What Are Vizsla Cataracts?
Vizsla dogs are known for their excellent hunting abilities, excited barks, and overall cheeriness. This breed is a playful and unique addition to any family lucky enough to have them. Because Vizsla dogs are hunting dogs, they need an active lifestyle to be healthy, and genetic predispositions can develop into diseases if Vizsla dogs do not live a healthy and active lifestyle.
Although this dog breed is friendly, energetic, and lovely, there are hereditary illnesses and diseases that owners should be aware of in order to find preventative techniques. Vizsla dogs are at a higher risk for cataracts than other dog breeds because it is an inherited disease present throughout the Vizsla dog’s history. Cataracts present as cloudy eyes in dogs and progress over time. Dog cataracts occur when a cloudy lens (or cataract) covers the eye preventing light from entering. This causes both full and partial blindness. Canine cataracts develop when proteins and water in the lens are changed and begin combining when they are not supposed to. Proteins and water levels in a dog’s eyes can vary because of blunt force trauma, old age, diabetes, and hereditary reasons. Cataracts in dogs eyes typically develop in older senior dogs and can lead to blindness.
What Are the Dog Cataracts Stages?
There are four dog cataract stages; Incipient, Immature, Mature, and Hypermature. During the first stage, Vizsla dogs show minimal to no signs of a cataract. Vets often miss the inherited disease during this stage because there are no symptoms, and less than 15% of the eye is affected. Dogs are rarely affected by the cataract during the first stage. If anything is showing, it may be a small spot of cloudiness that is easy to miss.
In the immature stage, Vizsla dogs often are not showing symptoms, but the cataract affects a minimum of 15% of the eye. The small cloudy spot may grow over time, but it is still not large enough to notice. Vizsla owners may struggle to realize an eye condition is developing in their dogs.
In the mature stage, the vet cannot see the retina or lens of the dog’s eye. Typically dogs in this stage are nearly blind or completely blind. The symptoms and signs are visual at this stage. A cloudy white-grey cataract covers either one or both eyes. No light goes through, preventing the dog from being able to see.
In the last stage, the hypermature stage, Vizsla dogs’ eyes undergo inflammation, and the lens of the eye shrinks and wrinkles. Eye inflammation can be painful, although there are ways to handle the pain. Dogs mainly feel discomfort with the inflammation and can feel relief through the use of eye drops.
Causes of Cataracts in the Vizsla Breed
Vizsla dogs are prone to cataracts because of their unique genetics; however, this is a common disease in all dogs, with an increasing risk as they age. Research has found hereditary cataracts have something to do with the eye scheme, although not much information is known. Although hereditary, cataracts in dogs are rarely life-threatening and develop through old age. While some dogs may be born with cataracts or develop them before they turn eight, it is rare and still not considered life-threatening.
Vizsla dogs are also more likely to develop cataracts if they are diagnosed with diabetes and obesity. Overweight dogs specifically due to overeating sugar can create cataracts quickly and even overnight. The sugars that should be limited and avoided are artificial sugars found in processed foods. Natural sugars from fresh fruit and vegetables do not spike blood sugar levels. Overweight dogs can develop Cataracts at any age, but it is more commonly found in those with diabetes, with symptoms sometimes occurring overnight. Cataracts that occur because of diabetes do so in a different manner. Cataracts developed in dogs through diabetes are quick and often grow to the last stage of cataracts within days leading to discomfort and pain as the eye is inflamed.
The Vizsla dog breed may also develop cataracts because of a condition called progressive retinal atrophy. During this disease, photoreceptive cells decay over time, leaving dogs blind. One of the side effects or symptoms of progressive retinal atrophy is cataract development.
How Do Cataracts Affect the Lifestyle of Vizsla Dogs?
Affected dogs can still enjoy a great life running, playing, and relaxing with inherited cataracts. Vizsla dogs with cataracts go on to live long and enjoyable lives. Dogs are likely to get accustomed to having cataracts and developing a loss of sight as it happens over time. Over time, Vizsla dogs with cataracts may lose their vision entirely, but it happens over months to years. Losing their sight over time allows the dogs to become familiar with their spaces as they slowly lose their vision. Often, these dogs grow accustomed to their new realities with the help of their owners and families, and even affected dogs with limited vision can jump, run, and keep up with their owners.
Not all dogs, however, lose their sight over time. Viszla dogs who develop cataracts through diabetes often lose their sight as quickly as overnight. Losing their sight rapidly affects their lifestyle because they do not grow accustomed to it through daily changes. They may need additional support maneuvering daily tasks, but with their owner’s guidance, time, and patience, Viszla dogs can live long and healthy lives.
While cataracts may not imply death, they can be uncomfortable and painful during the later stages. In the last stage of dog cataracts, the hypermature step, the dog’s eyes may become inflamed, causing pain and confusion. The only solution to eliminate the inflammation is surgery to remove the cataract and replace the lens with a similar sheet. Affected dogs with this eye condition should receive treatment for the pain. Veterinarians cannot reverse cataracts, only remove them. Dog cataracts, however, do not cause intense pain and do have alleviations. It is more likely that the most change in the dog’s life will be an occasional discomfort and a new reality of the limited vision.
It is a good thing dogs have a great sense of smell! The sense of smell helps dogs as they lose their sight, find their balance and place.
The Life Expectancy of a Vizsla With Cataracts
Vizsla dogs can experience pain and discomfort due to cataracts, but eye drops and other medications prescribed by a veterinarian can soothe pain. The life expectancy of a Vizsla dog with cataracts is not affected by the eye condition. Vizsla dogs on average live between 12-14 years old and continue to do so with cataracts.
Although the life expectancy of a Vizsla dog with cataracts is not impacted, there can be complications that arise because of this condition. In the last and final state of cataracts, the hypermature stage, the eye begins to deteriorate. As the eye no longer functions and loses sight, the eye becomes inflamed. This is not only painful for Viszla dogs with cataracts but can become infected. As the eye worsens, it becomes susceptible to injury, which cause openings that allow for bacteria and germs to develop. These germs and bacteria can develop into a serious infection that can permanently leave your Vizsla dog blind and without an eye. Signs of an infection include foul odors, crusting on the eye or around the eye, and the release of pus.
Without proper treatment, Viszla dogs with an infection in their eye, can develop shock and die. Infections are dangerous in Vizsla dogs with cataracts as they spread quickly throughout the body, attacking healthy red blood cells. Since older dogs are more prone to cataracts, the danger increases. The life expectancy of a Vizsla dog with an infected cataract can be cut short without proper medical attention. The only way to prevent this damage is to monitor your pet for any changes or signs of a new infection. Surgery can also remove the cloudiness in the eye and treat the inflammation for good. Pain medication for inflammation of the eye in Vizsla dogs can only mask the symptoms of the problem, instead of treating it.
Signs Your Vizsla Dog May Have Cataracts
The best way to tell if your Vizsla dog has cataracts or not is to monitor its behavior. Although a diagnosis of cataracts in dogs doesn’t happen until later stages when there is apparent cloudiness noticeable in the eye of the dog, owners and family members should watch out for these signs or symptoms that their Vizsla dog may have cataracts:
- Vizsla dogs may bump into things more.
- Vizsla dogs may sniff around for food before going to retrieve it.
- Vizsla dogs may not react to visual stimuli unless there is a sound as well.
- Cloudiness in eyes.
- An increase in separation anxiety.
An increase in separation anxiety is a sign your dog may have cataracts because it alludes to the fact that your dog may be losing their eyesight. When owners are not in the same room, dogs can cry out and begin to look for them but struggle because of their lack of clear vision.
In the beginning stages of this hereditary disease, it is unlikely that Vizsla dogs will have any visual symptoms. Once owners notice any of these symptoms, it is time to call a veterinarian for a second opinion and complete an exam. The only way to know if your Vizsla has cataracts is for a vet to confirm it with a look in their eyes using light. If the answer is unclear, the veterinarian may choose to do diagnostic testing to find Vizsla cataracts in your dog.
Since Vizsla dogs are genetically prone to cataracts as they age, owners need to schedule routine visits to the vet to catch early signs as they are not yet visual. Frequent visits to the vet are critical as dogs reach 8-14 years old.
What Treatment Measures Can Dog Owners Take To Treat, Prevent, and Maintain Their Vizsla Dogs?
Unfortunately, nothing can reverse cataracts once they have formed. Once a dog’s eye is damaged, it is difficult to reverse the damage. There are surgeries; however, owners may opt to proceed with if their Vizsla dogs qualify. For example, there are surgeries designed to remove cataracts, but cataracts may develop once again. Surgery will, however, return functional vision to dogs. The surgical procedure can restore vision but cannot stop the progression of a new cataract. For a minimum of two years, dogs that undergo this surgery are monitored regularly by their veterinarian and owner.
Surgery is the only treatment for cataracts other than pain medications that simply mask the symptoms without adequately addressing the problem. This procedure is expensive and time-consuming, with a lot of steps to ensure that everything goes smoothly. It is also risky, considering older Vizsla dogs are the leading group with cataracts. While the surgery is minimal, old age can impact how dogs recover. The cost for the surgical procedure is approximately anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, not including any pre-operational fees. The veterinarian performs surgery to remove the cataract from a dog’s eye or eyes during the procedure. Once the cataract is out, a transparent plastic film is inserted into the eye to act as a lens. Some veterinarians accept pet health insurance which may help reduce the cost of this procedure. There are also credit companies dedicated to loaning money for pet emergencies. These credit companies may cover the full amount of the surgery to qualifying applicants, if they choose this route.
There are also a lot of pre-operational steps to consider with this decision. Older dogs may not be physically fit enough for surgery. While the surgery is minimal, dogs are typically placed under an anesthetic. If there are any already present conditions, complications can occur. Also, veterinarians request for dogs undergoing this surgical procedure to be in the best health possible, including their skin. If there are any rashes or skin conditions, the surgical procedure cannot happen.
There are preventative measures dog owners can take to help reduce the likelihood of their dog developing cataracts. Taking preventive measures is tricky with dogs that inherit the disease through genetics, like the Vizsla breed. As we know, diabetes can cause and increase the risk of developing cataracts. Diabetes in the Vizsla breed can also produce other diseases and problems such as joint problems, blood clotting, dental disease, immune system diseases, seizures, and swollen glands.
There are many ways to prevent diabetes in dogs. These include:
- Feeding Vizsla dogs a healthy and balanced diet with low sugars.
- Spaying female dogs.
- Limiting sugary treats.
- Frequent veterinary ophthalmologist check-ups.
- Living an Active and Playful lifestyle.
- Buying Quality Dog Food High in Proteins.
This way, if any abnormal behaviors begin, a trip to the vet can find an earlier stage of the disease allowing for time to plan and monitor. While it is challenging to prevent cataracts in Vizsla dogs because they mainly inherit them, not all Vizsla dogs will develop cataracts or eye conditions.
Once a dog owner understands their Vizsla has been diagnosed with cataracts, the best course of action is to schedule a second check-up visit to see how far along the cataracts are. Depending on their stage, there are different treatments to choose from, which the veterinary ophthalmologist can advise.
The Best Ways To Help Your Vizsla Dog Live Comfortably With Inherited Cataracts
As discussed by veterinarians, the main discomfort and pain are minimal during the later stages. While owners may choose to allow their dogs to undergo surgery, not all will choose to do so. Owners can make their furry Vizsla friends comfortable by helping them as they lose their sight.
Vizsla dogs struggling with the inability to find objects can cause problems as they may hurt their teeth by biting the wrong items, like metal bowls or items left on the ground. Owners can lead their dogs to the food and keep it in the same spot; this way, they can learn where things are without their sight.
Since Vizsla dogs are bigger dogs, and may bump into objects around the home as they struggle to find their way, owners can clear paths for their furry friends to use.
Vizsla dogs may also have an increased amount of anxiety as their sight decreases over time. Owners can help with the adjustment period by speaking to them frequently and being around them. This dog may develop separation anxiety with fear that they are alone because they cannot see their owners.
All in all, the best thing to do for your Vizsla dog is give them love, care, and understanding. Cataracts are not life-threatening. It is important to remember that during your journey with your dog. Older dogs can live happy lives alongside their human family without their sight with a few changes.