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Cataracts In Dogs – Hereditary Problem With Cairn Terriers

cairn terrierCataracts in dogs are the same as human cataracts and refer to opacity in the lens of the eye. There are four types of cataract: incipient, immature, mature and hypermature and they can occur in one or both eyes.

An incipient cataract is a small cataract that does not affect a dog’s vision. An immature cataract causes slight blurring to the vision. A mature cataract causes complete loss of sight. A hypermature cataract happens when the lens shrivels and the lens capsule wrinkles. Hypermature cataracts can leave some vision in the eye dependant on the overall health of the eye.

Cataracts in dogs can be caused by:

• Hereditary genes
• Diabetes
• Toxic reaction
• Trauma
• Nutritional deficiencies
• Old age

Hereditary cataracts in Cairn Terriers are surprisingly common despite breeders being advised not to breed from affected dogs. They can develop at any stage in the dog’s life ranging from early to late adulthood over months or years and can involve one or both eyes.

Dogs suffering with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing cataracts within the first year. It is important to be vigilant with a diabetic dog as cataracts can appear incredibly quickly even if they have shown no prior signs.

Diseases such as glaucoma, retinal degeneration or uveitis (intraocular inflammation) can cause cataracts as can, much less commonly, a reaction to a drug.

Trauma to the eye can result in the lens capsular being ruptured and the contents of the capsular leaking out into the capsule. Usually it is not apparent that the lens capsule has been damaged until two to three weeks after the injury at which time it is usually too late to save the eye and it has to be removed. A vet must examine any trauma to a dog’s eye immediately.

Some puppies that are fed on artificial milk can develop nutritional related cataracts. These will normally get better as the puppy gets older.

Age related cataracts can develop in older dogs, although normally they do not drastically affect the vision.

There are various other causes of cataracts including radiation, infection and birth effects although these are significantly rarer.

Once dogs reach around six years plus, their eyes naturally develop Nuclear Sclerosis. This appears as a blue/grey tinge to the eye and is not, and in no way connected to, cataracts. This is very common in middle aged people and affects their near vision. Dogs’ near vision is not very good to begin with and so this has little, if any, affect on them.

The most obvious sign and symptom of cataracts in dogs is opacity in the eye. Dogs may have incipient cataracts without their owner ever knowing. They may even go blind in one eye without drawing attention to it as they are very adaptable.

The similarity between Nuclear Sclerosis and dog cataracts means that a dog may just have cataracts, or both, without the owner realising it until the dog’s sight is very poor and it becomes obvious something is wrong.

Help my dog! What treatment is available?

Blindness in dogs with cataracts is the end result of a mature cataract that is not treated with surgery. There are a lot of complications that can arise from untreated cataracts in dogs. Lens luxation is a serious complication that is very painful for the dog and it cannot usually be treated medically. This culminates in the removal of the lens or of the eye itself.

Cataract surgery has a success rate of 95%. Eye drops for dogs will be prescribed for use for several weeks before and after the surgery.

Cataracts is a dog illness that needs veterinary attention as soon as possible. Given the Cairn Terrier’s hereditary susceptibility to this problem, their owners need to be vigilant with regular eye checks.

During early check ups, especially in older dogs, it is wise to ask the vet to check their eyes for any early or warning signs that might point to cataracts. Catching them early means there is a much higher chance that your Cairn Terrier will keep his sight and that treatment will be successful.

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