Cataracts in Dogs
Cataracts occur when the normally transparent lens of the eye becomes opaque. Cloudy eyes are a sure sign of cataracts.
Even though the cloudiness may look like it is on the surface of the eye (the cornea), it is not. Any spot on the lens that is opaque, regardless of size, is a cataract.
Cataracts may affect one or both eyes. Some cataracts are clearly visible to the naked eye, appearing as white or bluish dots, while others are visible only by examination with an ophthalmoscope.
Many dogs develop cataracts as they age and these cataracts may stay small or may worsen until the dog becomes blind. The majority of cataracts are inherited and are found in breeds such as the Cocker Spaniel, Poodle, Husky, Schnauzer, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, and terriers. Diabetes, trauma, inflammation, and some puppy milk replacers can also cause cataracts.
In diabetic dogs with cataracts, there is frequently a spontaneous lens capsule rupture which can cause other complications. Early surgical intervention, prior to secondary complications of glaucoma and loss of retinal function, is often recommended.
Treatment of Cataracts - Surgery
Cataracts may be surgically removed in one or both eyes however, at around $1000 -1500 per eye, cataract surgery is expensive and requires significant commitment, administering of eye drops several times daily before surgery and for about 6 weeks after surgery. Your dog must wear a protective plastic e-collar for 2 weeks after surgery, and your pet will not be able to be groomed or vaccinated during the 6 week healing period.With early treatment, the success rate is OVER 90% but, as with any surgery, there are risks and your veterinary ophthalmologist will discuss theses risks with you prior to treatment.
Dogs With Cataracts
As the cataracts worsen, so too does the dogs sight. However, this is often more worrying for the dogs owner than the dog. Just as people who go blind soon adapt, so too do dogs.
In fact, dogs often adapt very quickly indeed and use their other senses, particularly smell and sound, to far greater effect than you or I could and they soon gather a mental map of their surroundings.
In general, a dog with cataracts in one or both eyes can often be more worring for the owner than the dog. Admittedly extra care needs to be taken to avoid moving furnature or leaving obsticals in their usual routes but even a dog that is practically blind with cataracts can navigate to find their way around and at a frightening pace too!
A blind dog can hear at tin of food being opened in another room and will even know what the tin contains long before you notice it has arrived at your feet.
One of our own dogs is almost blind with cataracts because there was no authority web-site in 2003 that offered comprehensive information of this kind in a way that was easy to understand. Alas it is too late for our chap to have cataract surgery but he is still a very active for a 12 year old.
Prevention is always preferable to treatment and more information can be found in the Canine Diabetes Management Guide