Chances are that your older dog or cat has some vision impairment.
“In our practice we see hundreds of pet whose eyesight is declining with age” says Dr. Marsig, practicing veterinarian at the Animal Hospital of Unionville. “Most owners are surprised when we tell them that their pet has already slight cloudiness of the lens.”
What is Cataract?
In veterinary medicine the term Cataract is technically not correct and we see a most commonly a condition referred to as “nuclear sclerosis”. It develops in the lens of the eyes and causes cloudiness. During a physical examination your veterinarian likely shines a light into your pets eyes, a test that you could also do at home. In a normal eye, the pupil is a dark “hole” surrounded by the iris. When your pet has nuclear sclerosis, you will see some haziness similar to frosted glass of a shower stall. This condition happens very commonly in dogs older than seven years of age. Cats are also affected, however to a lesser degree. Most pets just see still very well with some nuclear sclerosis however some detail vision and low light vision may be impaired. Humans with similar opacities would probably not see well when driving at night time.
Is your dog going to get blind?
Nuclear sclerosis is a progressive disease which slowly deteriorates with age.
In advanced cases you may notice that your dog is a bit hesitant to walk downstairs in the dark, however most pets just do fine and find their way around very well.
What can be done to treat or prevent cataracts?
There is no specific treatment or prevention known for this condition and since most pets are just doing fine with a slightly reduced vision, there is no need to intervene. Lens replacement surgery however is an option. This surgery is being performed by veterinarians specializing in ophthalmology. Quite similar to human cataract surgery, the lens is being removed and sometimes replaced with a synthetic implant. Since ophthalmologic lasers are being used in veterinary medicine, the surgery has very good success rates.
Please discuss with your veterinarian whether your pet may benefit from this surgery. Most dogs or cats however will never need it.
Since no scientific treatment is available, Dr. Marsig often mentions Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) extract and Vitamin E supplementation. This combination is being used by holistic and naturopathic practitioners for use in people. Because both products are neutraceuticals and not medications, their effectiveness has not been scientifically proven using double blinded studies.
Dr. Marsig puts it this way: “Because we have no other known prevention, I have been using this combination for over 15 years and I personally feel that it actually slows down the formation of nuclear sclerosis. This isn’t very scientific though and, because I recommend this combination, I may be quite biased in evaluating my patients year after year. Because I want it to work, I might actually think it does. Nevertheless, I have never seen side effects from giving these products. So, at least I can give my clients an option.”
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Your Careteam from the Animal Hospital of Unionville.
Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.
Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).
Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.