What is a Cataract? The lens of the eye is transparent, allowing light
to pass through it and be focused on the retina. A cataract is an opaqueness or
cloudiness in the lens that prevents light from reaching the retina. A
usually starts out as very small opaque areas, then becomes larger. How rapidly the
cataract becomes larger varies greatly depending on many factors including the location of
the cataract within the lens, the age of the animal, and the cause of the cataract. The
size of the cataract will effect how much vision your pet has.
A very serious side effect of uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes is cataract
formation. Diabetes-induced cataract formation is much more common in dogs than in
cats. Not all diabetic dogs develop cataracts, but most do. Some dogs form cataracts
so quickly that their vision is impaired and that's why the owner takes them to the vet,
and then the diabetes is diagnosed. For other dogs, cataracts may form within weeks of
diagnosis, or it may take months, or even years for cataracts to develop.
If your vet tells you that your pet is developing a cataract, or has cataracts, it is very
important that you get a referral to a certified veterinary ophthalmologist and have the
specialist examine your pet's eyes. The ophthalmologist has special education,
training, and equipment that will allow him or her to give your pet's eyes a full
examination. The lens is not the only structure involved - the health of the entire eye
should be evaluated.
Prevention, early detection, and early treatment are the best methods of dealing with eye
problems. Early detection and treatment may allow you to prevent your dog from going
blind. Even if your dog (or cat) does not have eye problems right now, you should talk to
your general vet and learn how to detect early signs of eye problems.
If your dog or cat is blind or becomes blind in the future, it's not the end of the world.
Many animals adapt very well to being blind and they live happy, healthy lives. There are
many owners of blind pets. There is a blind-dog mailing list and chat room listed in the
resources below. You may be interested in this book. It is highly
recommended by owners of visually impaired dogs. Living with Blind
Dogs. By Caroline Levin. A Resource Book and Training Guide for the Owners of Blind and Low Vision Dogs.
Signs of Cataracts
You may notice white flecks or cloudiness in your pet's eyes, or you may notice that your
pet is squinting, rubbing its eyes, bumping into things, not playing fetch, or is hesitant
or fearful to do things that did not previously bother him. If you notice any of
these things, it is important to have your pet's eyes examined. There are other eye
conditions besides cataracts that cause a noticeable "cloudiness" in the eye,
including normal aging of the eye, so it is important that your pet see an eye vet so that
any problems are diagnosed and treated appropriately.
There are no medications that can prevent or treat cataracts. However, keeping your
pet's diabetes well controlled may help prevent the formation or maturation of cataracts.
Cataract surgery can be performed, and this involves removing the lens. An
artificial lens can be implanted to improve close-up vision. Whether or not surgery
is needed for your pet (not all cataracts have to be removed), whether your pet is a good
candidate for surgery, and whether or not lenses should be implanted are things that you
must discuss with the veterinary ophthalmologist.
NOT to have cataract surgery Cataract surgery is not the
right choice for every pet.
Some pets are not good surgical
candidates for medical reasons.
You must consider whether your pet's
personality is suited to a hospital stay and post-operative
recovery. If your pet will be highly stressed or disruptive
during a hospital stay, the recovery from cataract surgery might be
more difficult or have complications. A pet who is so stressed
that they are bashing around in their cage or pulling out i.vs may not
be well suited to cataract surgery. Also, your pet must be willing to
tolerate having medications put in their eyes several times a day for
You may not be able to afford the
You may not be able to do or afford the
long-term follow-up care and medications that are required.
The benefits of surgery may
not outweigh the risks.
For whatever reason, if your pet has
cataracts and becomes blind, both you and your pet can adapt and your pet
can lead a healthy, normal life. Here you can read about owners who decided
cataract surgery was not the best option for their pet
and how the pet is coping with blindness.
If you have had to deal with cataracts in your pet and would like to share
your experience about cataract surgery, not having surgery, or re-thinking
your decision after surgery, please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
(please don't change the subject line when you click on this e-mail link).
(Keratoconjunctivitis sicca ) Diabetic dogs may be prone to "dry
eye", a condition where the tear production is abnormally low or absent. The fluid in
tears has many components that nourish the cornea (the surface of the eye) and keep it
healthy. The lack of tears causes the cornea to become dry and
painfull. Untreated, dry eye can lead to serious problems that may include infections,
corneal ulcers, and loss of vision. Signs, diagnosis, and treatment of dry eye
Owners often take their pet to the vet because they notice a greenish discharge from the
eye. Other pets may have an eye problem like a corneal ulcer or infection, and then
dry eye is diagnosed. The vet can perform several tests to determine the amount and
quality of tear production, and the overall health of the eye. Several medications
are available to treat dry eye, and the problem can be successfully managed.