What is a cataract?

A cataract is an opacity of the lens.  The lens is normally clear, allowing light to pass through to focus on the retina.  If the protein within the lens becomes denatured, the lens will become cloudy and affect vision.

What causes cataracts?

There are many causes including:

- Age-related

- Inherited cataract in breeds such as miniature poodles, miniature schnazuers, golden retrievers.

- Diabetes in dogs often causes rapidly progressing cataracts

- Congenital

- Retinal  degeneration

- Related to eye trauma

- Toxins

- Radiation

- Electric shock

What problems can cataracts lead to?

Apart from affecting vision, a cataract can lead to severe inflammation of the eye (termed ''uveitis'') and high eye pressure (termed ''glaucoma'').  This painful condition occurs as the cataract matures and lens protein leaks out into the eye.  Glaucoma in people is painful, and has been described as a non-stop throbbing headache.  Animals with this condition may only show subtle signs of pain such as sleeping more and being less active, but most likely suffer similar pain as people with glaucoma.  Therefore treatment is important in these cases to improve the pet's quality of life.

What can be done if my pet has cataracts?

Unfortunately to date there are no proven eye drops that can prevent or treat cataracts.

We can remove cataracts surgically by phacoemulsification.  This is the most up-to-date method, and is the same technique used in human patients today.  Success of the surgery is much higher if performed in the earlier cataract stages, therefore it is not advisable to wait until cataracts become very mature.  An eye check is needed before surgery in order to assess the stage of cataract, and for us to discuss treatment with you.

What tests need to be done before cataract surgery?

It is important that your pet is healthy before cataract surgery.  A blood and urine test may be done to assess your pet's health, and to check for diabetes which can be a cause of cataracts.  An electroretinogram (ERG) and ultrasound of the eye is required before surgery.  An ERG is done to check function of the retina, and an ultrasound is done to make sure the posterior chamber (back chamber) of the eye is clear of any abnormal pathology.  Your pet must pass these tests in order to qualify for cataract surgery, and to ensure the best chance of success.

For more information please call us at 2895 6811.