to reach the retina in a dog with cataracts, this is what ultimately affects their vision. The cataract will cloud the entire lens and become thicker with time, making it impossible for a dog to see through when it spreads throughout the lens. 

Symptoms of Cataracts In Dogs

Though our dog,s can struggle with many different types of eye conditions, there are a few characteristic symptoms of cataracts in dogs. Some of the most common signs of dog cataracts include:

  • A cloudy or bluish grey appearance to the eye
  • Changes in pupil size
  • Complications with seeing in dim light
  • Bumping into objects around your home
  • Squinting
  • Clumsiness
  • Misjudging distances or being reluctant to jump

Though you often see these signs in dogs with cataracts, these symptoms can point to other eye conditions as well. These symptoms can also be present in the painful eye condition called glaucoma in dogs, as well as the normal aging of the eye referred to as nuclear sclerosis. Because of this, it’s so important to have your dog seen by a veterinarian with any changes in the eye that you may notice. 

A thorough eye exam is the only way to differentiate between these common eye conditions in your dog, and to find a treatment that works best for your canine companion. 

What Causes Cataracts In Dogs?

Though many believe that cataracts are an eye condition that only affects senior dogs, that’s actually not the case. Cataracts are most often hereditary, meaning the condition is passed down from dog to dog. Some dogs can even develop the disease in the first months of their life. Because of this, it’s important to have documents stating that each parent is free of any hereditary eye conditions when choosing a puppy from a breeder. 

Another common cause of cataracts in dogs is due to having diabetes. Diabetes causes excess water to be pulled into the lens of the eye, which causes the cataract to form. Because of this, about 75% of dogs diagnosed with diabetes will develop cataracts within the first year of their treatment. Cataracts in diabetic dogs are so common that blindness is almost an expected development when a dog has diabetes.

Though this is the most uncommon cause of cataracts in dogs, some dogs seem to develop the condition due to old age. Some cases appear spontaneously in an aging dog, and cannot be linked to either of the above causes. 

How To Treat Cataracts In Dogs

So how are cataracts treated in our furry friends? If your vet believes that your dog’s cataracts were inherited and are affecting their quality of life, there is an option to help restore their vision. 

Cataract surgery involves a skilled ophthalmologist removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. This surgery is generally successful, but does involve tedious postoperative care. The owner will need to apply multiple eye drops, multiple times a day in the days following the procedure, and be sure to keep up with follow up exams. This can be challenging with the average person’s work schedule. 

If you have a dog that has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, it may be important to you to prevent the development of cataracts in the future. Thankfully, there is now a medication called Kinostat that can do just that. Kinostat has been known to significantly reduce the likelihood of developing cataracts, and even prevent it completely. If you fear cataracts for your canine friend, we suggest talking to your veterinarian about this option. 

Will A Dog Go Blind Without Cataract Treatment?

When it comes to the question of your dog’s vision going forward, each case will vary. Some dogs will develop cataracts early in life, but continue to have decent vision even into their senior years. By having a thorough eye exam performed by your veterinarian, they can help you come to a conclusion of what to expect in your dog’s future. 

A dog’s cataract progression will vary based on their situation and their specific risk factors. For example, diabetic dogs with cataracts are more likely to develop blindness than a dog with a small hereditary cataract that grows slowly over time. Be sure to speak with your vet about each of your dog’s risk factors, and they can determine the best plan for your dog going forward. They will likely refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist as well. 

Though cataracts are often thought to be a normal part of aging in our dogs, we know now that it’s not the case. Be sure to review the information we discuss above about cataracts in dogs, and you can be aware of the warning signs going forward.

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