What can I do about my dog’s cataracts?

cataract-vet

We are often approached by owners with a question about their dog’s cataracts.  Many want to know if there is an alternative to surgery and how reliable or effective the alternative may be.

Cataract surgery has a high though not perfect success rate and the results can be very good and give permanent improvement.  Nevertheless, not all dogs are suitable candidates because of age or other medical complications and additionally many owners simply cannot afford the expensive operation (although insurance if you have it should cover the cost).

There is no licensed drug or medication available for your veterinarian to prescribe that will cure cataracts or prevent them.

There is however an opportunity for owners to help their dogs to live a relatively normal life with cataracts by using anti-oxidant eye drops regularly.  These eye drops are not legally classified as a drug or medication requiring a prescription from your vet, though their effectiveness has been well demonstrated by clinical evidence.

Since cataracts are the result of chemical changes in the lens of the eye increased anti-oxidant support for the eye may result in prevention, slower development or even regression of the cloudiness associated with cataracts.

The chemical changes that allow formation of cataracts are generally the result of genetic pre-disposition, old age or complications from diabetes.  Diabetes is increasingly attributed to cataracts because there appears to be an increasing population of diabetic dogs.

So, owners may decide to use anti-oxidant eye drops to achieve some level of prevention, to halt further damage or to try and restore eye function to give a better quality of life for their pet.

How much can be achieved depends on several factors.  Firstly, the owner will need to be dedicated to their pet’s wellbeing to administer the eye drops three time a day for several months. This is an onerous task not to be underestimated.

Prevention of further deterioration is a realistic objective in many cases and if cataracts are diagnosed and supported early enough the quality of life your pet enjoys can be well maintained.

Some owners report a partial or even complete clearing of the cloudiness that had been previously visible by them. This tends to happen when cataracts have not fully matured. Owners should understand that cataracts seldom cause total blindness and that some light transmission through the lens and some object perception is usually retained.

During clinical trials of anti-oxidant eye drops the researchers, who were veterinarians, found that by using sophisticated measuring techniques all dogs tested did in fact gain some improvement in vision.

In summary we feel that the following guidelines hold true:

If cataracts are already present and are causing sufficient decline in your pet’s quality of life you may elect, if you have the financial resources, to have cataract surgery. The prognosis is generally very good, though not 100%.

If your dog has developed cataracts and for financial or other reasons you wish to support your pet with anti-oxidant eye drops then you can expect some improvement in quality of life.  You may notice more self-confidence in their behaviour and more mobility. With time you may be able to see for yourself a reduction in the cloudiness.

If you have a diabetic dog and know there is therefore a high risk of the development of cataracts then anti-oxidant eye drops can mitigate against (reduce) their development.

Additionally, if the cataracts are not fully developed there is often an opportunity for owners to use anti-oxidant eye drops before finally committing to surgery.

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