“Doggone” Cataracts

Categorized: Blind and Low Vision

It’s been said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but can an old dog see new again?

A lady told me her service dog was going in for cataract surgery on Monday! “WOW” was about all I could say! I know that on humans, cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries, and through technology, it has a fairly quick recovery time. But on a dog?

First off, Cataracts is a disease that affects the lens in your eye. The lens is a clear object in the eye that is curved on both sides. The light goes through the lens, and the curve of the lens bends the light to hit the back of the retina, which then sends the light to the brain where we put images together. A cataract causes the lens to become opaque or cloudy which impairs or changes how the light goes through. A person (or dog) can have Cataracts in one eye or both.

The owner of the dog said her dog had several tests ran, which included one to see how well her tear ducts worked. This is done by placing test strips of paper on the eye balls (after they have been numbed). They also tested the dog to see if it was likely to get Glaucoma.

After hearing this story, I did what seemed natural…I Googled it! Cataracts in dogs can have multiple causes including heredity, diabetes, toxic reaction in the lens, trauma, age-related reasons and many more. As for humans, Cataracts are mostly age-related and are more common in women than men. Some risk factors for Cataracts include diabetes, smoking and alcohol abuse, prolonged exposure to sunlight and radiation, steroid use, obesity, and poor diet. Once a lens has Cataracts there is no way to “clean” or get rid of the color.

Surgery is an option for some dogs and most people. The surgery consists of making a small incision on the eye, removing the “dirty lens” and replacing it with an artificial one. Usually dogs will have both eyes done at once, especially if they are diabetic. After the surgery, the dog will need eye drops to make sure it heals properly as well as regular check-ups with the vet and eye surgeon. Cataract surgery does not guarantee the dog (or human) will have the same vision it had before the Cataracts. Most dogs (and people) have a major improvement, but scarring does occur during the surgery and could affect the dog’s vision as well.

Only an eye doctor can say whether the dog would benefit from the surgery. In deciding whether to perform the surgery, the eye doctor considers the overall health of the dog and the pros and cons. (If you are thinking about Cataract surgery for your dog, just a warning–it is very pricey!)

Make sure you are getting not only your eyes checked every year but also your Pup’s!