Have you noticed your dog has started to bump into things at home and outside during walks? Or you have noticed that their eyes are not as bright as they used to be. Do you wonder what might be the cause of these changes in the eyes and can you help your k-9 companion? If you notice changes like the ones described below, it would be wise to take a short trip to the vet’s office for a check-up.
What is a cataract and how often do we see it in dogs?
This eye condition is commonly seen in humans, but it does not spare our four-legged friends either. Vets define a cataract as a clouding of the eye lens, that is normally clear. The purpose of the lens is to focus the light directly on the optic nerve. When there is clouding, this is not possible, which makes it difficult for the dog to see. If left untreated, eventually it could lead to inflammation and cause pain.
Different things could lead to blurring of the lens, but the most common reasons for cataracts in dogs are old age, diabetes mellitus, inflammation of the uvea (uveitis), or the presence of abnormal levels of calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia).
What are the symptoms that owners notice if their dog has cataracts?
The first thing that owners notice is of course the blurriness of their dog’s eye. They also may notice that the dog is not as fond as before when they need to go out for walks or they are not as happy as before when they run off-leash. Some dogs are not even happy to go outside on their own when it’s dark.
Other things that can be noticed are the dog bumping into objects, trying to scratch their eyes, and in general unhappy because they may be feeling pain or discomfort. In some dogs, owners notice the eye bulging towards the outside or that the eye socket is red.
How is cataract diagnosed in dogs?
Every concerned owner will usually take their dog to their local vet when they notice that something is wrong with their dog. The vet will then examine the eye, using a tool called an ophthalmoscope. Depending on the level of knowledge and experience, the vet may also measure eye pressure and tear production. The reason for these tests is that cataracts can affect both the eye pressure and tear production of the affected eye, which could lead to even greater problems.
If your vet is not able to do these tests, you may need to visit a doggie ophthalmologist. Yes, they do exist too! A referral center hospital that has a board-certified ophthalmologist will perform all of the tests given above, and then some more, such as ultrasound and some tests to check your dog’s eyesight.
Can cataracts in dogs be treated?
Yes, it can and it is treated surgically, pretty much the same way as it is done in humans. Your dog will be put under general anesthesia for the procedure. The surgery itself consists of making a small cut into your dog’s eye. Then the lens is shredded using a machine and this process is known as phacoemulsification. Once the lens has been broken and aspirated, a new artificial lens is placed.
It is considered that this procedure has a high success rate, meaning that above 85% of the patients make full recovery. However, for everything to turn out as it should, owners need to strictly follow the rules that will be given to them in the recovery period.
The treatment for this condition will cost the owner between $2500-$4000.