Cataracts in Dogs

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Watching your dog grow old can be a heart breaking experience. Your dog has been your best friend for many years, but now the lively puppy you remember is a memory and instead you have a dog who is riddled with aches and pains and prefers to spend his days lying by the fire rather than chasing rabbits.

One of the common side effects for dogs who are growing old is cataracts. If your dog has cataracts then you will notice their eyes fogging over as the lens in the eye becomes more opaque and blurred. This then damages your dog’s vision leaving them with only vague outlines or peripheral vision. When this gets bad it’s known as an immature or mature cataract. The difference here is whether the cataract covers all or part of the eye, and prior to this is ‘incipient cataract’ which is too light to cause a problem.

Symptoms

The symptoms of the problem then are of course the graying of the eyes as described above and general vision problems. Your dog may exhibit eyesight difficulties by getting lost on walks, looking confused, bumping into household objects, tripping over curbs and ‘pawing’ and acting uncertain when approaching objects.

Treatments

The most common form of treatment for cataracts in dogs is surgery. This can’t guarantee 100% restoration of the vision, and it involves an incision and anesthesia. A vet may not recommend surgery if your dog is old as the risk involved may be too great. If the dog is given the green light, then the procedure called ‘phacoemulsification’ will involve the removal of the blurry part of the eye and the insertion of an artificial lens, possibly with sutures to support it. Otherwise the protein and water may simply be removed.

Management

If you and your vet opt not to proceed with surgery then there are other treatments to help manage the condition. Eye medicines and drops for instance can be used in order to remove cataracts, and to help improve vision. In some cases cataracts can also cause inflammation and in this case eye drops are crucial. General health supplements, and in particular lutein, vitamin E and zinc can be helpful in improving your dog’s vision and in preventing further degeneration.

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Anthony Jorgensen

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