an opacity of the lens within the animal’s eye
What is it?
A cataract is a change in the clear protein of the lens. Normally the lens is clear allowing the image on which they eye is focused to be clearly projected onto the retina. When some of this protein becomes abnormal it becomes crystallized and opaque. This opaque area distorts the image and blurs the image slightly. As the cataract gets larger more and more of the image becomes distorted until vision is affected.
What causes it?
There are several causes of cataracts including injury to the eye, other diseases of the eye, internal diseases of the patient (especially-diabetes), and aging changes. However, the most common causes among dogs are inherited factors. These vary from one breed to another in how they are inherited, at what age they develop, how quickly they develop and how much they affect vision.
Who is susceptible?
Cataracts can affect all breeds and ages of dogs and cats.
How is it treated?
No medication will keep cataracts from becoming worse or cause a cataract to “clear-up”. Medical treatment (usually eye drops) is often used to control the inflammation caused by the cataract or to open the pupil to increase vision.
Removal of the cataract (surgery) is still the only method of improving vision in a patient with cataracts. Whether or not cataract surgery would be helpful for any individual patient depends upon many factors. Several differences between a human eye and a dog’s eye should be considered in determining if cataract surgery is advisable for your pet.
Before cataract surgery the eyes need to be carefully evaluated. Active problems within the eye must be controlled before surgery is considered. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia (gas with oxygen). Certain laboratory tests are done to learn of any other internal medical problems which may require treatment.
What is the prognosis?
Cataract surgery generally has a 90-95% success rate. After successful cataract surgery most dogs see close to normal, although post-operative scarring does slightly decrease vision. Most owners notice a tremendous increase in their pet’s vision after cataract surgery, but they can still detect certain visual difficulties.
What are the aftercare requirements?
For two months after surgery, eye drops will need to be placed in your pet’s eye. You can expect the eye to be slightly red, have some discharge, and be sensitive to light. But, this condition — and your pet’s vision — should continue to improve in the first three months after surgery.
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