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Healthy Dogs

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Cataracts in Dogs

What Are Cataracts?

ASPCA logoA cataract is an opacity in the lens of a dog’s eye, causing him to have blurry vision. If the cataract is small, it won’t likely disturb the dog’s vision too much, but cataracts must be monitored because the thicker and denser they become, the more likely it is they will lead to blindness.

What Causes Cataracts?

Cataracts can develop from disease, old age and trauma to the eye, but inherited conditions are the most common cause. Cataracts may be present at birth or develop when a dog is very young-between one and three years of age. A high-incidence of cataracts is also often attributed to diabetes.

How Can I Tell if My Dog Is Developing Cataracts?

If your dog’s eyes look cloudy or bluish-gray, you should take him to the vet for an exam. Be aware, though, that it’s natural for a dog’s lens to become cloudy, or gray, with age. This condition, called nuclear sclerosis, doesn’t put a dog’s vision in as much danger as cataracts might, and treatment isn’t usually recommended. However, any cloudiness at all in your pet’s eye is a sign for you to take him to the vet.

What Happens When a Cataract Goes Untreated?

An untreated cataract may “luxate” or slip from the tissue that holds it in place, freeing it to float around in the eye where it may settle and block natural fluid drainage. This can lead to glaucoma, which can cause permanent blindness. Cataracts may also begin to dissolve after some time, causing deep, painful inflammation in the eye.

Which Dogs Are Prone to Cataracts?

Though dogs of all ages and breeds can develop cataracts, they are more commonly found in Smooth Fox Terriers, American Cocker Spaniels, Havanese, Bichon Frise, Silky Terriers, Miniature and Standard Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, and Boston Terriers. Dogs with diabetes are also especially prone.

How Are Cataracts Diagnosed?

A preliminary eye exam by your veterinarian will tell you whether you are dealing with a cataract or another condition that causes cloudiness in the eye. You should then consult with a veterinary ophthalmologist to determine the extent of the cataract and what steps to take to manage the problem.

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