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Common Illness in Dogs – Cataracts

02/20/2012 by Colleen Williams
February 20th, 2012 by Colleen Williams

Last updated November 7, 2019.

black dog with cataract eyes

What are Cataracts?

A cataract occurs when the lens in the eye becomes cloudy due to fluid build-up. It is an opacity in one or both eyes that causes impaired vision or blindness, depending on the severity. With cataracts, the lens becomes thick and opaque, appearing as a white or gray area in the center of the eye. Cataracts can be small and hardly noticeable, or grow to the size of the entire lens. Though severe cases of cataracts can cause complete blindness, they do not present any other health complications.


Old age is the main culprit, but there are other reasons a dog may develop cataracts. Due to genetics, some breeds are predisposed to developing cataracts, including cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers, golden retrievers, and Siberian huskies, to name a few. Diabetes mellitus can increase a dog’s chances of developing cataracts as well, due to high blood sugar levels that cause the lens of the eye to swell. Cataracts may also be caused by trauma to the eye, uveitis, an inflammation of the eye, or electric shocks.

Symptoms of Cataracts in Dogs

Cataracts in the early stages of development may show no signs at all. As the condition progresses, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Visible cloudiness of one or both eyes
  • Stumbling or bumping into furniture

Cataracts caused by diabetes may be accompanied by symptoms such as:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss

Diagnosing Cataracts in Dogs

To diagnose your pet’s condition, your veterinarian will take a history of your dog’s symptoms and health, followed by a physical exam focusing on the eye and head areas. If your dog has diabetes, they may also perform a blood count and a urinalysis. Your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for further diagnosis and treatment. Ultrasounds and electroretinography may be used as diagnostic tools to more closely view the animal’s eyes.


Your veterinarian may recommend surgical removal of the cataracts to prevent the disease from progressing into total blindness. Other treatment options include eye drops to help prevent inflammation, and treating the underlying cause if known.

Most animals suffering from cataracts make a full recovery and are able to lead normal, happy lives. Healthy Paws Pet Insurance covers hereditary conditions, including cataracts, as long as symptoms are not present before enrollment or during waiting periods.

Giving your pet the best health care with a full recovery can be expensive. Having pet insurance can help cover the cost (as much as 90%) on these infections and injuries, but also you’ll sleep easy knowing you can say “yes” to all treatments and medications.