Treatment for Cataracts in Dogs: Symptoms and Surgery Explained

Cataracts in dogs can be treated at almost any age, as long as the appropriate tests are performed.

Cataracts in Dogs Treatment

What are cataracts?

Cataracts in dogs and other animals occur when the inner lens of the eye (the crystalline lens) loses transparency. It is a process that occurs naturally with age, although in some breeds of dogs it occurs more frequently than in others, and can have several causes:

  • Aging
  • Hereditary disorders (congenital cataract)
  • Blows, wounds or trauma to the eye
  • Inflammatory processes of the eye
  • Other pathologies, mainly diabetes (diabetic cataract).

The most frequent cause of cataracts in dogs, cats and other pets is aging, but they can also occur in puppies, in diabetic animals and associated with strokes or ocular inflammation.


  • While the cataract is forming, blurred vision and sometimes double vision appears. Our dog will find it more difficult to see people and objects that are far away, and will have more difficulty seeing at night.
  • The pupil will take on a bluish or whitish color. In some cases the owner realizes that there is something wrong with the eye. Initially it is usually a mild cataract, or lens sclerosis, which evolves over the years.
  • As the cataract progresses, vision will decrease. Our dog will start to bump into objects.
  • At this point the pupil is already totally white, and if left untreated, blindness can result.

Cataracts in dogs are usually detected by loss of vision or because the pupil area, which is normally black, looks more bluish or whitish. In some cases this problem appears from birth.

Cataracts in dogs usually develop slowly and progressively, but in puppies or in dogs with diabetes they can develop in a short period of time, even in a few days, and cause severe vision deficits.

Cataracts in Dogs Symptoms and Treatment

Cataract surgery

The only way to cure cataracts is with surgery. It is advisable to do so as soon as the loss of vision interferes negatively with the dog's usual activities, and to avoid complications due to a very advanced or hypermature cataract.

The technique of choice in dogs to cure cataracts is the surgery called phacoemulsification of the crystalline lens, in which the opacified crystalline lens is removed through a minimal incision and replaced by an intraocular lens that performs its function.

What does the surgery consist of?

The surgery itself lasts approximately 20-30 minutes in each eye, during which the patient is under general anesthesia. It is not a very deep general anesthesia since local anesthesia is also applied.

Through a microincision of less than 3mm they introduce a device that dissolves the crystalline lens and aspirates it. The intraocular lens is placed through the same microincision, so the postoperative period is very light for the patient.

The innovative 3D technology allows the surgeon high image accuracy throughout the procedure and provides software aids that improve safety and reliability.

With this technology, the detailed and magnified observation of the ocular structures is performed in high definition HD, in a much more ergonomic posture than that of the traditional miscroscope - heads up surgery - and the vision of the surgery is exactly the same for the entire team involved.

How is the recovery?

The recovery of vision is very fast (usually one week) and the dog has almost normal vision.

The postoperative period is simple. There are two weeks of Elizabethan collar (or bell), in which we will give topical treatment (3-4 different eye drops 3 times a day), antibiotic and oral anti-inflammatory the first days. After that the topical medication decreases.

The patient should rest slightly (do not go to the beach, do not bathe, do not play excessively with balls or other objects that can hit the eyes).

The prognosis is favorable as long as the postoperative period goes well.

The postoperative period for cataract surgery in dogs is very light. The recovery of vision is very fast (usually one week) and the patient has practically normal vision.

When to operate?

In the past, cataracts were not operated on until the patient was practically blind. Nowadays this attitude does not make sense, since it is known that the intervention of a very advanced cataract is, in general, more complicated. In no case is it possible to predict how long it will take for cataracts to cause serious vision problems.

Age is not usually a problem, the most important thing is that the previous examinations are performed correctly to rule out risks, and that adequate precautions are taken in the postoperative period.

Cataract can only be prevented in cases where we know its cause: for example, in cases of diabetes we can try to control its evolution.

Congenital or hereditary cataract is very difficult to prevent, and it is usually not possible to control its evolution.

It is advisable to operate when the loss of vision caused by the cataract interferes negatively with the patient's normal activities. It is not recommended to wait until the cataract is very advanced, because in this case the operation is more complex.

What tests are done before surgery?

To confirm the diagnosis of cataract and evaluate the treatment, a thorough examination of the eye must be performed with the appropriate instruments. The following diagnostic tests are recommended:

  • Electroretinography
  • Ocular ultrasound
  • Intraocular pressure check
  • Slit lamp examination
  • Review of pupillary reflexes with chromatic light test
  • Fundus examination with indirect ophthalmoscopy

To evaluate a cataract surgery, a careful examination of the patient is necessary to rule out other diseases of different parts of the eye (cornea, retina or optic nerve), which could also be the cause of vision loss.

Which dogs are prone to cataracts?

Mild cataracts, called sclerosis, begin to develop in dogs as early as 8 years of age.

Congenital cataract can appear from the first months of age, and even at birth, both in dogs and in cats, and can have a much faster evolution.

The species most affected by cataract are dogs. In particular, the Poodle, Fox Terrier, Bichon Maltese, French Bulldog or Bichon Frise are more genetically predisposed to develop cataract.Bichon Frise
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