Cocker Spaniel Cataracts: Symptoms & Treatment

July 3, 2022

Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness in both dogs and people. And is one of the most commonly seen eye problems in Cocker Spaniels.

Luckily, cataracts respond well to early treatment and the long-term outlook is very positive if promptly dealt with. This is a good reason to learn the symptoms which are associated with cataracts in dogs.

It could just save your dog's vision!

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about canine cataracts from what causes them, the symptoms to look out for, what options are available for treatment, and the long-term outlook of your dog's eyesight.

What are Cataracts?

On the front of your dog's eye, there is a lens. Its purpose is to focus light on the back of the eye or the retina. When a dog gets cataracts the lens clouds stopping that light from reaching the back of the eye which impairs vision and is what can lead to blindness.

This condition will worsen over time and can be treated quite successfully if caught early.

Usually, if your Cocker does get cataracts it will develop in both eyes. If it's only in one eye the odds are it's related to an injury.

The Stages of Cataracts

There are four stages of cataracts. These are incipient, immature, mature, or hypermature.

An incipient cataract is very early. It will need your vet to diagnose as it requires magnification. Due to its small size, it's unlikely to have any impact on your dog's sight. This is one you will catch by having regular checkups.

The next stage is immature. At this point, more than 15% of the lens will be clouded and your vet will discuss surgery as an option. You will likely have started to notice the symptoms on a day-to-day basis. This is the stage where you are most likely to spot it at home when checking your dog's eyes yourself.

If not treated at this stage the immature cataract will progress to a mature one. These are far more dangerous to remove and your dog's lens will be completely clouded. Surgery may not be an option anymore.

The final stage is hypermature. This is the most advanced form of cataracts in dogs. Chances are that your vet will recommend eye removal at this point.

From start to finish this entire process can take years so don't fret. It is very likely you will spot this condition in the immature phase as your dog begins to behave differently. At this point, the long-term outcome is very positive if get treatment.

Will my Dog go Blind from Cataracts?

Not necessarily. If you get early treatment the odds are that your dog will regain their sight.

Also, just because your dog has cataracts partially obstructing their vision doesn't mean they will be blind.

If your dog has a cataract which covers less than 30% of your dog's lens or if it is only in one eye the chances are they will still be able to see. It is not until the cataract covers 60% of your Cocker Spaniels eye that you will see behavioural changes like poor coordination.

Are Cocker Spaniels Prone to Getting Cataracts?

Yes, cataracts are one of the health conditions to which Cocker Spaniels are more susceptible.

In most cases, cataracts will show up by the time they are four years old if it is hereditary cataracts and once they are a senior dog if it is a result of old age.

What Causes Dogs to get Cataracts?

There are a few reasons that your Cocker Spaniel could get cataracts.

The most common reason is inheriting cataracts through breeding. This is becoming less common as many breeders take precautions not to mate dogs who have a history of this condition.

It can also be caused by injuries to your dog's eye, diseases such as diabetes mellitus, or even just old age.

Can you Prevent your Dog from Getting Cataracts?

It is not possible to prevent your dog from getting cataracts.

There are ways to reduce the amount of damage it can do though. Really this comes down to paying close attention to your to any signs that your dog is developing cataracts and acting promptly.

Examine your Dog's Eyes Regularly

By taking the time to check your Cocker Spaniels eyes on a regular basis. Even once a week you will be able to identify problems before they become serious.

Cataracts treated early are a very different story than if it is caught late.

Take note of the symptoms that can indicate cataracts are developing and book an appointment with your vet.

There are many times you could pick to examine your dog's eyes. It could be during a cuddle, we all know Cocker Spaniels love a good cuddle.

Giving your Cockers eyes a good clean is another great opportunity to examine through eyes. This has other benefits such as removing anything which could damage your dog's eyes or cause infection or inflammation.

Book an Eye Check-Up with your Vet

Your vet is going to be capable of identifying cataracts at very early stages. As previously mentioned this early diagnosis will make a massive difference in how it impacts your dog's vision.

Feed your Dog a Healthy Diet

Make sure your Cocker Spaniel is receiving all of the nutrients they need and help ensure your companion has everything they need to support excellent eye health.

If you want more information about what is in a good Cocker Spaniel diet we wrote an article on it.

The Symptoms of Cataracts in Dogs

Now that we have identified how dangerous cataracts can be for your dog's eyes I'm sure you will be keen to learn how to spot them.

Luckily, there are a number of symptoms you are likely to see in a dog who is developing cataracts.

The most well-known symptom is cloudiness appearing on the front of the eye. There are also a few behaviours you will notice in a dog with cataracts.

Poor coordination is the main one you may spot. This could be bumping into things while walking around their home, misjudging distances, or struggling to catch treats if thrown. Not being able to recognise family members is another way to highlight a problem.

How are Dog Cataracts Diagnosed?

If you suspect your Cocker Spaniel has cataracts you will want to book an appointment with your vet ASAP.

The vet will first check and assess your dog's vision to understand what is causing the problem using a bright light and a magnifying lens. It could be another condition which is causing it so they will check for other issues. They may test the pressure in your dog's eye to check for glaucoma, for example.

If your vet suspects that cataracts is what your dog as they may seek a second opinion from a veterinary ophthalmologist. These vets specialise in eye care so will be the best person to assess the cause of your dog's vision loss.

Another aspect of your dog's health the vet will consider is their health history. This includes their parents as inherited cataracts is the most common way it is passed along. Try to take as much useful information as you can to the vet to help provide a clear picture.

Treatment Options for a Cocker Spaniel with Cataracts

If your dog has cataracts the good news is that three are many treatments available and unless it is caught very late the likelihood of a positive outcome is very high.

The course of action your vet chooses to take will depend on the size and speed it is growing. There can be cases where it is very small and your vet chooses to just monitor it.

Alternatively, they may use surgery to remove the cataract. This is the most common option as it is a relatively safe procedure and once removed a cataract will not return.

Nonsurgical Treatment

There are cases where a dog isn't suitable for surgery or their owner may not be comfortable with the idea. Unfortunately, there is no cure or way to stop eye deterioration.

Your vet may prescribe eye drops to reduce irritation but this is only really making your dog more comfortable, not a path to recovery.

Surgical Treatment

Cataract surgery is the only real option to deal with this condition. The success rates are very high, especially if caught early and your dog could have their vision completely restored to its previous state.

If your dog is going for cataract surgery it will be done by a veterinary ophthalmologist who specialises in eyes as it is a delicate procedure.

After the surgery you will need to take extra care of your Cocker for the next few weeks. You will be given a cone to ensure they can't damage their eyes.

One downside of cataract surgery is that it can lead to glaucoma. Glaucoma is a condition where pressure builds in your dog's eyes.

Cocker Spaniels with cataracts who are quite old or have cataracts which have progressed quite a bit will be more likely to have an eye removed instead. The longer it goes on the more difficult it is to remove.

What Happens After Treatment?

If your Cocker Spaniel has gone the surgery route, as most dogs do, they will need to wear an Elizabethan collar. While they may protest about the idea this collar will save damage done to their eyes by mistake.

Make sure you always keep this collar on to avoid any of the progress being undone. It's just not worth the risk.

Aside from the new very unpopular collar, there are other points you should consider. Firstly try to keep your Cocker very calm and relaxed. If your dog is too excited there is far more chance they injure themselves by mistake.

This point also means you will want to keep your dog away from young children or excitable dogs.

You will also want to reduce exercise. This is maybe for around five or six weeks until your dog becomes fully healed. Of course, take your vet's advice on this,

Your dog will likely be given medication to aid the healing process. Eye drops are often given 2-3 times per day.

Post cataract surgery Cocker Spaniels go back to the vet to see how things are healing four times. It happens on the first, second, fourth, and sixth week post-op. If you do see anything out of the ordinary then you should call your vet straight away.


So, as you now know cataracts are quite commonly seen in Cocker Spaniels. Also, just how damaging they can be to your dog's sight.

There are many reasons your Cocker could develop this condition but the most common reason is hereditary cataracts.

No matter the reason they got it early treatment is key to preventing long-term damage. The success rate of surgery is far higher.

Remember to actively check your Cocker Spaniels eyes for any sign of cloudiness and watch out for any changes in behaviour where they show poor coordination.

Just keep the tips in this article in mind and you will be well on your way to your dog maintaining a very healthy pair of dogs eyes.

Allan  Noble
Hi, my name is Allan! I am the owner of Spaniel Advisor and I've got over seven years experience of owning Spaniels.  
I hope this article was helpful for you! 
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