How To Tell If Your Dog Has Cataracts | Tips For Dogs Going Blind
If Your Dog Has Cataracts
As dog owners, we adore the loving gaze of our best friend. We go on long walks with our pets, snuggle with them in our beds on cold mornings, and, although we will always see them as forever young, we also age with them. If your dog has cataracts, this article is for you!
Cataracts appear as dogs advance in age, just as they do in humans.
Signs Of Cataracts
What are some signs of cataracts?
- First sign: A glimmer of white may appear in the center of your dog’s eye if your dog has cataracts.
- Progressive signs: This glimmer will grow to a larger, nontransparent, milky cloud. Although it may appear that this milky cloud sits over the eye, it is the lens which sits behind the pupil and iris that is affected.
The lens is a clear body and functions by allowing light to enter the eye and then focuses the light and sends it to the retina, located in the rear of the eye. These light waves within the retina are converted to electrical signals which travel to the brain via the optic nerve, which brings about sight.
If the protein make-up of the lens is affected, a clear, light-receiving entity will become a cloudy opaque body, which will act as a barrier to light. This results in vision loss and cataracts. Cataracts, depending on the cause, could form quickly, resulting in blindness within a matter of weeks, or they could form more slowly, progressing over several years.
Cataracts are usually genetic and may become evident in a dog as young as four months. If your dog has cataracts and it is a case of them being inherited, progression will be fairly slow, taking up to several years before causing blindness.
Diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s disease, trauma, or aging may also result in cataracts.
Most diabetic dogs will begin to develop cataracts within one to two years of diagnosis. High level of glucose in the blood which adversely affects the lens cause cataracts. Glucose control can help delay blindness.
Cushing’s disease can promote cataracts and can cause rapid progression, possibly resulting in blindness within a few days or weeks. Causes may include high levels of steroids and glucose.
The lens of the eye can easily be disturbed by trauma, resulting in alterations. If your dog has cataracts, the progression could be so slow that the dog usually has time to acclimate and complete blindness may not occur.
Cataract surgery if your dog has cataracts is a viable option if there are no complications. During surgery, the surgeon will remove the lens and replace it with an implant which should restore vision. The procedure is usually highly successful, but may cost upwards of $3500. It will also require confinement and low activity for 3 to 4 weeks post-operative procedure. Any excessive activity, including barking, could cause detachment of the retina.
Surgery is available if your dog has cataracts. Though considered a low-risk procedure, it does carry some risk, including uveitis, glaucoma and retinal detachment.
Coping techniques and tools are available that will aid you and your dog should treatment not be an option and/or if blindness occurs.
Your pet will become well-adjusted as long as he or she remains in a familiar environment if they indeed go blind. Blind dogs have the ability to navigate in familiar surroundings very well. Dogs whose cataracts have progressed slowly, allowing much time for acclimation, adjust even sooner.
A device named Muffin’s Halo is available for dogs with vision issues. Silvie Bordeaux designed this three-piece device to aid vision-impaired dogs after she was inspired by her beloved blind toy poodle Muffin. The device consists of a harness, set of wings, and a halo which serves as a bumper. Muffin’s Halo allows blind dogs to walk confidently without fear of bumping their heads on furniture or walls.
( Bordeaux is also founder of the nonprofit organization, Second Chances for Blind Dogs, which works to increase the rescue of and quality of life for blind dogs. One of her many goals is to provide Muffin’s Halos for blind dogs in shelters and rescues to enhance their chances of adoption. “Our mission is to help as many blind dogs as possible by supplying them with Muffin’s Halos to help them navigate in this world and have a second chance,” says Bordeaux. “So many are left at the shelters, scared and disoriented. They are the first on the ‘to kill list’. We are determined to educate the world on how a blind dog can have a great life with the tools needed to soar.”)
See “Living With A Blind Dog” for more references to help you and your blind dog.
The following breeds have a tendency to become vision-impaired: German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Afghan Hounds, Boston Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Havanese, Poodles, Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels and Fox Terriers.