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Common Breeds Prone to Cataracts in Dogs

While cataracts in dogs are a relatively common occurrence, they do need to be taken care of to prevent eventual blindness. In this post, our Renton vets list which dog breeds are more prone to cataracts and discuss whether there is a genetic predisposition to this eye condition.

Cataracts in Dogs

The retina is the layer of tissue at the back of your dog's eye that senses light. It acts like a camera's photo sensor and sends messages to the brain through the optic nerve about what the eyes are able to see. 

The lens is a ball-shaped, crystal clear structure of precisely organized fibers that's located inside the eyeball just behind the pupil. For a dog to see clearly, the lens needs to magnify and focus light into the retina. However, progressive diseases of the lens can cause cataracts, a common canine eye condition. 

A cataract is an imperfection that causes partial or complete clouding or opacification of the lens, which prevents a clear image from being focused on the retina. This imperfection is the result of a progressive disease of the lens and can impact the dog's ability to see clearly.

Cataracts cause lens fibers become disordered. The lens will no longer be transparent, and will instead become a milky blue color. Light does not reach the retina, and blindness can eventually occur. To detect a cataract in a dog's eye, just look for whiteness on the pupils in one or both eyes. 

Causes of Cataracts in Dogs

Cataracts are most often found in older dogs and are typically inherited. Inflammation in the eye, ocular trauma, retinal disease, or diabetes can also cause cataracts to develop. However, some dog breeds are more susceptible to cataracts. 

Dog Breeds Prone to Cataracts

While all dogs can develop cataracts, some breeds are more prone to this eye condition than others due to their genetic traits. Some of these breeds include: 

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Bichon Frise
  • Boston Terrier
  • Golden Retriever
  • Siberian Husky 

Genetic Factors That Increase Your Dog's Risk for Cataracts 

A certain genetic mutation can increase a dog's risk for developing cataracts at only a few weeks to months of age. 

While cataracts are typically a disease of older dogs and may be associated with other eye diseases (these would be referred to as secondary cataracts), mutations in the HSF4 gene cause cataracts to form at a faster rate in comparatively young dogs (about two to seven years of age). 

This mutation was first identified in the Australian Shepherd. Your dog's breed will determine whether the mutation of HSF4 has complete or incomplete penetrance. Australian Shepherds with one or two copies of the mutation may or may not develop cataracts as other genetic and environmental factors contribute to the disease. 

Other genetic and environmental causes of cataracts may also play a role, and your dog may develop cataracts even if they have two normal copies of the HSF4 gene. 

Diagnosis of Cataracts in Dogs

A veterinary ophthalmologist can examine your dog's eyes, and may use a lens or light to help them diagnose cataracts or other issues.

Keep in mind that other eye diseases and conditions are commonly mistaken for cataracts, so having your dog evaluated by a vet is key for an accurate diagnosis. Your vet can tell you whether a specialty consult for surgery is needed.

Veterinary Ophthalmology at  Northwest Animal Eye Specialists

Dogs can develop minor or severe eye conditions that can cause discomfort and impact their vision. While some of these are age-related, others may be injuries, diseases, or genetic problems. 

Regardless of the issue, a veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist should promptly assess any discomfort or loss of sight. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment are key to good outcomes for your dog's health. 

Northwest Animal Eye Specialists is staffed with board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists who work with your pet's primary care vet to provide the most compassionate and comprehensive eye care possible. We're able to diagnose and treat almost any eye disease or condition, including cataracts, dry eye, tumors, infections, and more. 

Note: Northwest Animal Eye Specialists specializes in treating eye conditions and illnesses. The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical or behavioral advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Do you suspect your dog may be suffering from cataracts or another eye condition? Contact our Renton vets to book a consultation with a veterinary ophthalmologist.

New Patients Welcome By Referral

We are accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the eye health of animals. Talk to your vet today about getting a referral to Northwest Animal Eye Specialists serving patients from Renton, Kirkland, and the surrounding areas.

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