Cataracts in Dogs
Updated: Jan 17
A dog's nose often guides his actions and movements, but his eyes are just as important. Maintaining dog eye health is critical to having a happy and healthy pet.
Cataracts, therefore, are something dog owners should be able to spot and understand.
There are four categories for cataracts that we experience in Bostons:
1. Genetic - cataracts are evident at a young age but tend to stay immature for most of the dog's life with the potential of increased impact of blindness in their adult to senior years. Cataract surgery is NOT recommended in these cases.
2. Juvenile - very common in Bostons. The dog will start having impaired vision by the age of 2 years and in a majority of cases are blind by the age of 4 years. In these cases MABTR consults with their vet and considers cataract surgery. Not all cases qualify.
3. Cataracts brought on by age. Evidence of cataracts by your vet will appear around the age of 8-9 years old. Maturity will continue and in most cases the dog will be blind in his senior years. In these cases MABTR does NOT consider or encourage cataract surgery.
4. Cataracts brought on by health issues such as diabetes.
What warrants cataract surgery?
First, one needs to know that Bostons are in the top five most difficult breeds when it comes to cataract surgery. So it is important that you understand all the risks to considering the surgery as they are high, and recovery is horrendous for both you and the dog.
MABTR only considers a Boston a candidate if they arrive in our care with juvenile cataracts. However, not all of these cases qualify for the surgery. Unless the eye is perfect we will not even attempt surgery. You need to have a thorough exam done by your ophthalmologist.
We also suggest you have the Boston's thyroid tested. A low thyroid is common in Bostons and if low requires medication. However even more common to be low in dogs with juvenile cataracts. If the thyroid is not regular prior to surgery this will negatively affect the recovery.
The risks taken with cataract surgery are as follows and all can lead up to the removal of the eye that just underwent surgery.
If you decide not to proceed with surgery, you need to address any inflammation of the eye which can be controlled through medication. Anti-inflammatory drops may need to be used throughout the dog's life. Pressures should be checked every six months. Not all vets have a pressure tool, so find one who does and build a relationship with them.
Do Cataracts Hurt Dogs?
The cataract itself does not hurt. However inflammation can be painful or at least uncomfortable if presented. If not treated can lead up to glaucoma, which is very, very painful. In human terms: walking around with a migraine 24/7 and can lead up to the rupture of the eye resulting in removal. There is currently no eye drop on the market that will resolve a mature cataract.
Treatment and Prevention
Cataracts won't go away on their own, surgery is the only way to correct it. If you see or suspect that your dog has a cataract, consult your vet or a veterinary opthamologist to discuss whether surgery is right for your dog. Again putting an adult/senior through this surgery is NOT recommended by MABTR.
Dogs with cataracts presented later in life can adjust just fine to their environment especially once their vision is gone.
Because so many canine cataracts are hereditary, there's not much an owner can do to prevent them.
If you find yourself questioning cataract surgery for your dog and you would like to talk, please do not hesitate to call MABTR, 402-510-1346, as we have lots of experience in this area unfortunately.