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Dog Fancy: Cataracts

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Dog Fancy: Cataracts

Canine cataracts can affect all breeds and ages of dogs. While certain breeds are prone to congenital cataracts and diabetic dogs often get cataracts, senile cataracts occur in dogs over 6 years of age. Each of a dog’s eyes has a clear lens inside that is used for focusing, just as a camera lens. A normal lens in the eye is made up of 66% water and 33% protein. A pump in the lens keeps this balance in check. When this fails, the protein fibers in the lens clump together creating a crushed-ice appearance when looking into your dog’s eye.

Nuclear sclerosis is very common in dogs older than 6 years of age. It is common for dog owners to think their dog has cataracts when they notice a pearl-like, grayish-blue reflective haze in their dog’s eyes in direct light. Nuclear sclerosis is not a cataract and does not interfere with vision. The lens has simply hardened with age. However, it’s very easy to confuse the two. Your veterinarian can tell the difference between a cataract and nuclear sclerosis when they examine your dog’s eyes with an ophthalmoscope.

It’s easier to prevent cataracts than cure them. Studies in people show that taking extra vitamin E and C reduced the risk of developing cataracts by approximately 86%. The eye has a greater concentration of vitamin C than any other organ in the body. Only a few species do not produce their own vitamin C, specifically: bats, humans, guinea pigs and primates. Since dogs produce their own vitamin C, supplements for canines often don’t include it. Make sure you examine the ingredients in your dog’s supplement to ensure it is included if your dog needs it. A diet that is rich in antioxidants also helps to prevent cataracts.

A dog with cataracts should get vitamin A, C and E along with zinc in his diet. Studies on lutein, a yellow carotenoid pigment, and cataract formation indicate that this carotenoid is a valuable tool in both preventing and treating cataracts. Kale and carrots are excellent sources of lutein. Adding brightly colored fruits and vegetables to your dog’s diet will help to prevent cataracts along with other diseases such as cancer. If impaired eyesight is causing your dog to bump into walls and furniture, choose 3 different scents or perfumes to help them identify where they are in the house. Spray one scent low on the doorjambs on either side of the door. Use another scent for the stairs. You may need to use the third scent if he is also bumping into certain pieces of furniture. Dogs can compensate for lack of sight with smell. Blind dogs quickly learn to navigate to the middle of doors and avoid the stairs with this technique!

There are drops, in addition to the dietary support mentioned above, that can be placed into your dog’s eyes which have been shown to reduce or eliminate cataracts. Ethos Bright Eyes drops from Switzerland contains N-Acetyl-Carnosine. Dogs with cataracts were found to be seriously deficient in this one particular antioxidant. Peter Aldred, the CEO of Ethos Bright Eyes drops states,

“Our drops are deliberately buffered to have a pH of 6.4 for this allows the drops to penetrate the cornea and reach the lens of the eye. This creates a momentary and slight stinging sensation but is needed to create a delivery mechanism for the anti-oxidant.”

“Animallover-Jan” in Anderson, Indiana, has been rescuing dogs and cats for over 40 years. One of her rescues, a terrier beagle mix she named Gweedie Love, was diagnosed with senile cataracts when she was 8 years old. Her sight deteriorated over the next two years and Jan then began giving her Ethos Bright Eyes drops for Pets. Two months after starting the drops Jan was convinced of their efficacy. Gweedie Love’s eyes were much clearer and she was navigating and playing just like she was before the cataracts appeared. Gweedie Love is now 16 years old and still enjoying a quality life without the symptoms of cataracts.

Sight is a wonderful sense that enriches our furry friends’ lives as it does our own. By following the above recommendations, you can help ensure that your dog will enjoy its eyesight for many long years.

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