Tim and I noticed Bella’s left eye was cloudy and thought it could very well be a Cataract. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye. The condition can be so minor it doesn’t even interfere with vision, and it can be serious enough to cause permanent blindness in your dog. We’re living in Madison Wisconsin for the next two years so we decided to take advantage of the facilities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
The school is a working animal clinic/hospital. We arrived to a welcoming staff and smooth check-in. It was about a ten minute wait the whole while Bella’s is trembling thinking she’s going to be separated from her peeps. The 4th year resident intern (Ophthalmology is just one of the gruelling rotations these young people are challenged with.) greeted Bella, Tim and I cheerfully and took us to an examination room where two more interns were standing by.
She explained that this will be a three step diagnosis, First the interns, than the resident intern, followed by a Certified Veterinarian. After asking many questions and a thorough exam and documentation of her evaluation the three gals scurried off to fetch the resident. Now the resident asked many of the same questions and performed the same tests but went into greater detail of each element of the process. Not only was she educating us, it was also a class of sorts (on the job training) for the interns.
We learned how the school viewed the process of diagnosing the cataract(s), the pros and cons of surgery and other less invasive alternatives. Their philosophy is surgery is the last option. Many times the surgery doesn’t improve the dog’s eyesight and could possibly make the situation worse. The dog must be a great candidate for the procedure before they consider cataract surgery.
Some causes of cataracts are:
- Most cataracts in dogs are inherited and can occur at any age. The cataract may develop rapidly over weeks, or slowly over years, and occur in one or both eyes. Different breeds of dogs have different characteristics of cataract development. Mixed-breed dogs can also develop inherited cataracts.
- The second-most common cause of cataracts in dogs is diabetes. 75% of diabetic dogs will develop blinding cataracts within the first year of being diabetic. Often, the cataracts form very shortly after the dog becomes diabetic. Diabetic cataracts develop VERY fast—often overnight—in dogs, and they are a medical and surgical emergency.
- The third most common cause of cataracts in dogs is a toxic reaction in the lens due to some other ocular disease or due to a drug reaction. These are called “toxic cataracts”. Toxic cataracts caused by ocular disease are quite common in dogs.
- A special type of cataract occurs in dogs in which the lens capsule is ruptured due to trauma. The lens contents leak out through the hole in the capsule and cause a cataract. It is not always apparent that the lens capsule has ruptured; often, by the time this is diagnosed it is too late to save the eye and the eye needs to be removed, seek immediate medical attention.
- Dogs also can develop cataracts with age (often after 8 years of life). However, age-related cataracts in dogs are usually small and do not significantly interfere with vision.
- There are many other potential causes of cataracts in dogs, such as birth defects, radiation , infection, etc.
After the final examination from the Vet she explained all our options and thankfully surgery was not one of them. The tests determined that there was still sight in the left eye and the right eye looked clear. We’re to pay great attention to Bella’s eyes and if anything changes to immediately see a vet otherwise just a 6 month check up.
We were extremely impressed with the Staff. Courteous and knowledgeable, allowing interaction with the pet parents and very organized. It was a long and thorough exam and Tim and I came away feeling that the diagnosis was on point.
We were relieved that Bella didn’t have to go through the trauma that comes with any surgical procedure and she’s home safe and sound.
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