Cataracts, a cloudy area in the lens of the eye, commonly causes blindness in dogs (and occasionally in cats). When functioning properly, the lens is the “M&M shaped” clear structure inside of the eye that focuses light on the retina.
Causes of Cataracts
Similar to the way they develop in humans, cataracts in cats and dogs develop due to:
- Disease, such as diabetes
Unfortunately, there are limited ways to prevent cataracts from forming. However, a veterinary ophthalmologist may perform surgery to remove them. Cataract surgery is quite effective. So, if your pet indicates that they are losing their vision, consult your primary vet or schedule an appointment with a specialist.
Signs of Vision Loss
Dogs’ and cats’ behavior shifts when they start to lose their sight. There are various clinical signs of which to take notice:
- Inability to see treats or toys
- Stumbling, falling or tripping on objects
- Hesitation or fear to navigate around unfamiliar areas
- Lethargy and decreased levels of activity
- Cloudy appearance to the eye
If your pet exhibits any of these signs, consider seeing a veterinary ophthalmologist. A comprehensive examination will help determine if cataracts are the cause of their diminishing vision.
Why Treat Cataracts in Cats and Dogs?
Cataract surgery is one of the most popular procedures for older people, but many pet owners hesitate to pursue this treatment for their dog or cat. However, cataracts are just as serious in animals as they are humans. Here’s why you should consider cataract surgery for your pet:
- Cataracts cause blindness in one eye or both eyes
- Blindness can lead to a poor quality of life with many animals
- If left untreated, cataracts can lead to glaucoma (high pressure inside of the eye), which is a painful condition
Prior to surgery, a veterinary ophthalmologist may recommend pre-operative testing of the retinas (the tissue in the back of the eyes that serves as the “film to the camera” and enables animals to see). These exams (an ocular ultrasound and an electroretinogram) will verify that the eyes are healthy enough for surgery and that vision will be regained once surgery has been performed. Additionally, your pet may need pre-operative bloodwork prior to pursuing the surgery.
When considering cataract surgery for your pet, it’s important to know that:
- The surgery is not painful
- It is performed under general anesthesia
- It is an outpatient procedure, meaning your pet will go home the same day as the surgery
- Surgery is typically about 90% successful, meaning that patients regain full sight after surgery. There is a 10% risk of complications, including retinal detachment or glaucoma after surgery that may alter vision.
During the surgery, the doctor will make an incision to gain access into the eye. The surgeon will then perform a phacoemulsification (an ultrasound removal of the lens) to remove the cloudy lens. If the capsule surrounding the lens is healthy, the surgeon can then place an artificial lens to regain focus on near and far objects. To complete the procedure, the surgeon closes the corneal incisions with sutures.
To ensure a successful outcome, the patient’s owner must follow the post-operative care plan closely. Briefly, this includes requiring the pet to wear an ecollar for several weeks, administering topical eye drops and oral pills several times daily for several weeks or month afterward and checking in frequently with the ophthalmologist to ensure there are no complications.
Treating Cataracts at CARE
As a specialty veterinary facility, CARE has the specialty team and equipment to provide the best treatment for cataracts in cats and dogs. If your furry friends seem to have developed cataracts, ask your family veterinarian for a referral to our ophthalmologist.