Can Dogs Live with Cataracts?

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Introduction

Eye health is important for all creatures. When your dog has cataracts, it is difficult for them to see, because there is opacity in the lens of the eye. In some cases, cataracts don’t cause complete blindness, but they generally decrease vision, which can make life much more difficult for your pooch.

Fortunately, however, cataracts are not fatal, and most dogs learn to live with the condition. Your dog can also have surgery to remove the cataracts to prevent blindness. It is important as a pet owner to be able to see the symptoms of cataracts and get your pet appropriate treatment early on.

Signs that Your Dog has Cataracts

For pet owners, cataracts are one of the easiest medical problems to notice and diagnose. If you start to notice a cloudy appearance to your dog’s eyes, you are probably seeing cataracts. The cloudiness will appear as bluish, gray, or white in the lens of the eye. You may also notice that your dog is more clumsy than normal or that it doesn’t want to jump on furniture or climb up the stairs.

Additionally, dogs with cataracts may also rub or scratch their eyes frequently. Redness and irritation are other symptoms of cataracts, but they are also symptoms of other conditions as well. Lastly, if you notice excessive blinking or discharge from the eye, your dog may have cataracts.

As the cataracts progress, you may also notice that your dog can’t see things as well as they used to. In severe cases of cataracts, your dog can go blind. There are treatments for cataracts, however, so as a dog owner, you have options to help your pet. In some cases, the development of cataracts can also be slowed down, but there are times where surgical treatment isn’t an option and your dog is going to lose its sight.

Body Language

If your pet displays the following body language, they may be losing their vision. At this point, you will want to take your dog in to see a veterinarian.
  • Growling
  • Staring
  • Cowering
  • Furrowed brow

Other Signs

Other signs that your dog needs to visit a veterinarian include:
  • Cloudy-looking eyes
  • Bumping into walls and furniture
  • Staring at walls or staring without reacting

History of Cataracts in Dogs

Much like humans, dogs have dealt with cataracts for centuries. In the past, there was no way to help dogs. Modern medicine has made it possible for dogs with cataracts to regain sight with the help of surgery.

Since veterinarians discovered cataracts, they have worked on understanding the causes of them. In many cases, cataracts are inherited. Different breeds tend to develop cataracts differently, so in some cases, cataracts can be predicted.

Diabetes is the second most common cause of cataracts. Almost 75 percent of diabetic dogs will develop cataracts within the first nine months of having the disease, and often diabetic cataracts can lead to blindness. In these cases, cataracts generally develop very quickly. If you have a diabetic dog, you can use antioxidant vision supplements to prevent cataracts from forming.

A toxic reaction in the lens of the eye can also cause cataracts. These cataracts are caused by an ocular disease or a reaction to a drug. Diseases can than cause a toxic reaction include retinal degeneration, uveitis, and glaucoma.

Generally, cataracts develop with age. When this is the case, they usually form after a dog turns eight years old. Age-related cataracts don’t usually interfere with vision like some of the other types of cataracts.

Science Behind the Formation of Cataracts

Cataracts form when the lens of the eye loses its transparency, which causes visual impairment. During this process, the lens becomes thick and opaque. The center of the eye will then become a whitish/gray color. Depending on the cause, cataracts can develop very quickly or progress slowly, so it is important that your veterinarian determines the cause of cataracts.

Most cases of cataracts are genetic and occur as your pet ages, but there are other causes that can result in a lot more damage to your dog’s eyes. Treating the underlying cause can help prevent vision impairment. Surgery is one of the most common treatments for cataracts.

Helping a Dog with Cataracts

Since cataracts are irreversible, all you can do is treat the problem. When it comes to treating cataracts, there aren’t a whole lot of options. In a lot of cases, surgery can be done to remove cataracts. In other cases, a veterinarian will prescribe eye drops that can prevent inflammation and other problems caused by cataracts.

Not all dogs are candidates for surgery to remove their cataracts. If your dog’s cataracts aren’t interfering with their vision, a veterinary ophthalmologist may not want to perform surgery on your dog. Cataract surgery requires an ophthalmologist to make a small incision in the eye. A hole is cut into the capsular bag that holds the lens. A probe then ultrasonically emulsifies and removes the cataract and the cloudy lens is removed. An artificial lens is then placed in the capsular bag.

To help prevent cataracts, you should make sure that you get your dog in for physical exams every year. These exams will alert you to any health conditions that could lead to cataracts or other eye problems. Treating the underlying cause can help prevent cataracts or delay their progression. Antioxidant vision supplements can also help prevent cataracts from ever forming.

If your dog’s cataracts cause significant vision loss, you need to be prepared to help your dog cope. If surgery is an option, your dog will need some extra TLC during their recovery. The hospital might keep your dog for a few days, but once your pooch is home, you will need to give your dog the prescriptions that the veterinary ophthalmologist sends home with you.

In the event that your dog loses their vision, you may need to make some changes around your home. For instance, you won’t want to leave your dog unattended in unfamiliar areas. During walks, you will need to provide additional guidance for your dog. Your veterinarian can talk to you about any changes you may need to make for your dog.

How to React to a Cataract Diagnosis:

  • Work with your veterinarian on a treatment plan for your dog.
  • Monitor cataracts and help your dog manage with any vision impairment.
  • Make life easier for your pooch by clearing clutter in your home.