Cataracts in Dogs
Definition of Cataracts
The term “cataract” refers to cloudiness or opacity of all or part of an eye. This is due to a change in the make-up or arrangement of protein molecules in the lens. Cataracts usually are hereditary, but not always. Other things that can contribute to cataracts are poor nutrition, low calcium levels, diabetes, electric shock, blunt or penetrating eye trauma and exposure to toxins or radiation. Cataracts can show up suddenly or slowly. They are fairly common in old dogs but can be there when a puppy is born or develop early in its life. Cataracts always interfere with vision and can cause blindness. However, they don’t seem to be painful and won’t affect a dog’s overall health. Dogs usually adjust surprisingly well to having cataracts. Fortunately, most cataracts are treatable with surgery, if they are diagnosed early enough in the course of the disease.
In dogs, cataracts typically have a strong hereditary component. Other contributing causes include nutritional deficiencies, low blood calcium levels, exposure to toxins, diabetes mellitus, radiation, electric shock and blunt or penetrating trauma. Cataracts can occur spontaneously for no known reason. The actual biological cause of cataracts is a change in the protein composition or arrangement of the fibers of the lens of the affected eye.The only truly effective way to reduce the prevalence of cataracts
The chief complaints by owners of dogs with cataracts are cloudy, white-ish or blue-grey pupils (or spots in the pupil) and impaired vision. Cataracts can occur in one eye, as is usually the case when cataracts are caused by injury, or they can occur in both eyes. Cataracts can appear suddenly (owners often report that they happen “over night”), or they can develop slowly over a period of years. The cloudiness of the lens may
As a dog enters the clinic or examination room, the veterinarian will watch how the dog walks to look for any obvious signs of vision difficulties. The initial work-up will include an evaluation of pupil size and symmetry and an assessment of the dog’s pupillary light reflexes. The veterinarian probably will check the “menace reflex” by moving one hand swiftly toward the dog’s face, then stopping abruptly, checking for a blink reaction. Another test frequently
Dog owners should seek veterinary advice if they suspect that their dog has cataracts or other vision problems. Dogs with uveitis (inflammation of certain interior structures of the eye) should be treated with topical anti-inflammatory medication, but the only effective treatment for cataracts is surgery. A thorough eye examination is important, because cataracts can progress rapidly. Short of blindness, cataracts can progress to glaucoma and to retinal detachment, at which point surgery may no longer