A Full Overview of Cataracts in Dogs
Dogs are just like humans when it comes to the use of the eyes - both use their eyes to see. Also, they have peripheral vision just as we do. Unfortunately, they can also develop a condition called cataracts that their human parents can get as well.
A cataract is when the lenses of the eyes begin to get a cloudy film over them. Cataracts in dogs can be like many other health conditions in which they can range in severity. They must be monitored regularly to help with prevention and treatment of the disease.
This disease often occurs in aging dogs. However, it can be as a result of trauma to the eye or from a disease. Cataracts in dogs can also be genetic. Sadly, some cases of cataracts can cause complete blindness or partial blindness. Dogs that are from a breed that is prone to cataract formation can request a genetic test for the condition from a veterinarian or a trusted genetic testing source.
Cataracts in Dogs: Types and Stages
Cataracts in dogs come in various progression types and stages. The stages will range from mild to serious and in between.
The different types of progression in cataracts are:
Incipient cataracts are the first stage of cataracts in dogs. This stage is the least threatening and can be treated with a positive prognosis if caught early enough in the disease. Dogs often go to veterinarians or specialty veterinary eye doctors to get treatment for cataracts.
Hypermature cataracts are a type of cataract that comes from loss of fluids and certain proteins in the eye. They vary in appearance from only a bit of a cloudy film to a very cloudy appearance. They also vary in severity from some good vision to little or no vision.
Senile cataracts are cataracts that form in senior dogs or older dogs. These form over time and range in severity. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to developing senile cataracts than others.
Some dogs will still be able to see and function well with small or less severe cataracts. The larger and more severe cataracts may cause some vision loss and make it difficult to see. Very severe cases of cataracts that have not been treated can lead to a painful eye condition called glaucoma. Glaucoma almost always leads to complete loss of vision.
What Are Cataracts?
A cataract is a cloudy film over the lens of the eye. It often has a blue or gray tinge and that is why people refer to it as “cloudy”. This makes vision blurry or hazy for the dog that has a cataract. It usually develops over time and is not typically a sudden condition.
Cataracts in Dogs: Common Causes
Cataracts in dogs are the most common in dogs in which there is a genetic predisposition. However, they can also occur from other things. The top common causes of cataracts in dogs are trauma to the eye, genetic defects, diabetes, eye exposure to toxic chemicals or substances, nutritional deficiencies, cancer treatment, infections and inflammation in the eye.
Also, dogs can be prone to getting cataracts as they age. Nutritional deficiencies can be prevented or corrected if they are causing the issue. If the veterinarian suspects that there are nutritional issues causing cataracts, they will help pinpoint the main culprit and give recommendations on what types of vitamins and minerals they will need to regain nutritional well-being and perhaps stop the condition in its tracks.
It is imperative to see a veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect that your furry friend may have cataracts or some vision problem. This is because early detection can be key in slowing the progression of the disease and for a better outcome.
Signs To Look Out For In Cataracts
Knowing what to look out for in cataracts can really help pet parents out. The most obvious sign will be a cloudy and blue or gray color to the eyes that will likely be noticeable. Also, your dog may be unable to focus his or her eyes in their normal manner. These signs will let you know that your dog needs to see a trusted veterinarian.
Which Breeds Are Susceptible To Cataracts in Dogs?
All dogs can develop cataracts as they age or due to disease. However, there are some dog breeds that are more susceptible to cataracts than others.
Dog Breeds With Higher Risk of Cataracts
Siberian huskies are amazing furry pets that have an unfortunate propensity for developing skin conditions. Some of these skin conditions are prominent on the face. These skin issues can affect the eyes.
Boxers are at a higher risk for lymphoma. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymph notes. The cancer treatments that are required have one of the side effects that can cause cataracts and eye issues.
Poodles are fluffy and cute dogs. They are susceptible to getting cataracts and glaucoma.
The Miniature Schnauzer
Miniature schnauzers are at risk for developing diabetes at a higher level than most dogs. This makes them more susceptible to cataracts as there is a correlation between diabetes and cataracts.
These adorable small dogs are cute as a button. However, they have eyes that are prone to infections and inflammation problems. This makes them at higher risk for cataracts.
These adorable dogs, Shetland Sheepdogs, have a higher incidence of eye conditions. These eye conditions can cause cataracts to develop.
Boston terriers are prone to a condition called “cherry eye”. They are at a higher risk of developing cataracts.
Why Are Diabetic Dogs At Higher Risk of Cataracts?
Diabetes has been linked to cataracts in both dogs and humans. Dogs with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing cataracts because this disease causes problems with blood circulation, nerves, and organs. The eyes have blood circulation, nerves, and are an organ and this is why diabetes can also begin to cause cataracts in dogs with uncontrolled blood sugar by swelling. It is possible to lower their blood sugar through proper diet and exercise and this can in turn help with managing any cataracts. Managing diabetes with a trusted veterinarian can help tremendously.
How Do Cataracts in Dogs Get Treated?
Pet parents that have dogs with cataracts can rest assured that there are some treatment options for their furry friends. Veterinarians can and do treat cataracts in dogs all of the time.
Treatment for dogs with cataracts can range in cost and effectiveness. Oral supplements are one of the most popular options as they are affordable and can be somewhat effective. Cataract surgery is a very effective treatment that can have noticeable and beneficial results. However, the price of the surgery can be prohibitive as it costs thousands of dollars. There are also eye drops that can be used to help with cataracts and other irritating eye conditions. They are often quite affordable and can provide some relief to your furry pal.
The best thing a pet parent can do is ensure their dog is taken to the veterinarian for regular check-ups and to voice any concerns. They are quite experienced at treating cataracts in dogs and can give your pet a great chance at having the best prognosis possible.
What Are The Benefits and Risks of Dog Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery in dogs is a viable option for pet parents. After all, it has quick and immediate results that can improve the vision of your pet. However, there are only some cases in which cataract surgery is an excellent option. Most dogs do NOT need cataract surgery. However, dogs that have total or a high degree of blindness can benefit from cataract surgery. Veterinary eye doctors are the ones that you will see in order to get a consultation for cataract surgery, and they will be the ones performing the cataract surgery along with their medical staff.
The benefits of dog cataract surgery can be huge and very positive for some dogs. Dogs that have been experiencing severe cataracts can have much improved vision within a few weeks after surgery. Some dogs that have been blinded may suddenly be able to see again. In a high degree of cases, dogs that get cataract surgery have a noticeable degree of improvement in their eyesight. It can greatly improve their quality of life and give them a much higher degree of vision to get around.
However, there are risks to dog cataract surgery. One of the most prominent risks is intraocular scar tissue. Intraocular scar tissue can occur after the surgery and can cause eye issues. Veterinary eye doctors will provide eye drops to help treat this condition if it does occur after surgery. They will often also provide post-op care as part of the surgery process. Glaucoma is also a risk of this surgery. In most cases, it resolves shortly after the surgery and won't become a long-term condition. However, some dogs develop it years later after the surgery and will require ongoing care. Other risks are detachment of the retina, an eye infection, and anesthesia complications. Anesthesia is a risk for dogs just as it is for humans. Most veterinary offices will take great care when giving general anesthesia to the pet and have the dog monitored the entire time they are under for their surgery. This means monitoring their breathing, their heart rate, their blood pressure, and more.
Pet parents will have to weigh the benefits against the risks when deciding on cataract surgery. It is a big commitment to make both financially and emotionally. It is best to discuss all possibilities with the veterinary eye doctor as well as their regular veterinarian.
Cataracts and Nuclear Sclerosis
One interesting thing to note is that cataracts and nuclear sclerosis are eye conditions that appear similar, but are not. Older dogs sometimes develop a blue or gray tinge and cloudiness to their eyes that looks a lot like cataracts. However, sometimes it is a condition called nuclear sclerosis. Many pet parents assume that it is cataracts. It is important to take your dog to their trusted vet or to a veterinary eye doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. Nuclear sclerosis is a rather benign condition that doesn't affect vision very much and it can be lived with just fine. Cataracts are more serious and require more treatment. Therefore, it is necessary to get a correct diagnosis so that the proper treatment can be started and dispensed.
Dogs that have nuclear sclerosis are often able to live normally and not suffer much vision loss or change. There is usually no treatment necessary for this condition. So if you notice your older dog has cloudy eyesight, it may just be nuclear sclerosis and not cataracts. It is imperative not to panic or worry too much and simply get them in for an evaluation with a vet or veterinary eye doctor. It could be that it is the benign condition of nuclear sclerosis that is a rather common occurrence in senior dogs.
What Can I Do To Help My Pet With Cataracts?
As a pet parent, it is very difficult to watch a beloved pet go through anything painful or difficult. Cataracts are a very hard condition to go through with a beloved pet as you may notice your pet start to lose vision and be unable to do some of the things that they have always done. It can be heartbreaking to think that they can't see you very well, either.
The best thing that you can do for your pet with cataracts is ensure that they get proper veterinary care. The veterinarian is the one with the experience and knowledge to take care of pet health problems. They will be able to use their education and skill to help you and your pet with diagnosis and treatment.
Ensure that any prescriptions, eye drops, or supplements that you are supposed to give them is given as directed. These products may be able to help with your pet's condition and it is best to give it to them on the recommended schedule and in the recommended amounts. Keep an eye on your dog for any improvements, side effects, or other issues that seem concerning.
Pet parents can also help by giving their dog comfort and attention as much as possible. Let them know that they are loved and give them as much comfort as possible. Something that may be helpful is to give them a shirt or blanket with your scent that they can snuggle on and smell. This can give them a high degree of comfort and assurance.
Another helpful tip is to try to stay in their line of sight when going out for a walk or when engaging with them. Being in their direct line of vision can help them see you if their vision is poor. It is reassuring to them to be able to see their beloved pet parent as they are roaming around, going for a walk, or whatever activity your furry friend just loves to engage in.
CBD As A Natural Treatment For Dog Cataracts
Cataracts in dogs can be naturally managed with the use of CBD. There are numerous studies that show benefits for a wide variety of health conditions. One of those health conditions is cataracts. CBD has been shown to help with cataracts in scientific studies. CBD is a natural extract from organic hemp and is free of chemicals and toxins. It is also free of THC and that means that there is no high experienced by pets that take CBD as part of their health regimen. This is a common misconception that people have when they hear of CBD. It is an all-natural, THC free, chemical-free alternative. It is perfectly legal in the United States and many other countries to purchase.
CBD Oil For Dogs can be given to your pet that has cataracts, glaucoma, and any number of health conditions with ease. It can be added to their food or given to them orally, for example. Pet parents that are looking for a natural treatment for their dogs will be pleased to know it is totally organic and all-natural and contains none of the worrisome chemicals that other things contain. There are virtually no side effects to this natural healing option and that is another great benefit to choosing CBD for your pet. They may have an improvement in their pain and condition within a matter of weeks!
Parting Thoughts on Cataracts In Dogs:
Cataracts in dogs can happen to a pet due to a genetic condition, age, or other issues that cannot be foreseen. Pet parents can rest assured that getting proper veterinary care can help tremendously in treating their cataracts and giving them a good prognosis. It is a treatable condition and your pet can live a long and healthy life just as if they never had them. Staying positive and being there for your pet in every way is the best thing that you can do!
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade
Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books and making salted caramel cookies.
Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. We Love You!
The Innovet Team
Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
Please share your experiences and stories, your opinions and feedback about this blog, or what you've learned that you'd like to share with others.