Have you noticed that your dog just keeps bumping into things or that the pupils of its eyes are looking sort whitish or blue-gray or that there are spots in the pupils? If so, it’s likely that you dog has developed dog cataracts.
If you look carefully at the lens of the dog’s eye(s), the cloudiness may appear to be cracked or it may look like an ice chip. The cataract may appear as a bluish-gray haze over the entire pupil or only part of it. The dog may show a range of vision problems from mild to complete blindness – depending on how severe the problem is. For example, the dog may have a sort of high-stepped walk, seem unsure of its footing, trip over or bump into objects, walk into walls or not recognize people.
The most common reason why a dog develops cataracts is genetic, that is an inherited trait. A second possible cause is trauma to the dog’s eye. The cataracts may come as the result of some metabolic disease such as diabetes, from nutritional disorders during puppyhood or they may be secondary to other eye diseases.
Finally, dogs sometimes develop cataracts, as the result of aging that can occur in the lens of the dog’s eye but that does not cause blindness.
If your dog is showing some of the symptoms of cataracts described above, you will need to get it to your veterinarian.
As a first step, she or he will do a complete medical history and a physical examination, followed by an eye exam. Most vets today have instruments that can confirm the presence of a cataract in the lens of the dog’s eye. However, it is sometimes necessary to take Fido to see a veterinary ophthalmologist for a more thorough examination. He or she will most likely use two instruments – one a called indirect ophthalmoscope and the second, a slit lamp biomicroscope. There may also be blood tests to rule out underlying causes, and, if the cataract is too opaque to allow an examination of the retina, the vet may do an ultrasound examination of the dog’s eye.
Unfortunately, the only possible treatment for cataracts in dogs is surgery as there is no medical treatment that can reverse, prevent or shrink cataracts.
If the cataracts were inherited and not complicated by some other eye disease, the lenses can be removed and replaced with an intraocular lens implant.
The most common cataract surgery is called Phacoemulsification and is essentially the same treatment many ophthalmologists use to fix our cataracts. In this procedure, the lens of the dog’s eye is broken apart and removed. Any remaining lens material is removed from the lens capsule and a lens implant is then placed in the lens capsule.
Cataracts in dogs are very serious and while corrective surgery is not cheap, it seems better than sentencing your dog to a life of bumping into things and walking into walls.