When you think of a blind dog, you most likely envision a pet with cloudy eyes. That cloudiness and haze across the eyes are usually caused by cataracts. A dog’s cataracts develop when the lens of the eye clouds, usually due to the water balance in the lens or a change in protein. As the lens clouds over, it blocks light from reaching a dog’s retina causing blindness. Cataracts can develop seemingly overnight or very slowly depending on the cause and can form in one or both eyes.
- A bluish, gray, or white haze covering the eye
- Sudden clumsiness and bumping into obstacles
- Walking with nose to the ground
- Apparent eye irritation or eye discharge
- Increased blinking, rubbing, or scratching eyes
Do Cloudy Eyes Always Mean My Pet Has Cataracts?
Not always. Lens cloudiness is the most common indicator that a pet has cataracts, but it could be contributed to other eye conditions as well. Cloudy eyes can also be caused by a condition called Nuclear Sclerosis. Pets with Nuclear Sclerosis experience a compression of the lens and as newer components of the eye reform there is a hardening of the lens itself.
This condition tends to affect both eyes at the same time, but light can still pass through the eye, so the pet can still see. Both cataracts and Nuclear Sclerosis look very similar and a pet would need to be seen by a Veterinarian or a veterinary eye specialist to determine the cause of their cloudy eyes.
Causes of Canine Cataracts
In most cases cataracts are hereditary, over one hundred different dog breeds are at risk for hereditary cataracts. Some breeds prone to developing cataracts are Cocker Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Poodle, Husky, French Bulldog, and Boston Terrier. Many breeders will test their dogs to ensure that the puppies they produce will not be at risk for the condition.
As dogs get older, vision problems and cataracts can naturally develop. Dogs at risk for other age-related diseases may be at a higher risk of cataract development.
A known side effect of canine diabetes, almost all diabetic dogs will develop cataracts within their first year of diagnosis. High blood sugar levels change the balance of water in the lens – diabetic cataracts are the fastest growing form of the condition. Once they begin to form, diabetic dogs will typically lose their sight within a 48-hour period.
How do you treat cataracts in dogs?
Many dogs have to live with cataracts and a life with limited vision. In the most advanced stages cataract surgery and complete cataract removal is the only way to restore a pet's vision. Pets in the earlier stages of cataract development may benefit from alternative options to help them adjust to losing their eyesight. Here's everything you need to know about treating canine cataracts:
Surgery is a highly effective option for pets. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed to restore sight. Diabetic pets must have their diabetes regulated before undergoing any surgical treatment. Although, surgery is not an option for every dog.
Leaving your pet’s cataract untreated can be dangerous. Cataracts can detach from the tissue strands holding it in place to damage a pet’s eye or settle in such a way as to block the eye’s natural fluid drainage causing a build up of pressure. This painful pressure buildup is also known as glaucoma and can mean permanent blindness. If after being examined your Vet determines that there is no sign of glaucoma or inflammation, surgery may not be necessary. However, your pet will continue to be blind.
Assistive Devices for Blind Pets
A blind pet can live a long and healthy life. Dogs rely more on their heightened sense of smell than they do their vision. A blind dog halo can help your pet to ease into life without sight. While wearing the halo a pet is easily able to navigate the world around them. The halo works similarly to a cane for a human, warning them of the nearby dangers and obstacles and encouraging them to move safely around them. The halo keeps your blind pet safe, while building up their confidence.