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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Sep 08, 2017

Caring For Your Pets Eyes

By Michele Edelmann, VMD, DACVO

A French proverb states, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” It is therefore not surprising that we connect with our pets through gazing into their eyes. Since we spend so much time looking into our pets’ eyes, ocular problems are often noticed promptly. Our pets can suffer from the same ocular conditions seen in humans – everything from corneal ulcers, uveitis, glaucoma, and masses to cataracts and more. The eyes can also be the first sign of a more serious systemic disease.

Animals can develop a variety of ocular changes. Among the most common are those related to a change in transparency in the lens. The purpose of the lens is to allow transmission and focusing of incoming light rays to the retina in the back of the eye. The retina then transmits information to the brain for vision processing. Loss of transparency of the lens can therefore interfere with vision.

Pets develop senile (age-related) nuclear sclerosis when the center part of the normally clear lens becomes cloudy. Light is still successfully transmitted to the back of the eye. This occurs in nearly every dog over the age of seven years. Owners may report subtle “clouding” of the eyes without noticeable change in vision. Overall, the effect on vision is suspected to be minimal, unless there are concurrent cataracts. No treatment is necessary, although dogs with advanced nuclear sclerosis plus cataracts will benefit from cataract surgery.

Animals develop cataracts when the normally clear lens becomes truly opaque (white) and light is unable to pass through the lens to reach the retina. Cataracts may affect anywhere from 1% to 100% of the lens volume. Animals that have more progressed cataracts are commonly presented for blindness or visual difficulty (bumping into objects, etc.). Other times, owners may note a general decrease in the activity level of their older pet that is not immediately recognized as a result of visual impairment.

If left untreated, some cataracts may result in painful inflammation (uveitis) and elevated intraocular pressure (glaucoma). Unfortunately, there are no medical treatments like drops or pills that can prevent, slow, or reverse cataract development. Thankfully, however, cataract surgery in dogs has a high success rate for restoration of vision. The procedure performed to remove cataracts is called phacoemulsification, and it is the same basic procedure performed in humans. The opacified, white lens is removed and an artificial lens is implanted. Vision is restored immediately after surgery.

A consultation with a veterinary ophthalmologist is recommended. The ophthalmologist will utilize a slit lamp biomicroscope to determine if cataract or nuclear sclerosis is present.

The content of this article is for informational purposes only and should not be substituted for the advice of a veterinarian. Michele Edelmann, VMD, DACVO, a native of Ocean Township, New Jersey, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and a board certified ophthalmologist.