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Cataracts Can Lead to Blindness in Dogs

Posted Jan 27 2009 8:07pm

A recent press release from the NYC Veterinary Specialists and Cancer Treatment Center discusses one of the leading causes of blindness in dogs - Cataracts.

WHAT CAUSES CATARACTS IN PETS?“Cataracts can be caused by injuries or diabetes, but most canine cataracts are inherited and come with age,” explains board certified veterinary Ophthalmologist, Vanessa Kuonen at NYC Veterinary Specialists in Manhattan. “Most cataracts will progress and ultimately cause blindness, so animals with cataracts should see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible!” Kuonen adds that “cataracts can cause complications inside the eye that are irreversible and painful, including retinal detachment and glaucoma.”

“Even if an owner thinks they may not do the surgery, it is always recommended they talk with a specialist so they understand the possible outcomes and the risks of the decision either way,” adds veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Mlekoday of West Chelsea Veterinary in Manhattan.

LIVING WITH CATARACTS:For pets, seeing through a mature cataract is similar to looking through white frosted glass. The lens is located behind the colored iris, so when a cataract occurs, the pupil may even appear white.

Cataracts are treated with surgery to remove the lens and uses phacoemulsification, the same procedure used in people. Once the lens is removed, it is replaced with an artificial lens inserted into the pocket formed by the original lens capsule which remains in the eye.

Dr. Kuonen advises, "Pet owners should talk with their veterinarian if they suspect their dog is losing their sight. The best time to perform cataract surgery is when the dog has significant visual impairment, but is not completely blind. When cataract surgery is performed early, the success rate is typically 90 to 95%."

CATARACTS IN DIABETIC DOGS: If dogs diagnosed with diabetes are monitored for a year or more, almost all of them will develop cataracts. In diabetic dogs, the glucose concentrations in the lens increases. Over time, the extra glucose is converted into sorbitol, which causes an increase in the influx of water to the lens. The increase in water causes a breakdown of the lens fibers and a resulting cataract. Cataracts in diabetic dogs can develop extremely rapidly, especially if the dog is not regulated. They generally affect both eyes.

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