CATARACTS A cataract is an opacity of the lens. There are many causes for cataracts, old age is the most common cause in humans. In additional to age


A cataract is an opacity of the lens. There are many causes for cataracts, old age is the most common cause in humans. In additional to ageing, canine cataracts can be caused by diabetes mellitus, PRA-progressive retinal atrophy and also cataracts can be inherited. However in some dogs we do not find a cause, the cataracts develop spontaneously.

Unfortunately many breeds of dogs can be affected by inherited cataracts. At Animal Eye Care we see many breeds affected by inherited cataracts. These include Belgian Shepherds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, German Shepherds, Irish & Red Setters, Leonberger, Old English Sheep Dog, Labrador Retriever, Siberian Husky, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Boston Terriers, Australian Cattle Dogs, Miniature Schnauzers, Maltese, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

If we see a young dog with a cataract we may suspect that it is inherited. Generally inherited cataracts affect both eyes, in specific areas of the lens, at specific ages.

Check the ACES – Australian Canine Eye Scheme website - for the reports breed by breed on inherited cataracts. You will quickly notice that the most common finding of abnormality in 2010 was HC – hereditary cataract.

Cataract small size

This photograph shows a well developed cataract. In this case this cataract has developed secondary to PRA – progressive retinal atrophy.

min schnuazer

This cataract has developed in a 18 month old Miniature Schnauzer. This is an inherited cataract.

Breeding dogs should be examined annually whilst being bred from to check their eyes for cataracts. Dogs affected by cataracts and their progeny should not be bred from. In some cases it can be difficult to know if the cataract is inherited or has developed from other causes. Your Veterinary Eye Specialist will be able to advise whether a cataract is likely to be inherited.

In some dogs the cataracts may progress and affect vision. In cases, when the cataract is still developing and there is no reaction (Lens Induced Uveitis) surgery is successful in over 90% of cases in restoring useful vision. It is important to stress that cataract surgery is best done whilst the cataract is developing. In the past it was often recommended to wait for the cataract to fully develop. This is no longer the case. The earlier the cataracts are removed the better is the outcome.

Many dogs older than 10 years of age will have cloudy lenses. This is often not a cataract, but is in fact normal lens ageing. This is not inherited, and should be of no concern to a breeder. The normal lens ageing may cause poorer close up vision so that a dog may have trouble with bits of food up close, or trouble with steps. Some dogs have poorer night vision, but will not cause blindness. Surgery is not needed for normal lens ageing.

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