Cataracts occur when the normally clear protein in the lens turns white. Much like when the proteins change in scrambling an egg, there is no way to change these proteins back to clear. Cataracts range in severity; some never cause any visual deficit for the pet while others can be completely blinding.
The causes of cataracts can be various. Some dogs develop inherited cataracts that can range from mild to blinding. The best way to prevent these types of cataracts is to have dogs examined prior to breeding and not breed dogs that exhibit this quality. Cataracts can also develop secondary to ocular trauma or other ocular disease; most commonly, cataracts develop secondary to diabetes mellitus.
If you suspect your dog has developed cataracts, it’s important to have an examination done with your veterinarian. As your dog ages their lens can develop a cloudiness that is not a true cataract, but it is impossible for an untrained eye to distinguish between them. Your veterinarian will be able to determine if your pet has cataracts as well as if there are any other ocular problems present.
Cataracts themselves are not painful; however, they can at times be associated with an extreme amount of ocular inflammation that can be irritating. Left untreated, they can sometimes cause glaucoma, which is painful. So if you suspect your dog has cataracts, schedule an examination by your veterinarian to maintain comfort and ocular health.
Unfortunately, there is no medical treatment to reverse cataracts. While topical medications may help eliminate the side effects of cataracts, the only treatment is to remove them with surgery. Your veterinarian will be able to discuss these options with you and help you decide the best way to proceed.