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Treating Cataracts in Dogs: Symptoms and Surgery Explained

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

What are cataracts?

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

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

The most common cause of cataracts in dogs, cats and other pets is aging, but cataracts can also occur in puppies, diabetic animals, and in association with stroke or inflammation of the eye.

Cataract Treatment for Dogs

Cataract symptoms

  • As the cataract forms, your dog will experience blurred vision and sometimes double vision. Your dog will find it harder to see people and objects in the distance and will have more difficulty seeing at night.
  • The pupil becomes bluish or whitish in color. In some cases, the owner realizes that something is wrong with the eye. At first, it is usually a mild cataract or lens sclerosis that develops over the years.
  • As the cataract progresses, vision decreases. Our dog will begin to bump into objects.
  • At this point, the pupil is already completely white, and if left untreated, blindness can result.

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

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

Cataracts in Dogs Symptoms and Treatment

Cataract surgery

The only way to cure cataracts is surgery. It is advisable to do this as soon as the loss of vision begins to interfere with the dog's usual activities and to avoid complications from a very advanced or hypermature cataract.

The technique of choice for treating cataracts in dogs is a procedure called phacoemulsification of the crystalline lens, in which the cloudy lens is removed through a minimal incision and replaced with an intraocular lens.

What is the procedure?

The surgery itself takes about 20-30 minutes for each eye, during which time the patient is under general anesthesia. It is not a very deep general anesthesia because local anesthesia is also used.

Through a microincision of less than 3mm, a device is inserted that dissolves and aspirates the lens. The intraocular lens is placed through the same microincision, so the post-operative period is very light for the patient.

The innovative 3D technology provides the surgeon with high image accuracy throughout the procedure and offers software tools 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 with the traditional miscroscope - heads-up surgery - and the view 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), topical treatment (3-4 different eye drops 3 times a day), antibiotics and oral anti-inflammatories for the first few days. After that, the topical medication is reduced.

The patient should rest easily (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 good if the postoperative period goes well.

The postoperative period for cataract surgery in dogs is very short. 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 surgery on a very advanced cataract is generally more complicated. In any case, it is impossible to predict how long it will take for cataracts to cause serious vision problems.

Age is usually not a problem, the most important thing is that the preoperative examinations are done correctly to exclude risks and that adequate precautions are taken in the postoperative period.

Cataract can only be prevented if we know its cause: in the case of diabetes, for example, we can try to control its development.

Congenital or hereditary cataract is very difficult to prevent, and it is usually impossible to control its development.

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