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06 March 2021

Cataracts in dogs, the unseen demon: causes, symptoms and treatments

Is your dog suffering from cataract? If yes, then you are at the right place. In this blog post, I will discuss the causes, symptoms and the treatment strategies of the same.

A cataract is a disease that is common to both humans and dogs. Cataracts develop when the eye lens clouds up and it looks like a film has developed over the eye. This happens when there is a change in the water balance of the lens or a change in the proteins present in the lens. As a result of the clouding of the lens, light is unable to reach the retina, leading to blindness. 

If your dog is suffering from a mature cataract, then it will seem as if there is a white disk behind your dog's eye. The region of the eye which looks black or brown will now seem white. 

It is important to not confuse cataract with nuclear sclerosis. Nuclear sclerosis is the haziness caused in the eye which occurs due to the hardening of the eye lens during the advanced years of your dog's life. In the case of nucleus sclerosis, the light still passes through the eye and comes in contact with the retina, so even when suffering from nuclear sclerosis, your dog maintains a certain level of vision and won't bump into things. Most dog guardians get confused between nuclear sclerosis and cataract. They think that their dog is suffering from cataract, while the poor pup might be suffering from nuclear sclerosis.

How are canine cataracts diagnosed?

If you are worried that your dog might be suffering from cataract, contact your veterinarian. The vet can use a bright light and a magnifying lens to detect whether the cataract is at an immature stage or is just beginning to form and has not yet affected your dog's eyesight.

At the same time, your vet may also check for other eye issues like glaucoma and anterior uveitis that can affect the eye. Your vet might also conduct other tests like blood work and blood pressure checks to identify if your dog is suffering from any other systematic diseases that can cause vision impedance like hypertension and diabetes. Overall, these tests will provide your vet with an idea of your dog's overall well being.

Cataracts in dogs

Cataracts can either develop very slowly or develop overnight. There is a high chance that you don't notice the cataract developing during the initial stages but once the cataract reaches the stage of maturity i.e. the movement of light to the retina is completely blocked, your dog will be completely blind. Your dog will start bumping into furniture, have difficulties locating the food bowls, will be afraid of climbing up or down the stairs. However, dogs are one of the most adaptable creatures on the planet. They will learn to function without their sight sooner than you expect. In case the cataract affects your dog slowly, you might not even realise that your pup has lost his/her eyesight.

What are the causes behind cataract occurrence in dogs?

Most often, cataract is hereditary. Research has shown that there are several gene mutations in different dog breeds which have implicated towards cataract occurrence. If your dog has this mutation, he/she is at an elevated risk of developing this disease. You can get your dog genetically tested, however, there is no guarantee as to whether your dog will eventually develop a cataract or not. 

One of the other major causes of cataracts is diabetes existence. Almost all dogs who have been diagnosed with diabetes start to develop a cataract within a year of diagnosis. High blood sugar levels generally cause a change in the water balance in the lens and result in the formation of a cataract. Diabetic cataracts tend to develop very quickly with the dog losing eyesight completely within a few days of eye trouble. Oral oxidants have been observed to help with the delay in cataract formation, therefore, discuss with your veterinarian about his/her recommendation.

Recently, there is a new canine eye drop that can prevent or delay diabetic cataract formation. However, it is currently awaiting approval from the FDA. 

Treatment of dog cataracts

The unfortunate part of a dog cataract is that there is no pill or eye drop that can cause a reversal in the state of the eye lens. Luckily, however, surgery has been observed to be highly successful in most cases. Even in animals, cataract surgery can be used to remove the cloudy lens and cause restoration of the eyesight.

The only cases when surgeries are not successful are when your dog has damaged retinas, glaucoma or inflammation in the eye. If unfortunately, your dog is such a candidate, your vet will inform you of the same.

Check out these amazing home remedies for dealing with cataracts in dogs

Your dog may also suffer other illness like heart or kidney disease which can make the administration of anaesthesia very risky for your dog. In such a case, your vet will prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops to your pup for the long term to reduce the inflammation. These drops won't directly treat cataracts or restore the lost vision, however, they will prevent or delay lens-induced glaucoma.

Lens induced glaucoma takes place when the proteins from cataract get released in the eye and cause an inflammatory reaction which clogs the fluid overflow. This leads to excess fluid building up in the eye causing an increase in the pressure which causes a lot of pain to the dog.


We all want the best for our dogs. Seeing them in any kind of pain is very heartbreaking for us. Even doing research and writing this post brought tears to my eyes. However, when your dog reaches the stage of such difficulty, you will be there by his/her side providing all your love and support to your beloved pooch. As I mentioned above, dogs are very very resilient. All they need is your love and devotion to help them get through the most difficult of times.

Have you ever been in the above-mentioned situation? Do you have any stories to share with everyone? You can either leave your stories in the comment section below or you can contact me on any of my social media channels. If you have any specific query you want to be addressed, please leave them in the comment section. I will be happy to be of assistance..

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