Cataract Signs, Symptoms & Treatment Options for Dogs

What are cataracts?

A cataract is a change in the clear fibers of the lens. Normally the lens is clear allowing the visualized image to be focused and projected onto the retina. When some of these fibers become abnormal the lens becomes crystallized and opaque in appearance. This opaque area distorts and blurs the image slightly. As the cataract gets larger, more and more of the image becomes distorted until vision is affected, eventually leading to blindness.

What causes cataracts?
There are several causes of cataracts. These include injury to the eye, other diseases of the eye, internal diseases of the patient (especially diabetes), and aging changes. However, the most common causes among dogs are inherited factors. These factors vary from one breed to another in how they are inherited, at what age they develop, how quickly they develop and how much they affect vision.

What treatment is there for cataracts?
No medication will keep cataracts from becoming worse or cause a cataract to “clear-up”. Medical treatment (usually eye drops) is often used to control the inflammation caused by the cataract or to open (dilate) the pupil in attempts to increase vision.

Removal of the cataract through a surgery called “phacoemulsification” is still the only method of improving vision in a patient with cataracts. Whether or not cataract surgery would be helpful for any individual patient depends upon many factors. Several differences exist between a human eye and a dog eye, these need to be considered when determining if cataract surgery is advisable for your pet. The demeanor of the pet and the owner’s ability to administer post-operative medications also need to be considered.

Before cataract surgery is performed the eyes need to be carefully evaluated. Active problems within the eye must be addressed and controlled before surgery is considered. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia. Certain laboratory tests are done to look for any systemic or internal problems that your pet may have which might require treatment prior to any surgical or anesthetic event. This is done in order to provide the safest surgical environment we can for your pet.