The head of ophthalmology at one of Europe’s biggest veterinary centres is calling for better education on the need to urgently refer dogs with cataracts caused by diabetes cases to avoid irreversible sight loss.

James Oliver, from Dick White Referrals in Cambridgeshire, has spoken out after dealing with a significant increase in cases where dogs with diabetes are referred too late to save their sight.

James, a European and RCVS specialist in veterinary ophthalmology at the Linnaeus-owned practice, said treatment at primary care vets often focuses on trying to fine-tune the control of the diabetes.

He said treatment at a specialist veterinary centre can improve chances of successful surgery, as multi-disciplinary teams are best placed to cater for the complex medical needs for diabetic dogs requiring surgery, including stabilising the dog’s glucose control before a general anaesthetic.

James said: “If we are given the chance to assess a dog with diabetes as soon as cataracts develop then it is usually pretty straightforward to restore vision with a specialist operation.

“Often, diabetic dogs are referred to us too late because vets unwittingly delay referral while they enhance control of the diabetes.

“Unfortunately, this can mean it can become too late to perform sight-saving surgery and the dog may even have to have their eyes removed on welfare grounds.

“When cataract surgery wasn’t commonplace and as successful, maybe 20 years ago, there was more of a justification to delay surgery. But that isn’t necessary now with advances in veterinary care.

“It’s why it’s so important to improve education about this issue and raise more awareness of what can be done to both vets and dog owners alike.”

In one example case, seven-year-old Cockerpoo Lola went blind overnight in August 2020 due to diabetic cataracts and lived without sight for 16 months until she had successful treatment at DWR.

Lola was referred to Joana Aguiar, one of DWR’s specialists in internal medicine, who diagnosed her with hypothyroidism. After treatment for this, her diabetes improved and she was stable enough to have her cataracts removed by Georgina Fricker, a specialist in ophthalmology.

“Lola’s symptoms were quite common for a dog where the diabetes isn’t well-controlled. Her skin was bad, her behaviour had changed and she was a sick dog,” said Georgie.

“Following surgery, Lola’s eyesight was restored and she is now living a full and happy life.”

Dick White Referrals offers specialist-led care in anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, diagnostic pathology, emergency and critical care, internal medicine, interventional radiology, neurology and neurosurgery, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, physiotherapy and soft tissue surgery.

For more information, visit or search for Dick White Referrals on social media.

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