How to Diagnose Cataracts in Labrador Retrievers
Labrador retrievers are one of several dog breeds that are likely to develop cataracts. Cataracts is a condition that creates a cloudiness on the lens of the eye, preventing light from reaching the back of the eye. The early stages of the condition make the dog's vision hazy, as if it is trying to see through scratched sunglasses. However, as the condition advances, the Labrador will lose its sight completely. In order to avoid this outcome, you need to be able to spot the condition and get it treated quickly.
Screening Your Dog For Cataracts
1. Screen an adult dog you are considering adopting for cataracts.
If you want to adopt a Labrador retriever you should assess the health of its eyes before you commit to taking it home. This does not mean that you shouldn't adopt a dog with impaired vision. If just means that you should know what you are getting into before you adopt do it.
- Dog breeds are created by choosing individuals of a similar appearance and breeding them together. A consequence of selective breeding is that it can amplify genetic problems that run in that line of animals. Thus, many purebred dogs have a weakness when it comes to certain genetic health problems. For Labradors, cataracts is one of those issues.
2. Be on the look out for the early stages of cataracts in the eyes.
Keep an eye out for cloudiness in the eyes. It is important to spot the early stages of cataract formation.
- When you look at your dog face on in good lighting, you may notice a subtle milkiness in the center of the eye (the pupil, which is normally black). This milkiness becomes denser with time and can then appear either white or even blue in appearance. One or both eyes may be affected.
- If an owner is considering cataract surgery the complication rate is reduced if the cataract is not already mature.
3. Be on the lookout for impaired vision or clumsiness.
The cloudiness associated with cataracts may have already impaired your dog's vision. This means it may have difficulty seeing objects in its path. This might show itself as clumsiness and the dog bumping into objects placed in its way, or it may have difficulty spotting a favorite toy that is right in front of it.
- The dog may seem hesitant and unsure of itself when taken on an unfamiliar route. The dog may also stumble on stairs, and seem uncertain of its footing, stumbling up or down curbs.
- If you notice any of these signs get the dog checked by a vet.
4. Look for the signs of cataracts in both young and old Labrador retrievers.
Cataracts usually develop as part of the aging process and occur in middle-aged to older dogs. However, Labradors can develop an early onset form of cataract that develops around 1 - 3 years of age.
- Because the retina is healthy in these dogs, and they have many more years of active life ahead of them, it is well worth considering cataract surgery.
5. Be especially vigilant if your dog has additional risk factors.
Another common reason for the development of cataracts is diabetes mellitus. The owner of a dog with diabetes should be especially vigilant for signs of cataract formation in their dog.
Diagnosing and Treating Cataracts Medically
1. Take your dog to the veterinarian.
The vet will complete a full physical exam. This may include blood tests to check for underlying conditions, such as diabetes, which could prompt cataracts or complicate treatment.
- The vet may wish to assess the overall health of the eye, and check the retina is healthy and there are no inflammatory conditions or infections affecting the eye. This is not so much to diagnose the cataract but to check if the eye is healthy and cataract surgery would restore vision.
2. Discuss the diagnosis with the veterinarian.
The diagnosis is made by examining the eyes with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope. This is a magnifier lens with a light source attached. In a darkened room the vet will stand back and shine a light directly at the eye. He or she will look to see if the light reflects off the retina (a bit like red-eye from a camera flash) or if the lens blocks the light and casts a shadow on the retina (like a solar eclipse). If the lens is dense enough to block the light, then a cataract is present.
3. Ask your veterinarian about treatment options.
One type of cataract surgery involves either physically removing the lens and replacing it with an artificial one. Another technique is called phacoemulsion. Phacoemulsion is a process in which the lens is broken down using a laser.
- Your veterinarian should have a suggestion about which treatment is best for your dog.