Causes of Canine Cataracts
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.
Prevention of Cataracts
The only truly effective way to reduce the prevalence of cataracts is to remove affected animals from any breeding program. Board certified veterinary ophthalmologists can screen animals for cataracts. However, even removing affected dogs from a breeding program will not guarantee that future generations will be free of the condition. Early diagnosis and management of diabetes mellitus also can help reduce the chance of cataract development. However, once cataracts due to diabetes develop, they are irreversible.
While cataracts always affect a dog’s vision, they do not affect its health. Most dogs adjust to their vision deficiencies extremely well. Surgical treatment for cataracts is highly successful, and the prognosis for dogs with cataracts is excellent if the condition is identified and treated early. Owners should know that not all cataracts are progressive, and not all affected dogs need surgical correction.