Holistic Help For Dogs with Cataracts

Just like in people, cataracts can also occur in dogs as they age.  Large amounts of proteins in the lenses of the eyes undergo biochemical changes, turning the eyes cloudy or milky white.  This can affect the vision and in severe cases, cause blindness.  As with any disorder, proper nutrition and supplementation can go a long way in maintaining the optimal health of our pets.

Cataracts are often caused by free radicals, which are produced when oxidation occurs within the body’s cells.  The body removes free radicals by producing its own antioxidants.  As our pets age, however, they are usually unable to produce enough of their own antioxidants.  This is when providing extra antioxidants can be extremely helpful.

Several natural options are available to slow the progression of cataracts.  A staple in maintaining general good health, as well as aiding in cases of cataracts are vitamins C, and E.  Pets with cataracts can be given 100 milligrams of vitamin C twice a day for every 10 pounds of body weight.  Some pets, as well as people, can develop diarrhea when taking vitamin C in large amounts.  If this happens, simply reduce the dosage until you find a level that your pet can tolerate.  The recommended dosage of vitamin E for combating cataracts is 50 IU for every 10 pounds of body weight once a day.  It should be noted that vitamin E does have a “blood-thinning” effect that could lead to problems in certain situation.  As with any nutritional supplementation, please consult your veterinarian before use.  Especially if your pet has other conditions or is on other medications that may interact negatively.

Vitamin A is the key vitamin that people think of when considering vision care.  The AFFCO recommended dosage for dogs and cats is 100 IU to 200 IU/kg/day with the toxic dose in dogs at approximately 20,000/IU/kg/day.  Because of this toxicity risk, I usually recommend that people consult their veterinarian for a vitamin A dosage for their particular pet. 

Bilberries, which are related to blueberries, are very rich sources of antioxidants known as flavonoids.  Flavonoids act like an armor and help protect the tissues of the eyes.  Bilberry is throughout Europe to treat poor night vision and day blindness.  It is thought to help prevent or treat other eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.  When mixed with vitamin E, bilberry was able to stop lens clouding in 97% of people with early-stage cataracts.  Bilberry should be equally effective in pets.  The recommended dosage for pets is to mix the contents of one 50 milligram capsule in your pet’s food once a day. 

Bilberry is a food and as such is quite safe.  There are no known drug interactions.  However, do consult your veterinarian before offering to pets that are on hypoglycemic therapy. 

Cod liver oil contains large amounts of vitamin A and can be given is the following doses:  ¼ teaspoon to pets under 15 pounds, ½ teaspoon to pets 15 to 50 pounds and 1 teaspoon to larger pets.  This is a perfect example of why I refrain from offering dosages of vitamin A to people.  Other forms of supplementation may contain vitamin A that you may be unaware of.  As with any nutritional supplementation, please consult your veterinarian before use. 

Spirulina, otherwise known as blue-green algae, is packed with trace minerals that may not be obtainable from diet alone.  There have also been findings of cancer-fighting abilities in spirulina.  Pets weighing less than 15 pounds can have 125 milligrams per day.  Pets 15 to 50 pounds can take 250 milligrams, and larger dogs can take 500 milligrams per day.  Spirulina may affect the balance of blood sugars in the body so consult your veterinarian before offering it to pets with suspected diabetes or Cushing’s disease.

Cineraria is a healing herb that can help reverse cataracts that have already formed.  The juice of this plant is diluted at least 50:50 with artificial tears and the eye drops are available by prescription from veterinarians.  Reports indicate that pets with cataracts appear to have improved vision, although the opacity of the lens may not decrease.  If cineraria will work, it will usually occur with the first bottle.

Natural diets and homeopathic care for our pets can be beneficial to their health in many ways.  However, I will never recommend that you stop conventional medical care completely.  It is my belief that the two forms of pet care can be used together harmoniously to ensure the optimal health and wellness our beloved four-legged friends. So again, I stress, as with any nutritional supplementation, please consult your veterinarian before use.