What is a Cataract?
Like a camera, eyes have a clear lens inside them that is used for focusing. A cataract is any opacity within a lens. The opacity can be very small (incipient cataract) and not interfere with vision. It can involve more of the lens (immature cataract) and cause blurred vision. Eventually, the entire lens can become cloudy, and all functional vision lost. This is called a mature cataract.
Why did my dog develop a Cataract?
- Most cataracts in dogs are inherited. The cataract may develop rapidly over weeks, or slowly over years, in one or both eyes.
- Like humans, dogs also develop cataracts with age (often after 8 years of life).
- Cataracts can also develop in dogs with diabetes mellitus or in orphan puppies on an artificial milk replacer diet.
How are Cataracts treated?
Once a lens has developed a cataract, there is no known method to make the lens clear again. Immature and mature cataracts can be treated by surgically removing them.
The procedures and equipment used to remove cataracts in dogs are the same as those used in humans. A small incision is made in the eye and a hole is made in the capsular bag that holds the lens. Phacoemulsification is then performed, in which a special probe ultrasonically emulsifies and removes the cataract. After the entire lens is removed, an artificial replacement lens, called an intraocular lens or IOL, is placed in the bag. The eye is closed with extremely small sutures. Because even the slightest damage to structures in the canine eye can have disastrous effects, the surgery is performed under high magnification using an operating microscope. If both eyes are affected, usually both eyes are operated on at the same time.