A CATARACT is an opacity of the lens or its capsule. Cataracts are a common cause of visual impairment and blindness in dogs and have a wide variety of aetiologies. As well as the disabling effect on an animal, cataracts also present important welfare considerations for the owner. Visual impairment in dogs may, for example, lead to increased nervousness, aggression and reluctance to exercise, all of which may adversely affect the owner-pet relationship. Cataract surgery in humans has been revolutionised over the past few decades with the widespread introduction of phacoemulsification, a microsurgical technique that uses high frequency ultrasonic waves to fragment and remove a cataractous lens. Over the past 10 years, phacoemulsification has also gained popularity among veterinary ophthalmologists, and is now the treatment of choice for cataract surgery in dogs, with success rates of between 70 and 95 per cent having been reported. This article reviews the aetiology of cataract formation in dogs and suggests an approach to cataract assessment and referral. In addition, it provides a brief overview of the technique and prognosis for phacoemulsification cataract surgery in dogs.
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