Pet owners who notice eye issues, vision impairment, or symptoms of cataracts in their dogs are recommended to set up an appointment with their veterinarian immediately. To diagnose cataracts, your veterinarian will perform a series of tests to observe the dog’s vision and analyze the eye.
After a routine physical, vets may check your dog’s blink reflex and other spatial reasoning. Some vets will run a blood and urine test to examine glucose levels, and may also test your dog’s intraocular pressure to rule out glaucoma. Vets will thoroughly examine the eye, and likely dilate the pupil to observe cataracts or uveitis with a penlight. Other common eye tests include observing the eye under a dye and the Schirmer tear test. These test are safe for your pet and will be relatively pain-free.
Once cataracts have been diagnosed, your vet will assess the severity of these opacities and whether surgery is recommended. The only treatment for cataracts that impair vision is to surgically remove them. Cataracts caused by nutritional deficiencies are the only type of cataracts that can clear up over time. Canines with diabetes are prime candidates for cataract surgery because of their rapid growth, but dogs must have their glucose levels in order before they can undergo treatment.
Cataract surgery involves a process called phacoemulsification, where a probe removes the cataracts using ultrasound. The lens is then extracted and replaced with an artificial lens.
After a successful cataract surgery, vision will be restored and cataracts will not be able to form again. Post surgery, pets typically will be prescribed eye drops and medication, and will wear a protective cone-shaped (Elizabethan) collar. During the healing process, the dog may be restricted from exercise and aggressive play and should be kept in a relaxing environment for several weeks.
Untreated cataracts may lead to glaucoma, blindness, and retinal detachment. If cataract surgery is not recommended for your pet, it is important to monitor cataracts and schedule regular check ups.