"When Kathy Ouelette's 98-pound Rottweiler, Bear, began bumping into things ("even into me," Mrs. Ouelette said), she knew something was wrong. Her veterinarian referred her to Dr. Daniel Priehs, an eye-disease specialist at Animal Eye Associates in nearby Maitland, Fla.
One of only about 400 veterinary ophthalmologists nationwide, Dr. Priehs determined that the dog had cataracts, a clouding in the eye's natural lens that, left untreated, can eventually lead to blindness.
After determining the delicate nerves at the back of the diabetic, 7-year-old dog's eyes could withstand surgery, Dr. Priehs implanted new lenses in a procedure strikingly similar to the cataract surgery performed in people. Within days, Bear seemed to have no trouble spotting the squirrels in his backyard, though he still requires daily eye drops to keep his eyes moist, said Mrs. Ouelette, a retired fiscal officer.
Animals share many of the 30 or so most common eye ailments identified in people, Dr. Priehs said, including injuries, infections, cataracts and glaucoma, as well as some rare and inherited ones.
But unlike their owners, pets cannot respond to eye charts for quick vision assessments, so determining that an animal has an eye problem can be difficult. Dr. Priehs likens his job to that of a pediatric ophthalmologist. "Pets can't tell us what's wrong," he said. "We look at the eyes and behavior."
Frequent squinting, clouding in the lens or cornea, gunky discharges or redness, as well as bumping into things, especially at night, can all be early signs of eye disease in pets, said Dr. Michael Paulsen, a veterinary ophthalmologist with the Animal Eye Clinic in Arlington, Tex. Not surprisingly, eye problems may be much easier to detect in dogs than in cats."
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