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Common Illness in Dogs – Cataracts

By Colleen Williams and medically reviewed by Sarah Wallace DVM
published: February 20, 2012 - updated: May 9, 2023 • 2 min. read
black dog with cataract eyes

Key Takeaways

  • Cataracts form on the lens of the eye and can cause impaired vision and blindness.
  • Genetics most commonly cause cataracts in dogs.
  • Symptoms of cataracts include cloudiness in the eye and clumsy movement.
  • Having diabetes mellitus can increase a dog’s risk of cataracts.
  • Surgery may be required to remove cataracts to prevent future blindness.

What are Cataracts?

A cataract is an opacity in one or both eyes that causes impaired vision or blindness, depending on the severity. A cataract is a white or grey coloration that forms in the lens of the eye located just behind the pupil. Cataracts can be small and hardly noticeable, or grow to the size of the entire lens. Severe cases of cataracts can cause complete blindness, and can also lead to glaucoma and inflammation of the inner eye, called uveitis which can be difficult to treat and lead to blindness.


The most common cause of cataracts has to do with a dog’s genetics. This means certain breeds are predisposed to developing cataracts, including cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers, golden retrievers, and Siberian huskies, to name a few. Diabetes mellitus can increase a dog’s chances of developing cataracts as well, due to high blood sugar levels that cause the lens of the eye to swell. Cataracts may also be caused by trauma to the eye, uveitis (an inflammation of the eye) or an electric shock. Age-related cataract development may also occur.

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Symptoms of Cataracts in Dogs

Cataracts, in the early stages of development, may show no signs at all. As the condition progresses, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Visible cloudiness of one or both eyes
  • Stumbling or bumping into furniture, walls, people or other objects and beings

Cataracts caused by diabetes may be accompanied by symptoms such as:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss

Diagnosing Cataracts in Dogs

To diagnose your pet’s condition, your veterinarian will take a history of your dog’s symptoms and health, followed by a complete physical exam and complete eye examination. If your dog has or is suspected to have diabetes, they may also perform a blood test and a urinalysis. Your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for further diagnosis and treatment. Ultrasounds and electroretinography may be used as diagnostic tools to more closely view the animal’s eyes. 


Your veterinarian may recommend surgical removal of the cataracts to prevent the disease from progressing into total blindness and prevent glaucoma or inner eye inflammation that can cause extensive pain. Other treatment options include eye drops to help prevent inflammation, and treating the underlying cause if known. Surgical removal can result in a full recovery, allowing the animal to lead a normal and happy life. However, surgical complications can occur, such as glaucoma, bleeding, uveitis, retinal detachment, blindness, and clouding of the cornea.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical diagnosis, condition, or treatment options.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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Sarah Wallace DVM profile photo
By Sarah Wallace DVM

Dr. Sarah Wallace is the vice president of telehealth at Galaxy Vets, based in Fort Collins, Colo. She is actively working to increase access to veterinary care, to develop more effective communication strategies to bridge the gap between veterinarian knowledge and pet parent understanding and build happy and sustainable veterinary teams. Dr. Wallace studied biology at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and attended veterinary school at Western University of Health Sciences in California. After graduation, Dr. Wallace started working with Just Food for Dogs, an innovative pet food startup out of southern California advocating fresh, whole-food diets for dogs. She also completed a small animal rotating internship at San Francisco Veterinary Specialists - receiving one-on-one training with San Francisco's top veterinarians in internal medicine, neurology, dermatology, oncology and surgery. After working in clinical practice, Dr. Wallace joined the field of telehealth. Dr. Wallace writes and reviews blog content for Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. Dr. Sarah Wallace on LinkedIn Cardinal Veterinary Works Consulting

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