Pet Safety

What Are Cataracts in Pets?

Just like us, dogs and cats use their eyes for many things from walking and playing to enjoying the sunshine and chasing squirrels. Cataracts can quickly impair our beloved pet’s ability to see and lead to confusion or disorientation. Today, we’re going to break down what you, as a loving pet parent, need to know about cataracts in pets.

What Are Cataracts in Pets?

A cataract occurs when the lens of a pet’s eye becomes opaque, leading to impaired vision. Cataracts give the eye a cloudy, white appearance and can cause partial to full blindness in that eye. Often, cataracts are not severe enough to fully blind the eye and instead lead to blurred vision in the affected eye.

The causes of cataracts vary, but both cats and dogs are highly susceptible to developing at least one cataract when they suffer from diabetes. In particular, diabetic dogs or diabetic cats are prone to developing cataracts. Studies estimate that within 1 year of a diabetes diagnosis, about 68-75% of canines will develop cataracts.1 Other common causes of cataracts include genetic predisposition, trauma to the eye, old age, electric shock, and hypocalcemia, which occurs when an animal has too little calcium in the blood.

Many of the causes of cataracts in pets, such as genetic predisposition or old age, cannot be helped. However, regular veterinary care can help prevent other health problems, like diabetes, that are major risk factors in whether or not your pet develops a cataract.

What Are The Side Effects of Cataracts in Pets?

While cataracts are not usually painful, they can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects.

Some of the most common pet cataract side effects include:

  • confusion or disorientation

  • bumping into things or suddenly becoming clumsy

  • chronically red eyes

  • pawing or scratching the eyes

  • squinting

  • eye socket inflammation

  • the affected eye “bulging” out of the eye socket

  • vision problems

If the affected eye is heavily inflamed, your pet may experience some discomfort, but as a whole, cataracts do not generally cause pain. However, if your pet experiences ongoing inflammation inside the affected eye, this can lead to other eye problems like glaucoma and retinal detachment. Consult with your veterinarian for the best treatment options for your pet’s cataracts and to assess if your pet is at risk of further developments.

What Breeds Are Most At Risk of Developing Cataracts?

While any dog or cat can develop a cataract, some breeds are more prone to them based on their genetics. For example, dogs with more prominent, “bulgy” eyes like Boston Terrier, Pugs, and French Bulldogs are more prone to eye health issues, such as cataracts, as a whole. The VCA Canada notes that the following dog breeds are the most prone to developing cataracts:

The VCA Canada notes that the following cat breeds are most prone to developing cataracts:

These are just a few of the most susceptible breeds. Keep in mind that any dog or cat can develop a cataract regardless of their breed.

How Are Pet Cataracts Treated?

Cataracts are usually treated via cataract surgery, which removes the affected lens or part of it to improve vision.

Incipient cataracts, which cover less than 15% of the eye’s surface, rarely require treatment because they minimally affect vision. If caught early, prescription eye drops may be used, but a pet will need to undergo cataract surgery to have the cataract removed in most cases.

What Is The Cost of Cataract Treatment In Pets?

Cataract surgery can be costly. According to Hillcrest animal hospital, canine cataract surgery usually costs between $4000 to $5000 per eye. Oral supplements and eye drops are also frequently prescribed to help with the side effects of cataracts.

While cataracts do not tend to be painful, they can heavily affect the quality of your pet’s life, from decreasing their ability to chase after a ball or walk steadily to increasing your pet’s risk of other eye diseases, such as glaucoma.

A cataract diagnosis can be heartbreaking as we always want the best for our beloved pets. To learn more about your best treatment options for pet cataracts, consult with your veterinarian today.

  1. "Cataracts and Cataract Surgery," University of Saskatchewan,, n.d.

  2. "Cataracts in Dogs," VCA Canada,, n.d.

  3. "Cataracts in Cats," VCA Canada,, n.d

Follow us on Instagram

Follow us everywhere else: