Diabetes, Dogs and Blindness

Learn about diabetes, dogs and blindness. Studies find that three out of four dogs develop blindness from cataracts within a year of being diagnosed with diabetes. Learn how diabetes becomes so problematic for dogs.

What Happens with Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes in dogs occurs when the body fails to produce adequate stores of insulin. Typically, the body converts foods eaten by a dog into glucose. The pancreas produces the insulin necessary to move glucose to the cells within the blood stream. With diabetes, dogs' pancreases fail to produce insulin causing system failure because nothing is getting the glucose it needs to convert to energy.

Soon the brain sends your dog a message to eat more because the cells need glucose. While it can't get glucose, the body instead burns through muscle and fat stores in a desperate attempt to get energy to the cells. The glucose is trapped in the bloodstream because there is no insulin. Eventually, the excess glucose makes its way into the urinary tract taking water with it. This leads to the feelings of dehydration that causes a diabetic dog to drink so much.

As the body continues to use muscle and fat for energy, organs are affected. Soon a number of other health issues arise, including diabetes related blindness.

Diabetes, Dogs and Blindness from Cataracts

Cataracts is the biggest obstacle facing dogs with diabetes. With 75 percent of all dogs developing cataracts within a year of becoming diabetic, it's something dog owners must be prepared to face. While a handful of dogs never develop cataracts, most do and with some the cataracts occur within weeks of developing diabetes.

The lens of a dog's eye is clear, like a sheet of glass, and is integral in how dogs view the world around them. With proper eyesight, a dog sees images that are clear and distinct. The eye lens sits inside a capsular bag filled with water and proteins that help keep the lens working properly. With diabetes, dogs' develop issues with the proteins clumping together over the surface of the lens. The proteins form a white, cloudy layer that blocks the vision. Rather than seeing sharp images, dogs with cataracts start to see fuzzy images and eventually lose their sight completely.

Surgery Helps End Cataracts

There are two stages to cataracts in dogs. If the entire lens is covered, it is referred to as mature cataracts. If caught before the entire lens is covered, it is called immature cataracts.

Both stages cataracts can be repaired through a surgical procedure. An incision is made in the eye and capsular bag. Ultrasonic waves are used to remove the cataract and then the lens is replaced with an artificial lens. Tiny sutures are used to stitch up the incisions and the dog's eye must be given time to heal.

In cases of diabetes, dogs vision problems do not have to be a permanent thing. Cataracts surgery can restore your pet's sight. However, the healing process is slow because inflammation is a common issue following surgery. Scarring is also common and prevents a dog's vision from returning to normal.