Cataracts in Vizsla: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Vizsla dog outdoors

Vizsla's Health

Vizslas often live about 10 to 14 years, and at this age, may suffer from hypothyroidism, dwarfism, persistent right aortic arch, tricuspid valve dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Your aged Vizsla is prone to health challenges such as lymphosarcoma and canine hip dysplasia or significant issues, such as epilepsy. To identify these issues, a veterinarian may run hip and thyroid tests on the dog. Other notable health conditions associated with aging Vizsla are cataracts and eye defects such as glaucoma, lenticular sclerosis, corneal ulcers, etc.

Vizsla Cataracts Explained

Dog's eyes and humans are the same in morphology, and thus, are expected to share the same characteristics even in the type of disease or eye defects. A cataract, for example, is an eye defect characterized by blurred vision, which is common to humans as they age and is also seen in dogs. These defects in eye conditions have different underlying causes. Some cases of cataracts are a result of heredity issues. Vizslas, American Staffordshires, Australian Terriers, Shepherds, Bichon Frises, Boston Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, French Bulldogs, Havanese, Labradors, Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, Poodles, Siberian Huskies, Silky Terriers, West Highlands, and White Terriers are all breeds that commonly have cataracts.

Vizslas, in particular, are very prone to developing cataracts as they age.

What Is This Health Condition

Dog cataracts are an eye condition characterized by blurred vision often observed by the eyes or with the help of a magnifying device or that develops as your dog ages. It happens as many times as it does in humans. It is an observed cloudy eye in dogs. These cloudy eyes in dogs prevent sufficient light from entering the eyes, leading to no formation of an image on the retina.

Just like the vitreous and aqueous humor, the dogs have water and proteins in them that serve to keep the dog's eyes healthy and function. The abnormal clumping of these proteins leads to cloud-like substances in the dog eye's lens; this usually leads to cataracts in dogs.

The formation of cataracts in dogs is not defined; in some, it can start as a small cloudy film and then build up to large ones and cover the entire eyes, while it could also form overnight without previous signs or progressions.

Vizsla dog outdoors

How do you characterize cataracts in Vizslas?

Stages in Cataracts development

The stages in human cataract development are similar to the stages seen in dogs.

Dog cataracts' stages are characterized by the level of cloudiness or the area occupied by cataracts.

If the cloudy film occupies less than 30% of the lens, this in most cases rarely causes visual impairments. In comparison, if the opacity covers over more than 60% of the total area of the lens, a diminished vision sets in, and a complete shut down of the dog's vision is possible.

If the cloudiness covers the entire lens, the dog will become blind in the affected eye. The progression of cataracts in dogs depends on the type of cataract, breed, age, and other risk factors. For instance, in diabetic dogs, the advancement of cataracts is faster compared to non-diabetic dogs. This is simply because of the presence of high levels of sugar in the dog's blood. Cells and microbes tend to grow faster in a medium of high concentration- however, the cells of diabetic cataracts grow spontaneously.

Dog cataracts stages;

The following are the cataract stages in dogs:

  • Early-stage – In this stage of dog cataracts, the cloudiness is relatively unnoticeable without the help of magnification. The area affected is often less than 15% of the total lens area. The cataract's effects are not apparent and sometimes are insignificant as it causes no visual defects.

  • Immature stage – In this stage, cloudiness covers areas greater than 15% of the lens and, or often multiple layers of the lens or different areas. The retina is still visible during diagnosis, and a small image of the object is formed, making visual defects typically not tender.

  • Mature – When cataracts become matured, there are impediments in image formation observed as the lens is covered. During diagnosis, the retina becomes invisible, leading to total shutdown or near-shutdown of the affected eye or eyes.

  • Hypermature Stage– In this stage of cataract in dog eyes, there is a pronounced shrinking of the lens of the dog eyes as the capsule also appears wrinkled. Lens-induced uveitis (inflammation within the eye) often occurs at this stage. It marks the climax of dog cataract stages.

Causes of Vizsla Cataracts

What Predisposition Does Vizsla Have to This Health Condition?

Cataracts in dogs are primarily associated with genes as it is hereditary. It is common in some breeds, as listed above, as well as age-related cases. The increased risk of this disease in dogs has been recently associated with gene mutations in several dog breeds and identified by scientists. More than 100 dog breeds are known to have some incidence of inherited cataracts. If your Vizsla has the gene mutation, they will likely have an increased risk of developing cataracts. Genetic testing is available; it is worthy to note that not every dog with the gene mutation will develop cataracts, just like not all dogs with cataracts have the gene mutation.

What Factors Contribute to the Development of This Health Condition?

Other common causes of cataracts are diabetes, blood pressure, and hypertension. In most cases, all diabetic dogs develop cataracts within a year of diagnosis. High blood sugar levels alter the water balance in the lens, and this imbalance leads to cataract formation. In most cases, diabetic cataracts often grow very fast and rapidly, often with the dog losing its sight within a day or two of having any vision trouble at all. Researchers have spent time and resources finding ways to delay and prevent diabetic cataracts and other diseases that lead to cataract development. However, oral antioxidants have proven to help delay diabetic cataracts.

Life Expectancy of a Vizsla With Cataract

Can Vizslas Live As Long As Its General Life Expectancy, or Does This Health Condition Limit them?

Dogs are very adaptive animals; they tend to adjust quickly to life conditions. A dog diagnosed with cataracts can live close to, if not up to, their life expectancy. As an owner, you have much to contribute towards ensuring that your Vizsla has a good life amidst this health condition.

Vizsla dog outdoors

Sign That Your Vizsla Might Have Cataracts

How Can Dog Owners Accurately Determine if Their Vizsla Have This Health Condition?

Just like every other dog, it is easy to diagnose your Vizsla if they have cataracts.

At home, you can easily observe a milky-like substance on the lens of your dog's eyes. By merely monitoring your dog closely, you should be able to notice if they start having trouble seeing, as they find it difficult to locate things.

If you cannot see the cloudiness in your Vizsla's eyes and are still worried, you need to book an appointment with your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian would examine your Vizsla's eyes using a bright light and a magnifying lens. Your veterinary ophthalmologist would likely also screen for other eye problems like anterior uveitis (inflammation) and glaucoma (increased pressure), which are often associated with cataracts. Other diseases that can affect your Vizsla's sight can be diagnosed by collecting and running a diagnostic test with a sample of your dog's blood, looking for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and more. By taking all of the tests, findings, and clinical signs, the results will give you an overview of your dog's health and sight.

Cataracts in dogs have no definite development pattern; just like in humans, development may vary from very slow to rapid cataract formation overnight. You probably will not notice any change in your dog during the early stages, but once the cataracts are mature (completely blocking light transmission to the retina), they will be blind. Your pet may bump into walls or furniture, be unsure about stairs, and have trouble finding their food and water bowls. Vizslas are very adaptable, albeit they tend to learn to function without sight. If cataracts develop slowly, it might be difficult for you to notice that your dog has gone blind.

Vizsla dog outdoors

What Preventive Measures Can Dog Owners Take To Help Reduce the Likelihood of Their Vizsla Experiencing This Health Condition?

Instead of waiting to treat your Vizsla's cataracts, you can take steps to prevent your Vizsla from going blind.

Preventing cataracts in dogs

Cataracts can't be prevented entirely, albeit pet owners can still do their best to help reduce the dog's genetic predisposition.

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Annual Examination

As a dog owner, you should endeavor to have your dog's eyes examined annually.

Attend every health condition

As a vizsla owner, you should ensure to treat any health conditions that might lead to cataracts as soon as you discover them. By doing this, you can reduce the likelihood of your Vizsla developing cataracts, at least by unnatural cause.

Reduce foods that cause overweight in dogs

Given that diabetes is a primary cause of cataracts in dogs, pet owners should know the importance of keeping their pet's weight at a healthy level. Dog owners should refrain from feeding their dogs with high sugar-containing food, especially older dogs.

Be sure to be using the best medications

In some cases, cataracts are associated with drug-related systemic toxicity. Therefore, it is encouraged that pet owners limit their dog's exposure to chemicals and unnecessary medicines.

Always give your vizsla antioxidants

Antioxidants scavenge free radicals and can help slow down degenerative changes in your dog's eyes, including nuclear sclerosis and cataracts. Specifically, vitamins C and E are antioxidants that slow down the development and progression of cataracts in dogs.

What Treatment Options Are There for This Health Condition?

One of the cataract treatments in dogs involves cataract surgery, a medical procedure involving removing and replacing the damaged lens with an artificial one that will function the same way the natural ones did.

Vizsla dog outdoors

What is the process involved in performing cataract surgery for dogs?

The process followed to perform cataract surgery in dogs by veterinary hospitals differs but normally involves prepping the dog for surgery, pre-surgery medication, the surgery proper, and post-surgery follow-up and treatment. Additional treatment or care is given to diabetic dogs.

The veterinarian in charge must provide you with detailed instructions regarding feeding and care leading up to the surgery day. For an effective surgery, it is often advisable to follow the instructions given by your veterinarian.

Pre-Surgery Testing

Before a cataract surgery can be performed on your Vizsla, there is a need to check the integrity of their retina. Ideally, your dog will be sedated, and an ultrasound will be performed to check for issues such as retinal detachment and rupture (bursting) of the lens. An electroretinogram (ERG) will also be carried out to ascertain that your dog's retina is functioning well. If, after these tests, and your dog's retina is not healthy or is damaged, conducting a cataract surgery may be a suitable option for them.

Surgical Procedure

Like most surgical procedures, in dogs, cataract surgery is performed under a general anesthetic. The surgical procedure is made painless as possible by the anesthetic. A muscle relaxant is often administered to help station the eye in the correct position for the operation. Any unnecessary movement of the eye might lead to complications during the surgical process.

Cataracts in dogs are removed using a technique called phacoemulsification. This procedure uses an ultrasonic device to break up and remove the cloudy lens from the dog's eye. A similar procedure is used in cataract surgery or the removal of cloudy lenses in humans. On the successful removal of the cloudy lens in your dog's eye, an artificial lens implant (intraocular lens, or IOL) is then placed in the eye. This artificial lens works the same way as the natural lens, focusing images clearly onto the retina.


Post-surgery is the treatment given to your dog after the surgery. It often involves the use of eye drops which help to boost the effectiveness of the surgery.


Typically the veterinary surgeon will recommend that your dog stay overnight for monitoring following cataract surgery.

Post-surgery should be taken as seriously as the surgery itself. This is because any complications that might arise probably due to the surgery or medications would be diagnosed quickly and treated, ensuring the dog stays healthy.

The risk associated with cataract surgery in dogs

There is a 95% success rate record of dogs initially diagnosed with regaining vision after cataract surgery.

Some risks associated with the procedures include corneal ulcers and elevated pressure in the eyes; apart from these two risks, no other known risk is associated with cataract surgery in dogs.

The remaining 5%, which falls into the category of unsuccessful regaining of vision after surgery, can be likened or set to be caused by progressive retinal atrophy or a complete loss of the retinal. You should consider examining your Vizsla if they have this eye disease before opting for cataract surgery.

Vizsla dog outdoors

What Steps Can Dog Owners Take To Help Their Vizsla Experiencing This Condition Live The Best Life Possible?

It is often said that once any part of the human senses shuts down, it often paves the way for improving the other senses. The same is true for our canine friends.

If your dog is diagnosed with cataracts and retinal atrophy, which makes the cataract untreatable, do not worry, for your dog would sharpen the other senses, and you can take advantage of this.

For example, in a cataract-diagnosed dog, the olfactory senses have shown an increased improvement. This can happen to your dog too. In this case, you might help your Vizsla continue to live by scent marking their toys and essential places in the house. This has proven to help dogs with cataracts. Common scent markers you can use include flavor extracts like vanilla and lavender.

Creating awareness while you approach is also encouraged to make your coming known to your dog to prevent them from feeling scared by your sudden touch. One way to do this might be to walk in a particular style or match with a heavy step or make a specific sound like ringing a bell before coming close. Soon your dog will become familiarized with this and will adapt. You may also decide to keep your TV on, as its sound will counter the outside noise, making it easy for your dog to deal with noise. This also will reduce unnecessary anxiety for your dog.

You can help prepare your dog for being out in the world by teaching him a cue like "say hello". This lets your pet know a person is about to approach him. This will help prevent him from being startled by well-meaning people on the street who want to pet him. Be sure to warn people first to approach your dog verbally and then sniff the approaching person. Only let the person touch your dog if your dog seems comfortable in the situation. Exercise similar caution with other dogs, as well.

An ear loss might come with your dog losing their sight, so sometimes it might seem they are ignoring you or that they're being stubborn; you will have to be patient with them through this initial stage as they adapt to the new life. All these changes won't come easy to your dog as they start to experience a new world different from the one they had known, so it is important to be patient. With some simple and practical adaptations and a positive outlook, you are on the right path to maintaining good lines of communication and giving your cataract-diagnosed senior dog a rich and fulfilling life. You should always check your dog's physical well-being by doing frequent physical checkups.



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