The last time you looked into your dog's eyes, you noticed a slightly milky color starting to infiltrate into them. Chances are good this means your poor pup has the beginnings of cataracts. A cataract occurs when the lens of your dog's eye starts to become cloudy. This occurs as the result of a process called opacification.
Cataracts are considered a progressive disease, as they are only going to get worse with time unless they are treated. In the case of cataracts, if you don't take the right steps to prevent them from forming in the first place--or seek treatment once you discover them--your dog will eventually lose his sight, as light will no longer be able to pass through the lens.
Cataracts can be the result of several different things such as genetics, diabetes mellitus, congenital conditions, age, trauma, and poor nutrition, and may even be a side effect of another disease such as glaucoma. The most common treatment is surgically removing the affected lens and replacing it with an artificial one.
The problem with this is that the surgery can be quite expensive and most people do not have health insurance for their dogs. A much better option would be to find a way to prevent cataracts from occurring in the first place.
Causes and Prevention of Cataracts
Diabetes and Cataracts
Diabetes in dogs is much like the same disease in humans in that it can be hereditary, but more likely it is the result of a poor diet. You should feed your dog a diet that is low in carbohydrates, as an excessive amount of carbs can lead to increased levels of glucose that in turn can lead to diabetes and, in time, cataracts.
With this in mind, make sure your dog gets a diet that is low in carbs and plenty of exercise. Try a diet that includes plenty antioxidants to fight the presence of "free radicals" that can not only lead to cataracts but cancer as well. Vitamins C and E are known to help, but be sure to discuss proper dosages with your vet. There are a number of supplements on the market but talk to your vet first to make sure you are using ones that are safe for your dog. You can also add more vegetables to his diet, including green and yellow bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, and various other yellow or green veggies that are known to be high in antioxidants.
Toxicosis from Vaccinations
While your pup needs certain vaccinations to protect him from a number of canine diseases, there is such a thing as over-vaccination. Although there are several vaccinations you cannot avoid, there are many more that are unnecessary and can be easily avoided.
Medical research has found that excessive vaccination can lead to toxicosis, which in turn has been found to be one of the leading causes of cataracts in dogs. It is up to you to keep all chemicals, including vaccinations that go into your dog, to a bare minimum. Not only will this help to prevent cataracts, it will help to reduce his risk of cancer and many other illnesses.
There are certain breeds of dog such as Bichon Frise that are more likely to develop cataracts due to genetics. Some may develop this disastrous eye condition over years, while others can go from clear eyes to completely clouded eyes in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent your dog's hereditary conditions, but with proper diet and avoidance of toxins, you may be able to slow the formation of cataracts. But, unfortunately, in some breeds, the only thing you can do is to have intraocular lens replacement done once cataracts begin to form.
There are certain instances in which a traumatic injury to the eye, such as a penetration or severe blow to the eye that causes the lens capsular to rupture, can lead to the formation of cataracts. The best thing you can do to prevent this type of cataracts in your dog is everything possible to keep him or her safe at all times. However, if your dog does suffer an eye injury of any kind, take him in to see his vet as soon as possible for treatment. Failure to do so can result in a ruptured lens capsule, and once it has ruptured it may be too late for the vet to save the eye.
Some dogs may develop cataracts as the result of their age (typically eight years of age or older). However, in most cases, the cataracts remain relatively small and have little if any effect on their eyesight. The best thing you can do to minimize the risk of age-related cataracts is to feed your dog a healthy, well-balanced, and nutritious diet.
The Importance of Prevention
The most obvious effect of prevention is a happier, healthier dog who should enjoy many years of good eyesight without the need for any type of intraocular lens replacement surgery. Not only this, but ensuring your pup eats a healthy diet will also reduce his risk of many other canine illnesses and diseases such as cancer or diabetes.
A happy healthy dog typically means far fewer trips to the vet and spending less money on vet bills. When your dog is healthy, it means less stress and worry for the whole family, which is definitely healthier for you as well.
Taking the Right Steps
If there is one thing we can all learn from preventing cataracts in dogs, it is that a good healthy diet is essential. Which, not too surprisingly, is the same thing many doctors tell their human patients. Diet plays a major role in preventing many illnesses, diseases, and conditions both in humans and in dogs. Be sure to talk to your dog's vet about any changes you plan to make in your dog's diet or vaccination regimen.
Finally, the best way to prevent the formation of damaging cataracts is to have your dog's eyes checked regularly by his vet. Even if you only think you are seeing signs of cloudiness in your four-legged friend's eyes, you need to take him to see the vet for a proper examination. The same applies if you think your dog is having a hard time seeing or there is a history of cataracts in his family.
Remember, there is no cure for cataracts other than replacing your dog's lenses with artificial ones in an expensive surgical procedure. It is up to you to do everything in your power to prevent cataracts in your faithful furry friend or, if necessary, get him the treatment he needs at the earliest possible stage. Talk to your vet about canine cataracts and work with him to protect your pup.