My dog appears to have a cataract in one of her eyes. What can I do?

April 13, 2012

A dog lover would not get tired of talking about the outstanding abilities of the pet. Dogs are hyped to have very sharp senses. Aside from the sharp hearing and scenting abilities dogs’ vision is believed to be several times sharper than what we humans have. Although dogs do not have human’s ability to recognize colors, our canine friends can see much better in the dark. Dogs depend on these heightened senses so much. Imagine how a dog will be incapacitated if one of these senses will be lost. Dog owners make sure that the pet remains healthy but diseases and injuries can never be prevented. The owner may one day find out that the dog’s vision is not as sharp as it used to be. Cataract is one of the causes for the dog’s blindness.

Cataract is a common eye disease of dogs. This eye disease affects dogs of all breeds and ages. Older dogs are more susceptible to this condition where the dog’s pupils become milky or appear to be covered with crushed ice. Once the entire lens turns cloudy, the affected eye will become opaque. Vision is lost because the eyes can no longer detect light. There are three stages in the development of this eye concern – incipient, immature and mature. Incipient is the initial stage. The opacity in the eye may not be visible and only an ophthalmoscope examination can detect the dog’s condition. In the immature stage, a portion of the affected eye will turn milky. Vision will be affected but not totally lost. Cataract has matured if the lens turns entirely white. This is a very critical point as the eyes can no longer function.

Cataract can be inherited. This means that the puppy can have the disease at birth. There is also a possibility that the dog was infected while inside the uterus. Cataract can be a congenital defect resulting from trauma or oxygen deprivation. A higher incidence of the disease was noted in orphaned puppies provided with replacer milk. Cataract is common in dogs with diabetes mellitus. This eye disease can be the result of exposure to infectious agents or to the free radicals in the dog’s body that progressively damage the tissues of the eyes.

Before veterinary medicine’s modernization leap, dogs affected with cataract have to live with the lost vision for life. Cataract may not affect both eyes thus the affected dog can live quite normally. Dogs that have lost the vision have learned to adapt well. Cataract treatment in dogs is pretty much similar to the treatment administered to humans. Nowadays, with the advancement in veterinary medicine, the surgery that will remove the lens has become a common procedure. Surgery may not be a suitable procedure for some dogs. Dog with diabetes or failing health are not good candidates for a surgical procedure. For these dogs, laser treatment is an alternative treatment option. Laser treatments though can be very costly. Pet owners that cannot afford the cost of surgery or laser treatments have the option of giving the dog eye drops and other medications.

Does your dog appear to have cataract? A dog with cataract may not always have the typical cloudy or milky eye. Symptoms of the disease are redness and inflammation of the affected eye. The dog that is constantly squinting may bump into things and may not have the inclination to jump or run. Decreased activity level is one indication that the dog’s vision is gradually being lost. A dog that shows symptoms of this eye disease has to be taken to a veterinary ophthalmologist at once. Restoring the dog’s vision would be more possible if the cataract is diagnosed and treated early on.

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