Eye Disease in Dogs: Cataracts

The lens is the part of the eye that focuses light rays onto the back part of the eye called theDogs and Cataracts retina. It sits just behind the iris and can be seen through the pupil. The lens is composed of fibers that come together in a “Y” shape in the center of the lens and these fibers are enclosed in a capsule.  Disruption of these fibers can result in dense white opacities which are called cataracts. Cataracts do not allow light to get through to the back of the eye.  Another syndrome in older dogs can be easily confused with cataracts. This is called nuclear sclerosis and is a normal aging change of the lens. The fibers become denser and give the lens a bluish appearance.  Dogs can see through a lens with nuclear sclerosis but cannot see through cataracts. Cataracts are a fairly uncommon eye disease in dogs but if you suspect that your dog has cataracts you should consult your vet.

Eye Disease in Dogs: Cataracts

Courtesy of www.cataractsindogs.net

Eye Disease in Dogs: Causes of Cataracts

Cataracts can be caused by a number of things. Trauma to the eye can lead to disruption of the lens capsule which can lead to cataracts. Some dogs will develop cataracts as they age. Other eye diseases including uveitis or retinal diseases can lead to cataracts. Dogs with diabetes almost always develop cataracts, no matter how good the blood sugar regulation is.  The most common cause of cataracts is hereditary. Breeds predisposed to hereditary cataracts include the Miniature Poodle, the American Cocker Spaniel, and the Miniature Schnauzer. Other breeds that hereditary cataracts are seen in include the Golden Retriever (Golden Retrievers are also predisposed to Pigmentary Uveitis- click here to learn more), the Boston terrier, and the Siberian husky.
Lens with cataracts can lead to other problems including uveitis or glaucoma, both very painful eye diseases in dogs. If your dog has been diagnosed with cataracts, you should consult a Veterinary Ophthalmologist for treatment recommendations.

Eye Disease in Dogs: Treatment of Cataracts

Cataracts can be small or they can involve the entire lens. If they are small and your dog can see around them, then they do not require removal. If both eyes are affected and the cataract involves the entire lens, then surgical removal of the cataracts can be considered. This is an invasive and expensive surgery with possible post-operative complications which should be explained in advance. The most common surgical procedure performed is phacoemulsification of the cataract. This uses sound waves to break apart the cataract into small bits which are then suctioned out of the lens capsule using a small vacuum type instrument.  A fake or prosthetic lens can then be inserted into the remaining lens capsule. Eye drops and oral medications are required for weeks to months afterwards and the risk of uveitis or glaucoma developing is significant.
Small or incomplete cataracts need to be monitored closely by owners and their veterinarians.  Sometimes eye drop medication is used to prevent secondary problems from developing.
While a fairly uncommon eye disease in dogs, cataracts can lead to uveitis, glaucoma, and blindness and they should be treated as a serious condition.

Click here to learn about diseases of the eyelid.

Click here to learn about Cherry Eye Disease.

Click here to learn about Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca.


  1. Really good Article about dog cataracts

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