As dogs age, many develop cataracts in one or both eyes. A cataract is an opaque spot on the lens of the eye, which makes it difficult for a dog or cat to see through. They often occur in dogs or cats with diabetes, and are found in older pets that have immune disorders, a chronic disease, chronic skin problems, hip dysplasia and ear problems. Cataracts can also occur in young pets as a result of genetics or an injury to the eye.

Nutritional deficiencies—especially carotenoid deficiencies (the red,orange and yellow plant pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vivid colors and provide potent antioxidant protection)— can lead to cataracts.

Symptoms of Cataracts in Dogs and Cats

  • A bluish, gray or white color change inside of the eye
  • Inflammation or redness
  • Pain and squinting
  • The tendency to bump into things
  • A reluctance to go upstairs or jump up onto furniture, walls, etc.
  • A hesitancy in unfamiliar environments


All or some of these may be needed:

  • A complete medical history and physical examination.
  • An eye examination using an indirect ophthalmoscope and a slit lamp biomicroscope.
  • Blood tests.
  • An ultrasound examination of the eye if the cataract is too opaque to allow examination of the retina.
  • An electroretinogram to evaluate the function of the retina, especially if the cataract blocks visualization of the retina.

Conventional treatments

  • If your pet has mild cataracts that don't interfere with its vision, your vet will probably not recommend any treatment.
  • If your pet has significant vision impairment, the cataracts may need to be surgically removed, and an artificial intraocular lens replacement may be recommended.

Using a Natural Approach

Good nutrition plays an important role in the overall health of your pet and can help to maintain healthy eyes and vision. When an animal has severe vitamin deficiencies or is malnourished, cataracts and other eye disorders can develop.

There are several vitamins, botanicals and other nutrients that helped to nourish the eyes and slow down the progression of cataracts:

Vitamins A, C and E have antioxidant properties which fight free radicals that can damage the lens of the eye.

Bilberry extract is derived from a fruit similar to the blueberry and contains active ingredients for eye health and proper vision. The berries are rich in the antioxidant anthocyanosides -- the red pigments that are beneficial in ophthalmology and vascular diseases. Nicknamed "the vision herb" bilberry has a substantial body of research that confirms its benefits for eyes. In addition, bilberry helps support circulation which is especially beneficial for pets with eye problems related to diabetes. 

Zinc is a mineral linked to good vision and may protect eye tissue from damaging light and inflammation. Zinc is found in healthy retinal tissue.

Lutein, a carotenoid found in dark, leafy greens, is also found in the retina of healthy eyes where it acts as a shield against harmful light and may help protect the eyes against damage from ultraviolet radiation.

Mixed Carotenoids contain antioxidants found in carotenoid-rich food, that is, produce that are rich in color. Two specific carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, provide antioxidant protection in the macular region of the ey and have been found to reduce the incidence of cataracts.

Astaxanthin is an antioxidant that is especially beneficial for aging pets in that it helps support the immune system, cardiovascular system and eye health.