Tip of the Month

10/31/2013 Cataracts in Dogs and Cats

Pets with Cataracts

Dog's eyes with cataract

A cataract is when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy or has a milky appearance, leading to diminished vision. Cataracts are sometimes caused by head injuries or diabetes. In cats, Feline Leukemia (FeLV) or Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) can cause cataracts. In addition, puppies and kittens who were not feed a proper diet are more prone to developing cataracts.

What Causes Cataracts?

Most of the time, cataracts appear when a pet is getting older or are an inherited trait for that breed. Most cat breeds are not prone to developing cataracts. However, certain dog breeds, including golden retrievers, poodles, shepherds, Afghans, sheepdogs, Boston terriers and Cocker spaniels, seem more prone to cataracts or develop them earlier. For most pets, cloudy lenses are just part of their aging process.

Check With Your Veterinarian

If your pet’s eyes look cloudy or milky, make an appointment with your veterinarian so he/she can determine whether the cataract is part of the normal aging process or not. If your pet is young, or has no history of head injuries, the veterinarian might want to run tests to rule out any underlying disease. If those tests came back negative, you might be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist for further testing.

Options For Your Pet With Cataracts

At this point in time, there are no medications available that treat or prevent cataracts. Just as with humans who develop cataracts, the most effective treatment is to surgically replace the cloudy lens with a synthetic one. This procedure is done by a veterinary ophthalmology surgeon who specializes in dogs and cats. Cataract surgery in pets is usually successful; however, there are always small percentages of surgical failures. It is important to know that complications can occur and eye drops will need to be administered before and after surgery.

Does Your Pet Really NEED Surgery?

If you opt to not put your pet through the surgery, keep in mind that pets are remarkable in adapting to most situations in their lives. A dogs and/or cats sense of smell is very acute. And even with the cataracts, your pet can still see much better than you think she can. A blind dog or cat can still maneuver through the house without any problems and enjoy a full and happy life.

The main concerns with pets who have problems with their vision is if they are in pain and/or the eye is inflamed. If it appears your pet is producing a lot of tears (runny eyes that stain the fur in the corners) or it seems as though the eye is changing shape (becoming more pronounced or rounded) or if she seems to be squinting, you need to visit your regular veterinarian to rule out glaucoma or some other type of eye disorder.


Click here if you are interested in pursuing a rewarding career as a Veterinary Assistant!

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