Blindness in a Diabetic Dog

Cataracts are Common but Treatable


My 10-year-old heeler cross, Maeve, was diagnosed last year with diabetes. She has responded very well to the twice-daily insulin injections and the low-fat dog food and in most ways is doing just great. However, she now appears to be completely blind. What are the options for her blindness?


Dr. Nichol:

Maeve is not alone.  Cataracts occur in 3/4 of diabetic dogs within one year of the onset of their disease. Blindness is the most common diabetic complication but it doesn’t have to be permanent.


Cataracts are described as a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, a delicate structure that absorbs water in diabetic dogs. Swelling of the lens is quickly followed by rupture of the lens capsule, resulting in protein leakage into the eyes. Inflammation and glaucoma (excessive pressure inside the eyes) are long term consequences.


The good news is that cataract surgery is highly successful in dogs. The procedure, called phacoemulsification, eliminates the dry whitish lens material. A veterinary ophthalmologist can also implant an artificial lens that will allow Maeve to have good functional vision in both eyes.


It’s important not to wait too long. Dogs with severe glaucoma suffer permanent eye damage; many lose their chance to see again. Ask your veterinarian to refer you to an ophthalmologist soon.