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Cataracts In Dogs: The Ultimate Guide

An old, black and white, cavalier king Charles spaniel outside

As your dog ages, you may have noticed that their eyes are also starting to turn a whitish-blue color. They may even now seem like they cannot see as well and are running into things. This is the development of cataracts in their eyes. This article will explain all about cataracts and what you can do for your dog.

What are cataracts?

Cataracts form in the lens of the eye. The lenses become gray or milky-white in the eyes. This change in color blocks light from entering the eye and impairs your dog’s vision. This will eventually lead to blindness.

Different types of cataracts

There are different types of cataracts that your dog can develop. These are the most common type of cataracts that are seen in dogs:

  • Congenital cataracts: This type of cataract is present at birth. Your puppy would have been born with cataracts.
  • Developmental cataracts: This type of cataract shows up early but can take years to be visible. Certain breeds such as poodles and labs are more prone to developing cataracts early in life.
  • Senile cataracts: This is the most popular type of cataract and develops in dogs over 6 years of age.
  • Inherited cataracts: This type of cataract is associated with another systemic disease that affects the eye, such as diabetes and hypertension.
  • Trauma-related cataracts: This type of cataract is the result of some type of eye injuries.

Diagnosing cataracts in dogs

As your dog ages, your veterinarian will examine your dog’s eyes to look for early signs of cataracts. Your veterinarian will use a bright light with magnification to look at the lens and retina in your dog’s eye. Your vet can see the small beginnings of cataracts. During the exam your veterinarian will also screen your dog for:

  • Anterior uveitis: this is inflammation in the eye
  • Glaucoma: This is increased pressure in the eye.
  • Diabetes which can also affect your dog’s vision
  • Hypertension can also affect a dog’s vision

Cataract develop differently

Cataracts do not develop consistently. Some cataracts will appear immediately, while others will be a slow progression and take years to develop fully. When your veterinarian first notices a cataract, this is an immature cataract, and your dog will still be able to see. As they progress to a mature cataract, they will eventually cause them to go blind. Some of the first signs of cataracts are disorientation and bumping into things, so this is something to look out for.

Treating cataracts in dogs

The only way to 100% treat a dog with cataracts is with surgery. This is the same type of surgery done in people.


A brown german shorthair getting his eyes checked by the doctor

A veterinary ophthalmologist will do this type of surgery. They will decide whether this is an appropriate procedure for your dog. Things such as inflammation, glaucoma, or damaged retinas will make it unlikely that surgery will be effective. At this time, your veterinarian will prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops to help. Sometimes other diseases such as kidney or heart disease can make anesthesia a bad option for your dog.

Surgery can be expensive. It usually ranges from 4,000 to 6,000+. Your dog will also need many trips to the veterinarian for checkups for the 6 months after surgery.

If your dog is not able to have surgery, non-surgical options won’t stop the progression of cataracts, merely delay loss of vision.

Preparing your home for a dog with cataracts

If your dog is starting to go blind from cataracts, there are some things that you can do to prepare your house to make it easier for your dog.

  • Make sure their bed and food and water bowls are in a safe, consistent place away from stairs.
  • Consider getting your dog a comfortable new bed to encourage them to find it more often and use it as a home base.
  • Put a child-proof gate on the stairs. This will prevent them from going up the stairs and falling back down.
  • Put paths between furniture that a dog can find its way through, and wide-open spaces available for them.
  • Do not move the furniture around. A dog will find its way around the furniture in the house. If you continuously move it, they always have to figure out the new maze in the house.
  • If you are looking to relieve some of the pressure within the eye that can cause some pain and discomfort to your dog. Some professionals have found that CBD oil can be a great household item to carry to give to dogs. CBD has low amounts of THC which is the ingredients that make people and animals “high”.

Sold out

While a dog that has developed cataracts can seem scary at first, with a little bit of care and attention to your dog, they can live a healthy and happy life. While surgery is not an option for everyone or every dog, but by following these recommendations, your dog will still have a great life.

Picture of author Erica Irish

Dr. Erica Irish
Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine.

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