Could my dog have cataracts?
It’s not uncommon for a client to ask us if their dog has cataracts.They notice that their dog’s eyes have become ‘cloudy’ and they are worried about what might be going on.
A cataract is a cloudy lens and if dense, is seen as a white pupil. Old age, breed predisposition and diabetes are the most common reasons for cataract development in dogs. Other causes for cataract development include retinal diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy. The presence of a cataract will cause a loss of vision in the affected eye.
Whilst cataracts are something we do see in some patients, a far more common cause for a cloudy looking eye is a condition known as senile nuclear sclerosis.
Nuclear sclerosis is common in dogs (50% of dogs over approximately 9 years of age have the condition) but in contrast to cataracts, nuclear sclerosis does not cause a noticeable loss of vision.
It’s important that we make the distinction between cataracts and nuclear sclerosis so we correctly manage the condition. Cataracts may cause further problems such as painful inflammation and lens-induced uveitis or glaucoma. Cataracts may also be indicative of an underlying disorder that needs to be identified and treated such as diabetes. Cataracts may be corrected by surgical removal and vision is generally restored. Your pet will need to be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for cataract surgery. Nuclear sclerosis doesn’t cause any secondary problems and so treatment is not indicated.
To correctly diagnose cataracts or nuclear sclerosis, we will need to examine your pet’s eyes more closely and will need to dilate their pupils to allow good visualisation of the lens. We will discuss this process with you in more detail if it is required.
If you are ever worried about your pet’s eyes you should call us. Eye problems can be serious, painful and change quickly so it’s always best to ask us for advice.