Cataracts in Dogs: Stages, Causes, Treatments, And More

  • Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • Cataracts in Dogs: Stages, Causes, Treatments, And More

By: CertaPet Staff Updated: September 2, 2020

cataracts in dogs

A dog has a clear lens in its eyes to help him focus, similar to a camera. Much like humans, cataracts in dogs is serious and can potentially be painful. A cataract usually isn’t painful, but it does often impair vision and can eventually cause complete vision loss.

What are Cataracts?

Cataracts are a disease that clouds the lens of the eye. Smaller cataracts typically do not impact vision as much as larger cataracts. However, all cataracts must be closely monitored to prevent loss of vision and blindness.

Cataract formation typically comes with old age, disease (such as diabetes mellitus), and eye trauma. It appears as a murky, cloudy, grayish-blue color while some can also become red and irritated.

As the disease worsens, the eye lens can become completely opaque, causing total blindness.

In most cases, the cause of cataracts is genetic. It is now possible to perform genetic testing to see if your four-legged friend is genetically susceptible to cataracts. The most robust health testing is done by Embark. The best Embark coupon code we could find was “pal20”.

Stages of Cataracts

A cataract is an opacity in the eye lens that can range in size and severity. A very small (incipient cataract) does not typically impair vision.

Incipient cataracts is the very first stage of cataracts in dogs, and when caught early and treated by a veterinary ophthalmologist, there can be a good outcome for your dog.

Cataracts in dogs that are more opaque (also known as a “juvenile cataracts”) are more serious and typically cause blurred vision.

Eventually, the entire lens can become cloudy, and all functional vision is lost. This is called mature cataracts.

Furthermore, some mature cataracts will transform over time into hypermature cataracts.

Hypermature cataracts form due to a loss of fluid and proteins from the lens.

Hypermature cataracts vary in cloudiness; some are completely cloudy whereas others allow some vision if the rest of the eye is healthy. Depending on the dog’s age and breed, it can take several months and even up to several years for a mature cataract to transform into a hypermature cataract.

Senile cataracts is dependent on the dog’s age (above 6 years usually); and therefore, is a late-onset cataract in dogs.

Some cataracts are small and do not impact vision at all, whereas more severe cataracts can enlarge and cause blurred vision. Over time, untreated cataracts can damage the internal eye structures, causing the entire lens to become cloudy and result in total vision loss.

In fact, some advanced cases of untreated cataracts can prevent fluids from flowing into the eye, causing Glaucoma, which is a painful disease that will inevitably cause total blindness.

Although the different stages of cataracts in dogs are pretty clear, not all cataracts lead to blindness. This is because not all cataracts develop at the same rate.

Cataracts in dogs due to aging tend to develop at a slower rate whereas cataracts caused by diabetes lead to blindness in approximately 75 percent of dogs within one year of diagnosis.

What Causes Cataracts in Dogs?

Although the most common cause of cataracts is genetics, there are a number of other factors, illnesses, and conditions that can also cause cataract formation.

Here is a list of the most common causes of cataracts in dogs:

  • Eye injuries or trauma
  • Diabetes
  • Nutritional disorders or deficiencies
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Birth defects
  • Eye infections
  • Eye inflammation
  • Genetics
  • Cancer therapy treatments

As mentioned above, cataracts in dogs can also be caused by a nutritional deficiency. The most common example is puppies that are on artificial milk diets. These types of cataracts in dogs are also known as nutritional cataracts, and they often improve as puppies mature.

The most common types of cataracts in dogs are those associated with age.

Most cataracts in dogs develop after the dog is eight years old (depending on the breed and genetics, of course). If you are concerned that your pupper may be at risk for developing cataracts, a genetic test is available that tests for this genetic marker and many more.

Watch Out! Signs of Oncoming Cataracts

Dog moms and dads can sometimes detect cataracts by looking into the dog’s eyes. An eye afflicted with a cataract appears bluish-gray, opaque, and cloudy. As the dog ages, his eye lens may also become clouded due to age-related changes, which is a process known as nuclear sclerosis.

It’s important to note that the signs and symptoms of cataracts and nuclear sclerosis are very similar, so an examination by your dog’s veterinarian (or specifically veterinary ophthalmologist) may be required to determine if your dog has a cataract or nuclear sclerosis.

Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between nuclear sclerosis and cataracts.

Nuclear Sclerosis vs. Cataracts: Similarities and Differences

As we mentioned above, nuclear sclerosis or lenticular sclerosis and cataracts share many similarities and differences. So, it’s important to understand what those are in order to seek the right treatment for your dog.

Most veterinarians and veterinary ophthalmologists can quickly tell the difference between nuclear sclerosis and cataracts with an exam.

The exam will involve checking the corneas. If the cloudiness is present on or behind the cornea, then the problem is likely a cataract.

The only clinical symptom of nuclear sclerosis is a cloudiness on the lens. Some dogs may also experience some difficulty with judging distance and range.

If a veterinary ophthalmologist looks deeper into your dog’s eye and can see clearly through to the retina, then the problem is likely nuclear sclerosis.

The good news is that if your dog is diagnosed with nuclear sclerosis, it won’t severely impair vision and no treatment is necessary. Despite popular belief, nuclear sclerosis does NOT develop into cataracts.

However, if you notice your dog’s eyes changing color, it’s incredibly important to have your dog evaluated by a vet to determine if the issue is nuclear sclerosis or a more serious condition, such as cataracts.

Are Different Breeds More Prone to Cataracts Than Others?

The size and severity of cataracts in dogs can vary with age and breed. So, does this also mean that different breeds are more prone to cataracts than others?

Although almost all dog breeds are at risk for cataracts as they age, the answer is YES, some dog breeds are more prone to developing cataracts than others.

Here are a few dog breeds that have a higher risk of developing cataracts:

The Siberian Husky – This beautiful dog breed is prone to a variety of conditions, which can lead to skin and hair loss, particularly on the face. These skin conditions can eventually impact the eyes and cause cataracts.

The Pug – This cute little dog breed is particularly susceptible to eye problems. The most common issue is eye bulging, which can happen in an accident or in a fight with another dog. However, because cataracts in dogs are brought on by excessive inflammation and infection, this breed is also at a higher risk of developing cataracts.

The Boxer – This very proud and attractive dog breed is at a high risk for developing lymphoma, which is a type of cancer that involves the growth of tumors on the skin and in the lymph nodes. Although this type of cancer is typically treatable with radiation and surgery, one of the most common side effects of radiation for cancer therapy is cataracts in dogs.

The Poodle – This pretty pup is susceptible to eye problems, specifically Glaucoma. As we explored above, severe cases of cataracts in dogs—especially those left untreated—can cause Glaucoma.

The Miniature Schnauzer – Although any dog can develop diabetes, this “mini” dog breed seems to be at a higher risk for the disease. One of the most common illnesses that arise from diabetes in dogs is cataracts.

The Shetland Sheepdog – This “sheepish” breed can suffer from a variety of eye problems, including “Collie Eye”, which affects the retina and optic nerve. Some dogs live their whole lives with this condition and never suffer from blindness, whereas other cases can leave some dogs blind. All in all, this particular breed is at a higher risk for also developing cataracts.

The Boston Terrier – Boston Terrier is another dog breed that is prone to developing eye problems, including a disease that is known as “Cherry Eye”, and cataracts.

However, this doesn’t mean those breeds not listed are completely in the clear for cataracts.

Diabetic Dogs: Why They Have a Higher Risk

Diabetes causes high sugar levels in the bloodstream, which can have a negative impact on many organs in a dog’s body. Insulin can also be used to help treat a diabetic dog, helping to convert glucose into fuel.

Untreated diabetes can lead to damaged kidneys, blood vessels, nerves, the heart and eyes, such as cataracts.

Be sure to be on the lookout for signs of cataracts if you have a diabetic dog.

Treatment Options for Cataracts in Dogs

Now that you have a better understanding of cataracts, their causes, and which breeds are at a higher risk for developing cataracts, can cataracts be treated? If so, what are the treatment options?

The good news is YES, cataracts can be treated. However, no treatment can guarantee 100 percent restored vision.

Here are the most common treatment options for cataracts in dogs.

Surgery – Surgery is the most immediate, effective treatment for cataracts. However, it is also the most expensive. Surgery for cataracts can cost up to $3,000 per eye.

Oral Supplements – As modern veterinary medicine improves, there are some new, cost-effective treatment options for cataracts, such as oral supplements. These oral supplements act as antioxidants to reduce inflammation in the eyes caused by cataracts in dogs.

Eye Drops – In addition, these eye drops may be a viable and effective treatment option for cataracts. These eye drops have proven to help treat common conditions and issues that cause cataracts in dogs.

Furthermore, some emerging eye drop solutions have already proven to be very effective. For example, eye drops that contain crystallin proteins help to maintain a healthy eye structure. Some research and studies involving using a lanosterol solution in the eye drops have shown major improvements in treating cataracts in dogs. In some studies, the cloudiness and opacity caused by cataracts in dogs were almost completely reversed.

All in all, if your dog is one of the breeds that is at a higher risk for cataracts, then you may want to consider purchasing pet health insurance to help cover the cost of surgery or whatever treatment option your dog may need that is recommended by a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Top FAQs for Cataracts in Dogs

We threw a lot of information at you in this article, but you still likely have a number of questions about cataracts in dogs.

Here are some FAQs for cataracts in dogs:

“Can I as a pet owner prevent cataracts in my dog?”

Maybe…This product has done wonders for many pets. The reviews on Amazon seem to back up the thought that it works for some, although others have seen no results.

“Does my dog need eye surgery to see if he has cataracts?”

Not necessarily.

Yes, surgery is the most immediate and effective option for treating cataracts in dogs, and it is likely the primary treatment recommended by your vet, but it is not 100 percent necessary. Like we mentioned above, eye drops and oral supplements might do the trick, but that is a big might.

Most veterinarians and dog ophthalmologists will be able to perform an exam to see if your dog has cataracts. Dogs can also live with cataracts. However, over time their vision will become impaired.

“Is eye vision guaranteed after cataract surgery?”

Although the results and success rates are high, no, vision is not 100 percent guaranteed after cataract surgery.

While vet surgeons/veterinary ophthalmologists can extract the cataracts and replace with an artificial lens, most dogs will have improved vision, up 90 to 95 percent, but 5 to 10 percent of dogs will not regain 100 percent vision after cataract surgery.

Before, During, and After Eye Surgery: What Should I Expect and What Are the Risks?

Again, cataract surgery is the most immediate and successful treatment option for cataracts in dogs. Upon a retinal testing to prove the dog’s retina is healthy, most vets will recommend cataract surgery for dogs, especially in cases where the disease has progressed and the dog is at risk for blindness.

However, cataract surgery is not recommended for dogs with non-hereditary forms of cataracts. Although most cataract surgeries are successful, regaining up to 90 to 95 percent of vision, like any type of surgery, cataract surgery certainly has its risks.

So, if your dog is about to have cataract surgery, here are some things you can expect as well as the potential risks:

Permanent Blindness 

Because different dog breeds react to cataract surgery differently, and because the severity of the infection and inflammation differ, sometimes cataract surgery is unsuccessful.

For example, dogs that suffer from hyper mature cataracts are less likely to regain vision, even after surgery. In the absolute worst-case scenario, sometimes cataract surgery can leave a dog completely blind.


Glaucoma occurs in approximately 30 percent of dogs that undergo cataract surgery, usually within the first 24 hours after surgery.

Although this condition can be temporary and quickly treated within the first few days after surgery, Glaucoma can also occur later in the dog’s life—even months or years after surgery. Glaucoma is painful and can cause complete vision loss.

It also may require additional medications or future surgeries.


Although intraocular infections are rare after cataract surgery, they can still happen. Severe cases can cause vision loss.

General Anesthesia

Like any type of surgery, whether for humans or pets, undergoing general anesthesia is always a risk, even for healthy pets. However, modern medicine has improved anesthesia greatly in the last five years. Although anesthesia risks are lower, all dogs are closely monitored while undergoing cataract surgery under general anesthesia.

Cataracts in Dogs: How to Care for Your Furry Best Friend

All in all, the overall progression rate of cataracts greatly depend on the dog’s age, genetics, breed and the presence of any other diseases or conditions, such as diabetes.

If your dog has recently had cataract surgery, then he or she will likely need additional care and monitoring, especially as the eyes heal. Some dogs may require an extended stay in the hospital to ensure that he or she is recovering.

Once your dog can return to your home, he or she will likely require medications for several weeks to help the healing and recovery process.

Remember, not ALL cataract surgeries are successful. However, the overall success rate is relatively high.

Most dogs will have improved vision after surgery. Dogs that suffer from severe inflammation of the eye or excessive scar tissue are less likely to regain full vision after surgery.

Remember, cataract surgery will help improve the dog’s quality of life, not necessarily reverse vision loss.

Furthermore, some dogs require anti-inflammatory medication for several weeks, months, or even for the rest of their lives after cataract surgery. These medications are often antioxidants that prevent future eye issues, such as infections and Glaucoma.

A Happy, Healthy Life for Your Dog

If you believe your dog has cataracts or if your dog belongs to a breed that is more prone to developing cataracts, then it’s important to monitor your dog closely, especially as he or she ages.

Although there isn’t anything you can do to prevent cataract formation in your dog, now you know what you can do to ensure that your dog lives a happy and healthy life—with or without cataracts.

You may also like

July 30, 2021

Who Really Has Separation Anxiety: Dogs or Dog Parents? It’s safe to say that ...

Read More

July 23, 2021

It’s no secret that the events of 2020 dredged up a slew of uncomfortable ...

Read More

June 24, 2021

Border Collies are one of the most popular breeds around. In fact, they are ...

Read More

Page [tcb_pagination_current_page] of [tcb_pagination_total_pages]

  • My dog is a Shizipoo. She is 15 years old. She had a cataract develop in her right eye three years ago. At the same time I was diagnosed with two forms of cancer and had to leave my job.i have been unable to pay for Vet bills as I’m on a fixed income (social security).
    The eye in the past two months has Cecile very swollen and red.
    Can you advise me as to whether I can treat the eye with drops?
    The left eye has begun to show signs of becoming opaque.
    Please advise.
    Many thanks!

  • My mini Jack Russell is nearly ten, one eye is blind by cataract, happened within a few months, other eye going same way. She suffers trachea and breathing issues. Should I be doing anything for her. Vet has said little.

  • Our 12 yr old chihuahua had cataracts in both eyes. We had his retinas tested to access whether he was a candidate for cataract removal. Both eyes tested healthy. He had the surgery to the tune of $5000. The ophthalmologist told us both of his capsules were fragile and tore during surgery. Therefore he was unable to receive lens replacement. He told us his right eye was difficult and he had to remove the cataract the old fashioned way. He has a large scar across the top of the iris. It is grayish white in color. The left eye was successfully done via phacoemulsification, the newer usual method of removal. We were very disappointed and surprised he was unable to receive replacement lenses. He no longer has close up vision, and is far sighted. After many checkups and a series of eye drops and some number of weeks passing by, we had another check up. Unfortunately the ophthalmologist has just informed us that our dogs retina has detached in his right eye and he is blind losing all vision in that eye. He commented that it was due to high levels of inflammation. Wasnt the point of administering eye drops to prevent inflammation? We are devastated. There is nothing to be done at this point, the sight is gone in his right eye. What was the credibility of the retina test if it detached after a healthy report? We’ve been exactly on schedule with his eye drops prescribed and very conscientious of his after care. We are so sad that our dog has lost half his sight. We are very concerned for the health of his left eye which seems to be stable at this point in time. This whole process has been very unexpected, distressing, and disastrous for his right eye.

  • Help please! My dog is a 7 year chow chow. He was born with PPM ( Persistent pupillary membranes ) he eye sight wasn’t great but could see. He had entropic surgery and had complication from the stitches causes an allergic reaction. After all was said and done he could see pretty good. Now he has cataract. There is drops that say the can reverse it. Help clear it up. Surgery is not a option. Is there drop and or supplement that will help??

  • Cataract surgery is so expensive especially when your a disabled veteran on a fixed income! Is there any resources out there that will help with catarct surgery surgery or a vet that donates there services in these cases? I live in Las Vegas and am willing to co to a surrounding area to get my pet the help needed.

  • My dog has in the last 5 months been diagnosed with diabetes. Had a cataract in right eye now we’ve been told he has Glaucoma in right eye and needs eye removing he is only 71/2 years old. He is a cocker spaniel. The cataract is coving the whole of lens so needs to small ops to see if removal is possible. What do I do. Thinking of not have cataract done at all.

  • My boxer is older and has an inoperable type of cancer. He also has a cataract that recently went from a shadow to almost solid white. Then one day I came home and his eye was brown again. Two days later, white. Today it’s brown again. What is going on?

  • My sister’s Shitzu has diabetes & cataracts. He can’t see anything but shadows. He’s constantly hungry, barks at every little thing or a move anyone makes. He wines constantly. Whe my sister is putting his food in his bowl he barks the whole time until she sets his food down. He swallows it whole. It’s wet food. But he eats like he’s starving to death. He’s done in like 15 seconds. So it’s constant barking & wining. Does anyone know why?

    • Hey Jill,I have a American bulldog he is 15yrs old, the other day I was looking at him and I noticed that his left eye was completely red and now he can’t even keep it open like before now his constantly blinking and I believe that he has Cataracs in the same eye , it looks cloudy like a blue ish Gray…

  • My Labrador has cataracts in both eyes, we can’t afford any surgery, so would painting object white assist my dog in getting around the yard and negotiate our stairs better?

  • I have a 6 month old English Lab. He has entropean in one eye and the . The ophthalmologist is doing surgery just on the left eye in the corner and holding with stitches. He also has cataract on both eyes. The doctor prescribed Ocu-Glo Vision Supplement she is marketing that drug. He gets 2 vitamins a day and after 60 pounds he gets 3. We go to Carmen Colitz and she developed the pills she is in Jupiter Florida.If those pills helps he won’t need surgery and if he needs it she will do it at 2 years old. Please let me know what you think?

    • Can I ask how your pup did with the Ocu-Glo? Did your dog have surgery for his cataracts? Not sure what to do about my dog’s cataracts. All I know is that I took her to see two Opthamologists and neither did anything for her in the beginning and now she is almost blind. I wish I knew then (5 years ago) what I know now. Just looking for anyone else’s experience with drops or surgery. Thank you!

  • We have a 13 yr. old mini dachshund who has had cataracts since she was 11. Recently we noticed that her right eye is no longer cloudy but now it’s just black. Do you have any idea what has happened?

  • My dog is 12yrs,
    He is a large cocker, he is blinded in both eyes, but seems very happy, he’s been like this for about 4yrs, still plays ball & no s his way round our house.
    When I walk him I give him commands like step, behind u, or tree fence, and he now wot I mean

    • Thank you Jill. My cocker is medium/large size. He is going blind. Cataracts very glassy. He depends on his nose a lot now. Like your dog, he knows his way around home, inside and out. I never noticed how bad he was until I took him to my daughter’s home. He is a happy dog 12 yrs old now. Your post is encouraging. Thank you again.

  • My dog has cataracts in both eyes, one eye is inflamed & draining. I can’t afford to do surgery, therefore what topical product can I use. He is losing his sight, but he knows the perimeter of the house and backyard. What can I use to help the inflamed eye?

    • A cataract treatment called Cataract Clear is BRILLIANT and selling worldwide yet is stronger and inexpensive compared to similar eye drops. See the website for full details and to buy.

    • We supply cataract treating eye drops for people and pets that are extremely effective, stronger than other similar eye drops and much, much cheaper. It is important to note that using cataract treating eye drops can take time and persistence to reduce or remove cataracts. The good news is that not only are our eye drops stronger and cheaper, they are also about as natural as they can be and contain no nasty chemicals as some others do. One ingredient in our eye drops is something called colloidal silver, a powerful, natural antibiotic and preventative against infections. Acting as a catalyst, it is known to disable the enzyme that one-celled bacteria, viruses and fungi need for their oxygen metabolism so they suffocate without corresponding harm occurring to human/animal enzymes or parts of the human/animal body chemistry. The result is the destruction of disease-causing organisms. This ingredient COULD help to reduce your dogs inflammation BUT I cannot guarantee it as inflammation can have mumerous causes. The eye drops are called Cataract Clear and you can find out why they are so good and why we can supply them at such low costs on our website
      If you have any questions I would be happy to hear from you.

      • Hello, we have a 3 month old Labrador puppy. We noticed he was being clumsier, bumping into things, etc. over the last week and yesterday at his 3 month check up, the vet took a look at his eyes and suspects juvenile cataracts. Are the eye drops you mentioned safe for a puppy? We will be seeing a canine ophthalmologist next week, but we are beside ourselves with this potential diagnosis of our sweet little guy and have been researching non stop over the weekend. Any comments/insight would be appreciated!

    • There are prescription eye drops called “Diclofenac” that you can actually. Get from the pharmacy as they are prescribed for both dogs and humans. They are not expensive…less than $20

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    All product and Company names are Trademarks™ or Registered® trademarks of their respective holders.

    Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase may earn a commission. Keep in mind that we link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission we receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.