Diabetic dogs and cataracts

By Emira Sanabria CVT / Lead Ophthalmology Technician


When your dog is diagnosed with diabetes mellitus (higher than normal levels of sugar in the blood) the overall health of its eyes may be at risk as well.  A high percentage of dogs will get cataracts as a consequence of this condition. Even dogs with well controlled sugar levels can develop cataracts. It may happen in a few months, few weeks or even overnight.

Cloudiness or white in the colored part of the eye may be the first indication of a cataract forming in the lens. A cataract is defined as an opaque area of the normally clear lens, and in dogs with diabetes they are the result of the excess sugar that is present not only in the blood but also in the tears and in the fluids that give the lens proper nutrition.

Dogs that have well-controlled diabetes, and did not have any other health issue that may prevent them to go under anesthesia, can get their lost vision restored with a cataract surgery. Other conditions that they need to meet are to have a functional retina and no damage in their optics nerves. They can also get lens implants to help them see objects up close.

Those cataracts are removed by Phacofragmentation, this involves a very small incision in the cornea and use of an ultrasonic device to fragment, and then aspirate the opacified lens. The surgery is done under general anesthesia and both eyes can be operated at the same time. The dog will go home the same day and come back to the clinic for re-exams and to control any complication that may occur after the procedure.

The surgery requires a dedicated owner that will be able to follow a treatment with ophthalmic drops and some oral medication, to help the dog recover and get the best possible outcome for restoration of vision. With proper treatment the success rates for ideal candidates are approximately 85-90%.

Some pets may have complications after the surgery, such as temporary high intraocular pressure (transient glaucoma).  Other patients may experience complications severe enough to cause blindness, but the majority of such problems can be managed successfully if treated appropriately.

If your diabetic dogs loses vision don’t give up hope, consult a Veterinary Ophthalmologist to find out if cataract surgery is an option for him or her.