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Cataracts - A Common Canine Eye Condition


Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
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Cataracts in Dogs: Common & Often Treatable

Cataracts occur when the normal arrangement of the fibers in the lens of the eye breaks down, resulting in lens opacity and reduced vision. Cataracts can occur in one or both of a dog’s eyes, making eyes appear white or cloudy. Untreated cataracts become thicker and denser, and can ultimately lead to glaucoma or blindness.

Not to be confused with nuclear sclerosis

Pet parents commonly mistake nuclear sclerosis, a relatively common eye condition, for cataracts. Nuclear sclerosis is a normal change that occurs in the lenses of older dogs (usually 6+ years old). It causes a slight graying of the eyes, but does not significantly affect vision. Treatment is not recommended for dogs with nuclear sclerosis.

How do cataracts form?

Canine Eye Cataracts form due to changes in the composition of the lens proteins. These changes may be caused by inflammation, trauma, toxins, nutritional deficiency, metabolic disease, or genetics.

Types of cataracts

Genetically inherited cataracts may occur independently or with another eye disease. Dog breeds prone to developing inherited cataracts include Smooth Fox Terriers, American Cocker Spaniels, Havanese, Bichon Frise, Silky Terriers, Miniature and Standard Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, and Boston Terriers. Inherited cataracts may occur in puppies, adult dogs, or senior dogs. Dogs diagnosed with inherited cataracts should not be bred because of the likelihood of passing cataracts to offspring.

Developmental cataracts can develop over time and occur at any age. Diabetes mellitus is the most common cause of developmental cataracts, as eye lenses degrade due to excess glucose (sugar) in the body. Developmental cataracts may also result from indirect or direct trauma to the eye, infection, inflammation, or exposure to toxins. In older dogs, cataracts may be age-related.

Cataract treatment

In certain cases, surgery provides a successful treatment for cataracts. A veterinary ophthalmologist will remove the affected lenses and replace them with artificial lenses to improve vision. If you suspect your dog is developing cataracts, see your veterinarian for assessment and to determine the most effective treatment plan. If your dog's eyes are healthy, examine them weekly, keep them clean and free of debris with our Eye Clens products and report any eye changes to your veterinarian immediately.

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