Cataracts are one of the most common and serious eye problems in cats and dogs. A cataract is an opacity – or cloudiness – that develops in the eye’s lens. This opacity disrupts the passage of light to the retina, affecting what we see. Cataracts come in all shapes and sizes, and while some may not affect vision at all, others can cause complete blindness.
In dogs, genetics and diabetes are common causes of cataracts. Trauma, inflammation, and other problems cause cataracts in dogs and cats less frequently. Regardless of the cause, the only proven method to resolve cataracts is surgery. Other products, such as eye drops and oral medication, claim to improve cataracts, but none of these products have been proven to be effective (and could worsen the situation by delaying surgery).
As with people, cataract surgery for pets involves an ultrasonic removal of the lens known as phacoemulsification. Once the cloudy lens is removed, a clear artificial lens is put in place to allow the return of vision just as it was prior to cataracts!
Even with good surgical results, however, aftercare at home is important to ensure a good outcome. Aftercare typically involves eye drops, oral medications, and rechecks with the ophthalmologist to make sure there are no issues or complications.
Cataract surgery has become very common and successful in our veterinary patients. If you believe your dog or cat may be having problems with vision, talk with your general vet. If cataracts are suspected, he or she can refer you for further evaluation with a veterinary ophthalmologist, who can help keep that sparkle in your pet’s eye.