As we age, humans can form cataracts that can cause eye sensitivity and blurry vision. Unfortunately, animals can also experience the same condition of their eyes in their senior years. Luckily, there are ways for dog owners to prevent and spot this condition so that their dog can be treated before their eyesight worsens and begins affecting their quality of life.
Cataracts develop in dogs when the lens of the eye begins to cloud and thicken. This can occur in one or both of the dog's eyes, and it may develop slowly over time or very quickly. Common causes of cataracts include advancing age and genetics.
Depending on the health and genetics of the dog, there are ways in which cataracts can sometimes be prevented. For example, if a dog has diabetes, treating diabetes can help prevent cataracts from forming. Taking your dog to the vet for a yearly exam can ensure they are monitored for risk of cataracts and that steps are taken to prevent them from developing, if possible.
The most obvious sign of cataracts in a dog is a visible cloudy layer present on at least one of the dog's eyes. Other symptoms include impaired vision, which may be evidenced by the dog bumping into objects, being afraid of hopping onto the sofa or refusing to walk up the stairs. The dog may also frequently rub their with a paw. These signs can be confused with other conditions, so always consult a veterinarian for a correct diagnosis.
Your dog's veterinarian can evaluate and treat your dog's cataracts, but your vet may refer you to a specialist for more advanced treatment. A veterinary ophthalmologist is the most qualified professional for diagnosis and treatment of your dog if you suspect they have cataracts.
A veterinary eye surgeon can treat cataracts through surgery. The procedure includes replacing the lens that has been affected by cataracts with a clear, artificial lens. This will improve the dog's vision as well as, hopefully, his or her quality of life. The original lenses that have been affected by cataracts cannot be repaired, so replacement is the only option available.
Recovery time for dogs after cataract surgery is typically about two weeks. The veterinarian will generally prescribe medication for the dog in the form of eye drops, and the dog will have to wear a cone collar while recovering. The surgery has a very high success rate -- about 90% of dogs regain vision.
Unfortunately, cataracts cannot be cured. The only currently verifiable remedy for cataracts in dogs is surgery, which replaces the damaged lens. If the surgery is not successful, the dog may not regain vision. However, the owner can help their furry friend adapt to a lifestyle with limited vision to maintain a good quality of life.
Though aging is a common cause of cataracts, senior dogs are not the only dogs who develop cataracts. Some puppies have cataracts at birth due to damage or congenital abnormalities. When young dogs are old enough, they may be candidates for surgery or may not need them, depending upon the dog's individual condition.
Cataracts can lead to blindness as they progress over time if they are not treated. Blindness can happen relatively quickly if cataracts develop at a fast pace, or it may occur slowly if cataracts progress gradually. Much of the time, the dog's sight can be restored through cataract surgery.
If you think your dog may have cataracts, it is important to consult a veterinarian instead of trying to treat the condition at home. Cataracts are a serious condition that can look similar to other eye conditions in dogs, and it is best to seek professional treatment in order to avoid inadvertently causing harm to your furry friend.
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