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How to Tell if Dog has Cataracts? Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever peeked into the lens of your dog and noticed something like a blanket of fog has permanently settled in his eyes? If so, then your dog has cataracts. Although cataracts are a common problem affecting a dog’s vision, there is still much left to learn about canine cataracts.

What is a Cataract?

Cataracts seem like cloudiness that befalls dogs as years pass and they enter old age. They appear in white or gray and occur in one or both eyes. Cataracts cloud a tiny area of the eye lens and stay small or cover the entire lens, resulting in partial or total blindness. In addition, cataracts can cause eye irritations and severe pain.

What Causes Cataracts in Dogs?

Cataracts are an inheritable trait, so if your dog is one of the breeds prone to cataracts, there is a chance that he might develop them. Factors that cause cataracts in dogs are:

  • Old age
  • Nutritional disorders
  • Genetic cataracts
  • Eye diseases like glaucoma
  • Eye inflammation
  • Eye injury
  • Hypocalcemia (low calcium levels in the blood)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Electric shock
  • Exposure to radiation or toxic substances

What are the Symptoms of Cataracts in Dogs?

You might observe symptoms like squinting and evidence of vision loss in your dog if he has cataracts. This is because the typical lens irregularities caused by opacities keep light from reaching the retinas. As a result, dogs with cataracts suffer from the blurry vision that leads to total blindness. Dogs with cataracts also show symptoms like:

  • Less interest in activities
  • Sleep more
  • Blink now and then
  • Changes in eye color, pupil size, or shape
  • Difficulty seeing in dimly lit areas
  • Rubbing or scratching of the eyes
  • Signs of vision loss, such as dashing against furniture, not recognizing familiar people
  • Squinting
  • Unsure footing
  • Misjudging distances
  • Unusual, high-stepping walk
  • Watery eyes

How Can I Tell if a Dog is Developing Cataracts?

Another condition similar to cataracts is nuclear sclerosis, or hardening of the lenses as your dog ages, causing eyes to become more cloudy; however, this does not cause blindness. Your veterinarian will test your dog’s eyes to determine if they have cataracts or nuclear sclerosis.

Dog’s eye structures change as they age, like humans. So if your dog is aging and begins to develop a cloudy surface in its eyes, or if they have any underlying eye disease, then cataracts can start appearing.

Depending on the condition that has caused cataracts and where they are in the lens, they might stay small or grow. For example, if cataracts develop because your dog has diabetes, they might expand rapidly to cover the entire lens. 

How Are Cataracts in Dogs Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will test your dog’s eyes using a light. Most veterinarians also use blood tests to determine if any underlying diseases might have caused your dog’s cataracts.

How to Prevent Cataract in Dogs?

You cannot stop your dog from suffering from cataracts. However, you can aid them when they are struck by conditions such as diabetes. This includes:

  • Regularly check your dog’s eyes.
  • Consult the vet if your dog’s eyes are cloudy, bluish-gray, and have troubled vision.
  • Examine the medical history of your dog’s parent breeds, as cataracts are hereditary.
  • Beware of conditions that may cause cataracts in the dog, such as diabetes, glaucoma, or eye trauma.
  • Ensure a balanced diet for your pet. Kale, carrots, and other green and yellow vegetables can make a great deal in your pet’s vision health.

How Can Cataracts Be Treated?

Cataract surgery is performed to return functional vision in dogs. Unfortunately, no known remedies can reverse cataract forming — surgery is the only option to remove cataracts once they have formed. 

Cataracts in dogs are removed with a surgical procedure under general anesthesia. First, the lens is removed, and the veterinarian replaces it with a lens made from plastic or acrylic. 

Veterinarians also run several tests to look for underlying conditions that cause cataracts. Treating any disease that causes cataract is essential as it might cause further medical issues.

How Can I Care for My Dog After Cataract Surgery?

Place your dog into a protective collar to restrict him from rubbing his eyes and causing damage, as his eyes will be sensitive after the surgery. Veterinarians also prescribe dog cataract eye drops to put in your dog’s eyes a few times a day to keep them moisturized and allow them to heal correctly. Allow your dog to rest and stay in a calm environment for a few weeks as their eyes heal. Notify your veterinarian immediately if you see any complications.

How Much Does Dog Cataract Surgery Cost?

Cataract surgery for dogs can be expensive. The procedure itself can add up to a few thousand dollars per eye. If your canine has any underlying conditions, the costs continue to climb as you continue visiting the dog care and your vet prescribes medications for them. 

In usual cases, you might get medical bills of over $5,000 depending on the severity of your dog’s health and cataracts. In general, pre-operative expenses are between $500 and $1,000, while the surgery price ranges from $3,000 to $4,500.

While this might seem steep, your dog will see you again and enjoy time with you to the fullest after the surgery. Be sure to observe your dog’s eyes even after the cataract procedure because they can still be susceptible to developing glaucoma and other eye conditions after surgery.

What Happens if a Cataract Goes Untreated in Dogs?

When a cataract is left untreated, your dog can become blind. This is because the cataract completely blocks light from entering the eye through the lens and keeps your dog from seeing. The good news is that the condition is still treatable at that time with surgery, but it can grow into glaucoma without treatment.

Glaucoma is a condition with excess pressure in the eye, which damages the optic nerve. If this nerve is damaged, your dog will encounter permanent blindness in the eye where the nerve sustained the damage.

Understanding that not all cataracts can lead to glaucoma or blindness is essential. Sometimes, they develop only enough to reduce some eyesight. Glaucoma isn’t the only condition that untreated cataracts can cause. Other conditions include: 

1. Lens luxation is a condition where the lens can float around out of place.
2. Cataract dissolution, where cataracts dissolve on their own, causing deep inflammation within the eye and leading to uveitis or glaucoma.
3. Uveitis is an inflammatory condition that is painful for your dog and can cause blindness.

List of Dogs That Are Prone to Cataracts

All dog breeds can develop cataracts, but some are more prone to this condition because of genetic traits. Some of these are:

  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Bichon Frise
  • Boston Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • French Bulldog
  • Havanese
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Poodle
  • Mixed breeds of Poodle
  • Siberian Husky
  • Silky Terrier
  • Shih Tzu
  • West Highland White Terrier

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