Dogs can have several issues regarding their eyes. Most often we talk in general about the eye infections that can occur and how to prevent them. The eye infections are usually easier to diagnose and more common for those who have long hair that gets into the eyes. With cataracts you will find that there are certain breeds who are genetically predisposed to the disease and that it can be quite a process to treat. So what are cataracts?
Cataracts are a breakdown of the lens fibers or capsule. In other words your eye has a lens that allows you to see images. The retina then sends the messages through the optic nerve and the brain interprets the message. With dogs the eye has the same function, although they do not have our color. So when cataracts affect a dog they have a loss of transparency in the lens, which in turn reduces the vision. The end result of cataracts can be blindness if it is left untreated, and in some cases even when it is treated. The cause of cataracts will vary and some are still unknown. For the most part it seems a dehydration in the eye leads to the breakdown of the lens and there is a lack of protein in the eye. We mentioned that the disease is genetic. This means that some of the cause has something to do with a mutation in the actual function of the eye that the dog inherited from a parent. It is not understood why some dogs have this dehydration that occurs and therefore it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason.
The age of onset may very. Congenital cataracts usually present itself at birth and occur in both eyes. This type is not usually inherited, but due to an infection or toxin at birth. Developmental Cataracts are developed in the early stages of life. It can be trauma, diabetes, infection or a toxin that has caused the disease to begin. Senile Cataracts are of course the older dogs that have developed the disease. Generally with this disease the dog is more than six years old. It can be a muscle issues due to age, as well as dehydration. Inherited cataracts are the most usually method for having the disease. Breeds that are most affected are Afghan hounds, cocker spaniels, Boston terrier, retrievers, German shepherd, Labradors, schnauzers, old English sheepdogs, poodles, and huskies. It should be mentioned that trauma can cause cataracts to form. If a thorn, automobile, or shotgun pellet gets into the eye it can cause the same affects as the other methods.
Treatment will usually consist of surgery where the lens is removed. There are no medications or other methods for treating the disease. When your dog undergoes surgery you will find that the vet may remove the entire lens, part of the lens, or remove the surrounding capsule of the lens. By removing the lens it will affect the dog’s vision, but they will still be able to see. It will also prevent further eye issues. There are several things a vet will look at before determining if the dog is a good candidate for surgery. Generally a dog who is in poor health from diabetes or another disease will not be a good candidate for surgery and the vet will not perform the treatment. The surgery can be difficult and therefore they do not want to compromise the entire health of the dog.
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