Information on Cataracts:
Cataracts are opacities in the lens of the eye. The lens sits just behind the iris (the colored part of the eye) and should be perfectly transparent. When cataracts occur, vision becomes blurry. As the cataract progresses to involve more of the lens, vision may be lost altogether.
Dogs and cats develop cataracts just like people do. In people, cataracts often occur with old age. Older dogs and cats sometimes develop cataracts too. However, in dogs cataracts are often hereditary, and develop in young or middle-aged animals. We know that many dog breeds carry genes linked with hereditary cataracts. Dogs can also develop cataracts secondary to diabetes. Virtually all dogs with diabetes will develop cataracts, even if their diabetes is well regulated. Interestingly, cats with diabetes do not tend to form cataracts. Hereditary cataracts are seen in some purebred cats, but cats are more likely to develop cataracts as a sequel to other eye diseases.
Surgery is the only way to restore vision in animals with cataracts. Many supplements and eyedrops are being marketed as “treatments” for cataracts. Most of these products have not been extensively evaluated for safety or effectiveness. Some of them may have the potential to delay the progression of a cataract, but none of them will cause a cataract that has already formed to disappear.
Cataract surgery in dogs and cats is performed using the same techniques and equipment used in humans. In the majority of cases an artificial lens is implanted to restore maximum clarity of vision. Dogs and cats do very well following cataract surgery. Most animals have excellent vision after surgery. Owners report that their pets are more active and are able to take part in the activities that they enjoyed before losing vision – like playing with toys and going to the park.
Untreated cataracts can cause pain and irreversible damage to the eye. Cataracts trigger inflammation inside the eye, which can lead to glaucoma, retinal detachments, and other complications. Some of these complications are not easily treated with medications, and removal of the eye is sometimes necessary. Recent studies have shown that dogs with cataracts who do not undergo cataract surgery and are not treated with medications are 250 times more likely to experience significant, painful complications than dogs who do have cataract surgery. Dogs who do not have surgery but are treated with medications to manage complications are…. Not all animals with cataracts are good candidates for surgery, but all animals with cataracts should be evaluated by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist to ensure that their eyes are being treated with appropriate medications.
Dogs and cats with cataracts should be evaluated as early as possible to allow us maximum flexibility in scheduling surgery. Surgical success rates are higher for early-stage cataracts. If cataracts are allowed to progress, surgery may no longer be a possibility. How can you determine whether your dog or cat should be evaluated for potential cataract surgery? Your veterinarian may have already told you that your pet has cataracts, or, if you have a dog, he or she may have been diagnosed with diabetes. You may notice that your pet has difficulty seeing – he or she may be bumping into objects, or may be unwilling to do certain things, like going up or down the stairs. You may also notice a white or cloudy appearance to the pupil. Other, less specific signs may include redness or cloudiness of the eyes, squinting, or other changes in the appearance of the eyes. When you bring your pet in for evaluation, we can discuss specific details of surgery and aftercare, and we can assess whether your dog or cat is a good candidate for surgery.