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Dog cataracts: a complete guide

dog-cataracts: a complete guide

Everything you need to know about dog cataracts

Are you worried about dog cataracts? Then you have come to the right place. This article aims to brief everything about cataracts in dogs, preventive measures, and treatment strategies.

As far as research goes, there are not many differences between the eyes of dogs and humans. We share many mechanisms and structures with our canine companions. However, the way dogs see and perceive the world is much different than that of humans.

There are many similarities between the eye structures and mechanisms of function between dogs and humans. These similarities also leave the dogs susceptible to the eye diseases that humans suffer from. One of these eye diseases is cataracts. Cataracts in dogs lead to clouding of the eye lenses

Before you start to worry about whether your dog has a cataract or not, you need to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment for cataracts in dogs. Dog cataracts are pretty common. Therefore, it is crucial that you take all preventive measures so that you can keep it from developing or occurring in the case of your dog.

Dog cataracts- a complete guide

What are dog cataracts?

Humans suffer from cataracts when they are in their advanced stages of life, dogs also suffered from cataracts in their senior years. In dog cataracts, a hazy coating forms on the eye lens of the dog. This prevents light from passing through and forming the right images, thus, inhibiting a proper vision. Unfortunately, the condition of dog cataracts is permanent. The alteration that occurs in the lenses of the eye protein is permanent.

senior dog

In layman’s terms, dog cataracts can be described as the occurrence of a permanent change in the lenses of the eye protein fibers. These changes that occur in the eye of your dog transform the protein fibers into an opaque, milky, and white-colored one. This transformation causes the lens to become like a frosted glass pane. This makes the vision of your dog cloudy and makes it difficult for your dog to see. If your dog is suffering from a fully-formed dog cataract, he/she has probably gone blind.

Factors contributing to the occurrence of cataracts in dogs


There are numerous factors that contribute to the occurrence of cataracts in dogs. However, most often, cataract is hereditary. Research has shown that there are several gene mutations in different dog breeds which have been implicated in cataract occurrence. If the dog has a cataract mutation, they are at an elevated risk of developing this disease. You can get your dog genetically tested to identify if your dog has the mutation. However, there is no guarantee as to whether your dog will eventually develop a cataract or not.


One of the other major causes of cataracts is the existence of diabetes mellitus. Almost all dogs who have been diagnosed with diabetes start to develop dog cataracts within a year of diagnosis. High blood sugar levels generally cause a change in the water balance in the lens and result in the formation of a cataract. Diabetic cataracts tend to develop very quickly with the dog losing eyesight completely within a few days of eye trouble. Oral oxidants have been observed to help with the delay in cataract formation. Therefore, discuss with your veterinarian about his/her recommendation.

Recently, a new dog cataracts eye drops have been identified that can prevent or delay diabetic cataract formation. However, it is currently awaiting approval from the FDA.


Another scenario where cataracts may develop is if your dog has suffered from injuries that cause inflammation. Along with this, some senior dogs may develop cataracts for no apparent reason. The primary cause, in this case, would be the advanced age of the dog.


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Dog cataracts stages

Cataracts in dogs generally manifest themselves in four different phases. Each case of cataracts is distinct from one another. In some cases, is slow advancement of the disease is observed while in other cases the disease may progress much quicker.


The incipient stage or the immature dog cataracts stage is referred to as the first stage of cataracts in dogs. In this case, you will observe a tiny cloud or an opaque pocket forming in the eye of the dog. This does not require any kind of dog cataracts surgery, since this is very small. The incipient stage of cataracts has a very low impact on the vision and can easily be managed by regular care and follow-up visits with your veterinarian ophthalmologist.

Immature cataract

If the dog cataracts reach the immature dog cataracts stage, the dog may require surgery since the lens has started clouding. This phase has been observed to affect 15 to 99% of the coverage of the lens. Whether this stage would cause minimal blindness or complete blindness would depend on the severity of the disease and the physical condition of the dog.


This is the second most advanced stage of cataracts in dogs. In this case, the complete lens has undergone clouding and the dog has lost almost 90% or 100% of the eye vision. In this case, it can be said that the eye of the dog has suffered a significant level of damage and requires surgery. However, surgery may not always be the option for the treatment for cataracts in dogs. Whether your dog is suitable for dog cataracts surgery or not will be determined on the basis of the case and the complications that may arise after the surgical process.

Hyper mature

This is the final stage of degeneration if your pup is suffering from dog cataracts. In this case, surgery may not be a viable option. Once the cataract had started to worsen from the stages of mature to hyper mature, it leads to a wrinkling of the eye lenses. Furthermore, the eye lens of your dog starts to become solidified and shrinks. This leads to complete vision loss. Even though the affected eye may look completely cloudy, it may still have some clear spots allowing a certain level of vision to the dog.

Whether your dog is suffering from a mature, hyper mature, or immature phase of cataracts, they can only be removed by dog cataracts surgery. In case your dog is suffering from a case of dog cataracts only in one eye, you can escape the surgical route. In some cases, dogs may also live a healthy life with dog cataracts unless the cataract completely starts to hinder the vision.


Diagnosis of cataracts in dogs

If you are worried that your dog might be suffering from dog cataracts, contact your veterinarian. The vet will use a bright light and a magnifying lens to detect whether the cataract is at an immature stage or is just beginning to form and has not yet affected your dog’s eyesight.

At the same time, your vet may also check your dog for other eye issues like glaucoma and anterior uveitis that can affect the eye. They may also conduct other tests like blood work and blood pressure checks to identify if your dog is suffering from any other systematic diseases that can cause vision impedance like hypertension and diabetes. Overall, these tests will provide your vet with an idea of your dog’s overall well-being.

Cataracts in dogs: all you need to know

Why should cataracts in dogs be diagnosed early?

If your dog is suffering from a case of dog cataracts, they must get diagnosed and managed at early stages. If diagnosed at early stages, there is a higher chance that you will be able to keep the eye of your dog healthy and comfortable for a longer period. Cataracts are as unique as the characteristic of an individual dog. If your dog is suffering from the first stage of cataract, it is not necessary that it will worsen and reached the final stage. The progression of dog cataracts from their early stage to the final stage is highly varied and depends on the health condition of the dog.

There’s a higher chance that a mature cataract will induce inflammation in the eye than an immature cataract. The problem is that when the dog cataracts start to generate secondary problems, the secondary problems may inhibit your dog from being eligible for dog cataracts surgery that can restore the vision. Dog cataracts also cause a low-grade inflammation. Therefore, if the inflammation is brought under control in the early stages, it can help your veterinarian manage the cataract in an effective manner.

One of the secondary problems that occur in the case of cataracts in dogs is uveitis. In most conditions, uveitis does not cause pain to the dog. However, if the cataracts are growing very quickly, it may lead to a painful condition. However, in other conditions, it has been observed that uveitis may lead to glaucoma which is another painful condition. Most often, veterinarians prescribe NSAID or pain killer eye drops for the treatment of moderate level uveitis. Corticosteroids are also administered for the treatment of moderate to severe uveitis conditions.


Development of dog cataracts

Cataracts can either develop very slowly or overnight. There is a high chance that you don’t notice the cataract developing during the initial stages. However, once the cataract reaches the stage of maturity i.e. the movement of light to the retina is completely blocked, your dog will be completely blind. Your dog will

  • Seem disoriented
  • Start bumping into furniture
  • Have difficulties locating the food bowls
  • Be afraid of climbing up or down the stairs

However, dogs are one of the most adaptable creatures on the planet. They will learn to function without their sight sooner than you expect. In case the cataract affects your dog slowly, you might not even realize that your pup has lost its eyesight.

Secondary complications due to cataracts in dogs

Glaucoma and lens luxation are the two secondary complications of cataracts in dogs besides glaucoma and uveitis if your dog is suffering from hyper mature or mature dog cataracts. The eyes have a lens capsule that is responsible for keeping the lens in place. These lens capsules are held in place by fibrous suspensory ligaments. If your dog has a genetic predisposition towards dog cataracts or if your pup is suffering from a condition of hyper mature cataract, it would cause weakening of these fibrous suspensory ligaments. As a result the lens may start moving in and out of place.

If you want to fix the lens luxation problem, your dog will have to undergo surgery. However, such surgeries put a lot of pressure on eye health. Therefore, removing cataracts may not restore the vision of your dog.

Glaucoma is another condition that is characterized by an elevation in the intraocular pressure of the eye. The intraocular pressure of the eye increases when there is fluid accumulation in the eye. The inflammation that has been caused due to cataracts can restrict the iridocorneal angle. This will cause fluid to build up in the eye and cause glaucoma overtime. Therefore, if your dog already has glaucoma along with a case of dog cataract, the dog cataracts surgery may not be an option.


How can you preserve the vision of your dog?

In most cases, prevention of cataracts in dogs is almost impossible, especially if it is occurring because of a genetic manifestation. However, there are certain ways that you can use to ensure that the vision of your dog is preserved to the best of your capability. This is especially crucial if your dog is prone to developing cataracts due to the presence of an existing disease like Diabetes Mellitus.

Do the following to help preserve the vision of your dog:

  • Examine your dog’s eyes regularly
  • If your dog’s eyes look bluish Gray or cloudy, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
  • Since in most cases, cataract manifests themselves as a heritage tree disease, find out more about the family medical history of your dog.
  • Conduct annual checkups of your dog at the vet clinic and find out any condition that your dog may have that may cause cataracts like eye trauma or diabetes.

Treatment for cataracts in dogs

The primary method of treatment for cataracts in dogs is to conduct surgery to return functional vision. Unfortunately, there is no oral or topical remedy for cataract surgery once the cataract has formed. Cataracts are usually removed surgically under the effect of general anesthesia. The lens of your dog’s eye will be removed and replaced with an acrylic or plastic lens. Depending on the extent of the dog cataracts effect, the veterinarian may either have to operate on one eye or on both.

Your veterinarian will also conduct various tests to identify any disease that may have been linked to the development of cataracts in your dog. It is crucial that any health issue that may lead to cataracts is addressed as soon as possible to reduce the risk of future complications.

Your dog may also suffer other illnesses like heart or kidney disease which can make the administration of anesthesia very risky for your dog. In such a case, your vet will prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops to your pup for the long term to reduce the inflammation. These dog cataracts eye drops won’t directly treat cataracts or restore lost vision. However, they will prevent or delay lens-induced glaucoma.

Lens-induced glaucoma takes place when the proteins from cataracts get released in the eye and cause an inflammatory reaction that clogs the fluid overflow. This leads to excess fluid building up in the eye causing an increase in the pressure which causes a lot of pain to the dog.

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How to take care of your pup after the dog cataracts surgery?

Your dog will either have to wear a protective collar or a cone for a while to prevent them from rubbing the eyes and causing further harm. To keep the eyes moist and to allow them a proper time to heal, your veterinarians will also give you dog cataracts eye drops to administer to your dog regularly. Your dog will have to rest and recuperate for a few weeks. If you notice any abnormalities during the recovery period or after, notify your vet as soon as possible.

The surgery for dog cataracts recovery is pretty expensive. The cost associated with dog cataracts surgery may range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand for each affected eye. Furthermore, if your dog is already suffering from an underlying medical condition, the prices may rise up higher.


Nuclear sclerosis vs Cataracts in dogs

It is important to not confuse cataracts with nuclear sclerosis. Nuclear sclerosis is the haziness caused in the eye which occurs due to the hardening of the eye lens during the advanced years of your dog’s life. In the case of nucleus sclerosis, the light still passes through the eye and comes in contact with the retina, so even when suffering from nuclear sclerosis, your dog maintains a certain level of vision and won’t bump into things. Most dog guardians get confused between nuclear sclerosis and cataract. They think that their dog is suffering from cataracts, while the poor pup might be suffering from nuclear sclerosis.


Cataracts in dogs is a silent disease that progresses most often without the dog parents realizing that something is wrong with their dog. It may be hereditary or induced due to an underlying disease like Diabetes Mellitus. The only treatment for cataracts in dogs is surgery. However, if your dog is suffering from secondary complications like glaucoma, lens luxation, uveitis, etc. surgical removal of cataracts in dogs may not be an option.

Keep a careful watch on your dog, check their ancestral history for cataract occurrence, and inform your vet if your dog shows any sign of vision of eye issue. An early diagnosis can help avoid secondary complications and allow for dog cataracts surgery at the earliest period.

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