Juvenile Cataracts in Dogs

Juvenile cataracts in dogs occur when a white film develops in the ocular lens. Many dogs develop cataracts late in life, but some breeds develop cataracts much earlier, even into puppyhood. This form of cataracts is known as juvenile cataracts.

Breeds often Affected by Juvenile Cataracts

Many breeds seem prevalent to developing juvenile cataracts in dogs.

  • Akita

  • Basenji

  • Beagle

  • Bichon Frise

  • Chow Chow

  • Collie

  • Doberman Pinscher

  • German Shepherd

  • Hounds (Afghan, Beagle, Dachshund, Greyhound)

  • Husky

  • Irish Setter

  • Mastiff

  • Poodle

  • Retrievers (Chesapeake Bay, Curly Coated, Labrador)

  • Rottweiler

  • Samoyed

  • Shar Pei

  • Sheepdog

  • Spaniels (Clumber, Cocker, King Charles, Springer, Tibetan)

  • Terriers (Bull, Fox, Jack Russell, Tibetan, West Highland, Wheaton, Yorkshire)

  • Welsh Corgi

If you desire a puppy or dog with a higher risk for cataracts, ask the breeder for a family history of both the puppy's parents. Look particularly for vet checks of past generations and if any have had issues with juvenile cataracts.

Understanding Juvenile Cataracts in Dogs

Many puppies appear normal at birth, so there is no way to know if the puppy you are buying is going to develop juvenile cataracts. Many dogs do not show signs until six months to two years of age. Some go even later with the cataracts forming five years later.

Juvenile cataracts does not always lead to blindness. In many cases, the puppy or young dog still sees basic shapes, but they may be blurry. In some cases, the disease leads to glaucoma.

The only way to eradicate juvenile cataracts in dogs, breeders should have both parents tested by a licensed veterinary ophthalmologist no more than a year before breeding. Not every breeder does this however, so you should ask for eye registry papers for both parents before agreeing to purchase a puppy.

Treatments for Juvenile Cataracts in Dogs

Providing the cataracts is not bothering your dog by causing severe vision problems, inflammation or advancing rapidly, treatment is unnecessary. Many dogs with juvenile cataracts do not worsen. They happily go through their lives with mildly impaired vision.

If the vision problems are affecting your dog, treatment may be required. Juvenile cataracts in dogs may be treated with cortisone eye drops. This treatment only works if the young dog has dissolving cataracts. Dissolving cataracts are a type that clear up when steroids are used.

Non-dissolving cataracts will require surgery. In this eye surgery, ultrasonic waves are used to turn the lens to liquid which is then extracted through a small incision in the eye. Some doctors will use a plastic implant to replace the lens.

Before any surgical procedure is used, a veterinary ophthalmologist will perform an ERG to make sure the dog's retina is functioning properly. Blood samples are drawn to check the animal's overall health to prevent any possible reaction to the anesthesia or medications used before and after the surgery.

Up to 95 percent of all juvenile cataract surgeries provide outstanding results. In a successful cataract surgery, a dog's vision is restored to normal.

Follow-up Care

After a cataracts surgery, the pet owner will need to take their dog back to the doctor frequently for follow-up care. The first visit usually takes place one week later and then every few weeks after that for the next six months. If all goes well for the six month period, annual eye checks are recommended.