We all know that a happy, healthy feline friend makes for a contented pet parent, so having to witness your fur baby suffering from a visual problem can be a heartbreaking and stressful experience, to say the least. Fortunately, cataracts in cats are not as prevalent as it is in their canine counterparts, but it is still vital to stay informed about the disease, so you can take timely action in the ill-fated case that your cat develops it.
Causes of Cataracts in Cats
Cataracts refer to the appearance of murkiness in the eye’s crystalline lens that may lead to partial or absolute opacity. The root cause of this disease in felines is attributable to heredity, with breeds such as Himalayans and Persians having a greater likelihood of developing this problem. Accordingly, senior cats have greater chances of developing this eye disease, while it remains inconclusive as to whether gender plays any role in its appearance. Research has indicated that lack of proper nutrition, inadequate calcium levels (hypocalcemia), diabetes, old age, trauma and exposure to radiation can also contribute to cataracts.
Regardless of the underlying reasons for developing cataracts, the disease presents itself with similar symptoms while the majority of cases are linked to genetics. The most visible external sign of cataracts are cloudy pupils which present themselves as frosted ‘blue chips’. Other symptoms may include:
- uncoordinated or abnormal walking
- tripping and bumping into objects
- watery discharge from eyes
- changes in the eye – noticeably eye colour, shape and pupil
- inability to recognise familiar faces
- miscalculating distances
- decrease in spatial awareness
If you notice the emergence of the abovementioned symptoms in addition to a cloudy appearance of your feline friend’s eyes, consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet will conduct standard diagnostic tests after taking your pet’s medical history into account. Tests such as complete blood count and urinalysis are needed for ruling out causes such as diabetes. An ultrasound may also be prescribed for gauging the severity of the issue thereby directing the doctor towards an effective treatment plan.
If cataracts emerge in very young kittens or is still in the early stages, treatment options may be avoided altogether with a simple over-the-counter anti-inflammatory eye drop prescribed to address any associated discomfort. If, however, the issue is related to nutritional deficiencies, your vet can recommend a complete dietary plan to improve your kitty’s eye condition or delay the progression of cataracts by proactively taking adequate measures. However, if the case is serious in nature and causes any vision impairment or eventual loss in sight, then surgical removal of the cataracts will most probably be the recommended treatment method.Great advancements have been made with regards to surgical techniques, with increasingly positive results leading to full vision retrieval. Unfortunately, surgery is costly, and the success rate cannot always be assured. In addition, surgery comes with a multitude of risk factors, such as glaucoma, retinal detachment and infection, which pet owners must consider before deciding on the surgical route.
The progression and severity of the disease coincides with its contributory causes and the animal’s age. Felines having undergone surgery to address the issue, should be taken care of as per the vet’s recommendations during the recovery period which maybe long and intensive. Periodic visits to the vet are recommended to keep track of your cat’s condition and monitor improvements. Cats with complete or partial vision loss must not be allowed to venture outdoors unsupervised. They will feel vulnerable in unfamiliar or noisy environments causing them to panic and potentially leading them into a hazardous situation that any pet parent would rather avoid entirely. Chaperoning your cat into the garden for some fresh air and exercise will come as a great treat to them. Speak to them in a soothing, gentle voice so they are comforted knowing you are there with them. Training them to walk on a leash is also a great way to expand their horizons, despite their visual impairment.
Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson
Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.