Contact Lenses for Your Pets
No, we are not making this up. You can get contact lenses for animals too. In fact, why should we think of it as being so unusual? Cats and dogs can develop many human ailments such as diabetes, anxiety, depression and deafness and they already receive treatment for those, so why not eye problems too?
Cataracts Are No Respecter of Species
In humans, cataracts normally develop as we age. They are seen as a condition that affects the elderly. True they can occur earlier, but this is quite rare. When we develop a cataract, the crystalline lens that covers the inside of the eye thickens and hardens. This causes cloudy vision and can eventually lead to blindness.
Dogs can develop cataracts at any age. When a dog loses its vision, it loses its sense of mobility, its ability to find food, to navigate and in short to function. Cataracts in the natural world can mean death.
But it's not only dogs that are affected. In fact, cataracts can develop on cats, monkeys, sea lions, kangaroos, well, most mammals actually.
In humans we treat this condition by placing a special kind of contact lens, an intraocular lens, inside the eye to replace the clouded lens. We developed this technology for humans in the 1950s. Animals, however, had to wait until much more recently for their cataract treatment. They had to wait until the 1980s.
Big or Small, They Have a Lens to Fit
Now, however, animals can have access to intraocular lenses too. Many veterinary practices now offer cataract surgery using intraocular lenses to their patients. They don't wait until the cataract is fully formed. They prefer to work on the eye whilst the cataract is in its early stages, to prevent the animal undergoing the stress of losing its vision.
But, that's not to say they can't be used when cataracts are fully formed.
One company in particular, S&V Technologies, of Germany, founded by Dr. Christine Kreiner, has developed the technology and the procedure to enable vets to insert intraocular lenses into various animals' eyes, no matter how large or small the animal might be. They have already successfully restored vision to a sea lion at Sea World in San Diego, brown bears in China and to a blind kangaroo here in Australia.
Now that's a sight for sore eyes!