Are Dog Cataracts Eye Drops Effective?

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In recent years, scientists have studied dog eye drops for cataract treatment, but there is still much research to be done to test their effectiveness. Surgery remains the preferred method for removing the cloudy lens in the eye. 

Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in dogs, especially when they're not treated properly. While many dogs get cataracts as they age, other factors can affect your dog's eye health, including genetics, age, and other diseases. 

Even though your dog's sense of sight isn't their strongest sense, it's still important to take care of their eye health to allow them to learn about the world around them and see where they're going. Unfortunately, even though dog cataracts eye drops can help manage cataracts after diagnosis, they cannot reverse cataracts. Instead, they can stop the condition from getting worse and causing blindness. 

What Are Cataracts?

Dog cataracts are fairly common and occur when the eye lens becomes cloudy and prevents light from reaching the retina, causing partial or complete vision loss. Mature cataracts appear almost white, and cataracts will worsen over time without effective treatment. Vets can diagnose cataracts in dogs easily by using a bright light and lens to determine whether the cataracts are new or mature and affecting your dog's vision. During this examination, your vet will also look for other eye conditions that could be present alongside cataracts and health conditions like diabetes and glaucoma that can cause cataracts.1 

Many different factors can cause cataracts, but most people notice their dog's cloudy eyes as they get into their senior years. However, pre-existing health conditions like diabetes can cause cataracts, which may appear rapidly. Other causes of cataracts in dogs include:

  • Age
  • Malnutrition
  • Inflammation 
  • Eye trauma
  • Health conditions 
  • Genetics1

Causes of dog cataracts

Do Eye Drops Help Dogs With Cataracts?

Evidence has shown that eye drops can help with inflammation and, in some cases, prevent cataracts from getting worse, but there's still much research to be done involving eye drops and cataract treatment. In recent years, scientists have conducted studies with eye drops containing lanosterol, an organic compound, suggesting that they may be able to dissolve the proteins that form cataracts.2 In recent studies, these eye drops cleared the vision of dogs with naturally occurring cataracts within six weeks and improved cataracts in other dogs. Unfortunately, the reason why lanosterol worked to remove proteins from the eyes is unknown, so it's unlikely to become a mainstream method for treating cataracts in dogs for now.2

Unfortunately, many companies are advertising that their eyedrops can help remove cataracts in dogs. Beware of these products because they don't have the necessary delivery system to get the drops into the lens to dissolve cataracts. 

Meanwhile, cataract surgery is still the best way to treat cataracts in dogs. However, some dogs are not eligible for surgery based on their age, so alternative treatments may be necessary to improve their quality of life. Dogs can be treated with anti-inflammatory eye drops to reduce inflammation in the eyes.3 Many dogs can still live happy lives with cataracts because they can rely on their senses of smell, touch, and hearing. Of course, it may take some time for your dog to adjust if they've recently lost their vision. That being said, even though they may become less active, they can still have a quality life. 

Cataracts Treatment & Prevention

Surgery is the only way to effectively treat cataracts in dogs as of right now. Surgery can remove cataracts to help your dog see better and prevent them from causing complete blindness. While anti-inflammatory dog eye drops for cataracts may help impede the development of glaucoma when proteins from the cataracts are released into the eye, surgery is the only way to improve your dog's vision. 

Cataract surgery in dogs requires your dog to be put under general anesthesia, allowing your vet to remove the cataract. After surgery, your vet will prescribe your dog eyedrops to help keep the eye lubricated so that it can heal while minimizing infections. They may also have to wear a cone to prevent them from scratching at their eyes. 

Treating cataracts as soon as possible is recommended to save your dog's vision. Left untreated, cataracts can cause partial or complete blindness. Luckily, cataracts do not recur after surgery, but dogs may experience vision loss due to scar tissue, glaucoma, or retinal detachment. 

Surgery is not without risks, though. Older dogs may not be eligible for surgery because anesthesia could be dangerous. Always follow your vet's post-operative instructions for taking care of your pet and schedule follow-up exams to ensure the surgery went well and allow your vet to assess their needs as they heal. 

Unfortunately, pet parents can't prevent cataracts in dogs. Instead, you can try to identify cataracts early because the earlier your dog gets treatment, the easier it will be to begin treatment. Additionally, the longer you wait, the more likely your dog will become completely blind from cataracts. Give your dog regular at-home eye inspections to look for signs of cataracts, and always visit your vet for their annual wellness visit to allow a professional to examine your dog's eyes for signs of the disease. 

Talk to your vet immediately if you notice changes in your dog's eyes. The earlier your vet can diagnose your dog with cataracts, the sooner you can begin treatment. 

Dog Cataracts Eye Drops: FAQs

Do cataract eye drops for dogs work?

Unfortunately, cataract eye drops for dogs are not considered an effective method for treatment yet. While scientists have been making advancements in the effects of eye drops on cataracts in dogs, drops may not offer the correct delivery method for penetrating the lens to remove or dissolve cataracts. 

There have been numerous studies into the effects of lanosterol for treating cataracts in dogs. Unfortunately, even though these studies successfully proved that this ingredient could improve cataracts in dogs, more research is needed. 

Many eye drops claim to treat or remove cataracts in dogs, but they haven't been fully researched yet, so these claims may not be true. Ultimately, eye drops for cataracts in dogs lack a proper delivery system for getting into the lens where the cataracts are, so it doesn't seem likely that these drops can treat cataracts in dogs. At least not yet.

What drops can I give my dog for cataracts?

Currently, no eye drops effectively remove or treat cataracts in dogs. Products that claim they can remove or treat cataracts may use their language carefully to prevent you from understanding what they actually do. Most eye drops for cataracts in dogs you can find online contain ingredients that are good for eye health but will not reverse cataracts. Only surgery can treat cataracts in dogs. 

Vets typically prescribe anti-inflammatory drops for dogs with cataracts to help treat inflammation caused by the disease. Of course, these drops don't aim to treat or remove cataracts but can slow the progression of glaucoma in dogs and reduce discomfort. The best way to treat cataracts in dogs is through surgery, which removes the cloudy lens, allowing your dog to see again. 

How can I get rid of my dog's cataracts without surgery?

Unfortunately, there is no way to get rid of dog cataracts without surgery as of right now. If your dog is not a candidate for surgery, they will eventually adapt to their surroundings using their other senses. The best thing you can do if you notice the signs of cataracts in dogs is to take them to the vet immediately to discuss treatment options. There are no ways to reverse cataracts, but your dog might be a candidate for surgery, which will remove cataracts from their eyes and restore their vision. 

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent cataracts in dogs. However, you can prevent some diseases and problems that cause cataracts. For example, since diabetes can cause cataracts, you can ensure your dog manages their weight. 

Pet owner administering eye drops in dog’s eyes

Final Notes

Cataracts in dogs are common, and many dogs will get cloudy eyes as they age, while others will get cataracts earlier based on their breed or pre-existing health conditions. If you notice cloudiness in your dog's eyes, you may search desperately for treatments that don't involve surgery. Unfortunately, surgery is the only effective treatment that can remove cataracts and restore your dog's vision. In addition, eye drops for cataracts in dogs aren't effective yet and require more research to ensure they're safe and can actually get rid of cataracts by penetrating the lens. 

Even though eye drops for cataracts in dogs are not yet a viable treatment option, scientists are making great strides in their research to find alternative treatment methods for dogs who aren't eligible for cataract surgery. But, of course, only a vet can help you understand your dog's treatment options to provide your dog with a quality life. Talk to a vet online if you're worried about cataracts in your dog's eyes or want to learn ways you can take better care of your pet's overall health. Dutch vets can help you understand the options available for your pet and provide advice for taking care of a dog with cataracts. 

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References

  1. "Cataracts in Dogs: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment." Best Friends Animal Society, https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/cataracts-dogs-causes-diagnosis-and-treatment.

  2. "Eye Drops Could Dissolve Cataracts." Science, https://www.science.org/content/article/eye-drops-could-dissolve-cataracts.

  3. "Clearing up Canine Cataracts - Oklahoma State University." Clearing up Canine Cataracts | Oklahoma State University, 3 Feb. 2020, https://news.okstate.edu/articles/communications/2020/clearing-up-canine-cataracts.html.

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