As a pet owner, you always know when something seems “off” about your pet. Perhaps your dog no longer wants to play, is sleeping more, or is constantly blinking. Maybe your cat is walking clumsily, has watery eyes, or keeps bumping into furniture.
These are all possible symptoms of eye problems in pets. Eye diseases that commonly affect humans, such as cataracts or glaucoma, can also be found in our four-legged friends. Both of these disorders can cause discomfort, pain, reduced quality of life, and even blindness in animals.
Fortunately, there is help for animals suffering from these eye disorders. A veterinary ophthalmologist can evaluate your pet, diagnose the abnormality, and come up with a treatment plan that can help your pet feel better.
First of all, what exactly are these disorders? While both of them affect the eye and can impair your pet’s vision, they are two very different conditions. Glaucoma happens when fluid in your pet’s eye doesn’t drain properly, causing painful pressure in the eye. Cataracts are cloudy areas that form in the lens of the eye.
Glaucoma has two types: primary and secondary. Primary glaucoma is an inherited condition. While rare in cats, it is very common in dogs, especially certain breeds including Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Chow Chows, Shiba Inus, and Arctic breeds.
Secondary glaucoma happens when another eye disease, such as cancer, inflammation of the eye, or advanced cataracts prevents the normal drainage of fluid inside the eye. If cats get glaucoma, they are more likely to have the secondary type.
Because pressure builds up inside the eye, both types can cause migraine-level pain. If you’ve ever suffered from one of these severe headaches, you know how miserable you feel and why a pet’s behavior would change. Obviously, your pet can’t tell you he or she has a headache, but changes in behavior – sleeping more, general lethargy, and no longer wanting to play – should alert you that something may be wrong.
Glaucoma can even cause permanent damage to the optic nerve, which will cause a pet to go blind.
If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms of glaucoma, contact your veterinarian immediately. There are several treatments that can help, depending on what caused the glaucoma and how severe it is.
Even if your pet isn’t showing symptoms, discuss your pet’s risk for glaucoma with your family veterinarian at your pet’s next exam. If your pet is at risk, your vet may discuss having regular exams at a pet eye center. A veterinary ophthalmologist will be able to explain your pet’s risk for glaucoma and discuss preventative therapy if indicated.
It’s also a good idea to test your pet’s vision daily. It is often hard to tell if animals are losing vision in one eye, because they compensate so well with the other eye. Toss a toy or a treat, and watch carefully to see how your pet responds. You can also take them into unfamiliar environments in both the light and dark and monitor how well they navigate.
Signs Your Pet May Have Cataracts
Cataracts are cloudy areas within the lens of the eye that usually appear white or gray. They can occur in one or both eyes. A cataract may involve just a tiny area in the lens and stay small, or it may occupy the entire lens, leading to partial or complete vision loss. Sometimes cataracts irritate the eye and can cause pain.
In dogs, inherited cataracts are most common, with certain dog breeds more affected including Poodles and Poodle crosses, Havanese, Golden Retriever, and Siberian Huskies. Diabetes is the second most common cause of cataracts in dogs, with over 75% of diabetic dogs getting vision altering cataracts within their first year of being diagnosed with diabetes.
Cataracts are common in older pets, just like in people, but they actually can occur at any age. Some cats even have them from the time they are born. Fortunately, in cats, these cataracts rarely result in any significant vision loss. Pets of any age can develop cataracts for a number of medical reasons, including eye injuries, nutritional deficiencies, inflammation, or infections.
If cataracts are left untreated, they can cause blindness. If your pet shows any signs of cataracts, contact your veterinarian immediately. Several treatment options are available, including surgery with a specialist to remove the cataracts.
When it comes to your pet’s eyes, you can trust the experts at the Animal Eye Center of NJ. Our ophthalmologists utilize state-of-the-art equipment and leading diagnostic methods to address all of your pet’s ophthalmic needs. From comprehensive eye exams to glaucoma testing and cataract surgical evaluations, you can feel confident entrusting your pet to our highly skilled, board-certified ophthalmologist, Dr. Brad Holmberg.