A cataract is when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy or has a milky appearance, leading to diminished vision. Most of the time, pets develop cataracts due to age. However, cataracts can also be an inherited trait. Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Shepherds, Afghan Hounds, Boston Terriers and Cocker Spaniels are more prone to cataracts or develop them earlier. Most cat breeds are not prone to developing cataracts.
There are other causes of cataracts, including head injuries, diseases and poor diets. In cats, Feline Leukemia (FeLV) or Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) can cause cataracts. Dogs and cats who were not fed a proper diet are more prone to developing cataracts.
Check With Your Veterinarian
If your pet’s eyes look cloudy or milky, make an appointment with your veterinarian, so he can determine whether the cataract is part of the normal aging process or not. If your pet is young or doesn’t have any history of head injuries, the veterinarian may want to run tests to rule out any underlying disease. If the tests came back negative, you may be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist for further testing.
At this point in time, there aren’t any medications available to 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. It’s 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?
You don’t need to put your pet through surgery. Dogs and cats are remarkable at adapting to most situations in their lives. Their sense of smell is very acute. Even with 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 concern with pets who have poor vision is if they’re in pain and/or their eye is inflamed. If your pet is producing tears (runny eyes that stain the fur in the corners), her eye is changing shape (becoming more pronounced or rounded) or she seems to be squinting, you need to visit your regular veterinarian to rule out glaucoma or some other type of eye disorder.
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