Cataracts In Boston Terriers: Everything You Need To Know

Did you know that the Boston Terrier is one of the breeds with the highest risk for developing cataracts?

In this article, I will teach you what you need to know about cataracts in Boston Terriers. 

Cataracts In Boston Terriers: Everything You Need To Know

You will learn what cataracts are and what causes them. Also, you will learn the most common signs and symptoms of cataracts. 

Last, we will review what you should do if your Boston Terrier has cataracts.

Cataracts In Boston Terriers: Everything You Need To Know

The Complete Guide To Cataracts In Boston Terriers

Have you ever noticed a haziness or cloudiness in the pupil of your Boston’s eye? 

This could be a sign of a cataract forming or something else. Many older dogs develop normal cloudiness in the eye as they age and sometimes it can be hard to tell what is normal and what is a cataract.

First, let’s review what exactly a cataract is and how to tell if your Boston has cataracts.

What Are Cataracts In Boston Terriers?

Within a dog’s eye, there is a lens in the center that is extremely clear. This lens serves to focus light on the retina in the back of the eye to send messages to the brain to allow your dog to see.

The lens within the eye contains fluid and proteins. If these proteins begin to clump together abnormally, this will form cataracts.

Mature cataracts are opaque meaning that your dog will not be able to see through them. They will appear as a white cloudiness in the middle of the eye.

Dr. Reinhard’s Video Covering Boston Terrier Cataracts

In this YouTube video Donnie with the Boston Terrier Society talks to Dr. Addie Reinhard about cataracts in Boston Terriers.

Dr. Reinhard discusses cataracts in Boston Terriers.

4 Stages Of Cataracts In Bostons

Cataracts have a natural progression starting off small and becoming larger over time. 

They may mature and develop to cover the entire eye which would mean that your Boston will no longer be able to see normally.

Here are the four stages of cataracts.

Incipient Cataracts

In the early stages, the cataract will cover less than 15 percent of the lens of the eye. Because they only cover a small area of the lens, your dog will still be able to see at this stage.

Immature Cataracts

Immature cataracts cover 15 percent to 99 percent of the lens. In this stage, the cataract is still forming, so your dog may still have some intact vision.

Mature Cataracts

In this stage, the cataract is fully formed covering 100 percent of the lens. It will appear as a round white cloudy opacity in the center of your dog’s eye. Because it is covering the entire lens, your Boston will be blind at this stage.

Hypermature Cataracts

After reaching maturity, the cataracts may progress to the next stage which is hypermaturity. In this stage, the cataracts may become inflamed and cause irritation within the eye.

Cataracts In Boston Terriers: Everything You Need To Know

Which Dog Breeds Are Prone To Developing Cataracts?

Boston Terriers have a higher risk of developing cataracts at some point in their life as compared to other dog breeds.

One study from researchers at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine found that 1,693 out of 15,241 Boston Terriers had cataracts. This means that around 11% of these Bostons had cataracts.

Some of the other most common dog breeds affected with cataracts are:

What Causes Cataracts In Boston Terriers?

One of the most common causes of cataracts in Boston Terriers is genetic. There appears to be some risk of Boston Terriers inheriting genes that may predispose them to develop cataracts. 

Some Bostons can be born with cataracts, also known as congenital cataracts, though this is rare.

Other reasons that Boston Terriers may develop cataracts include:

Cataracts In Boston Terriers: Everything You Need To Know

When Do Boston Terriers Develop Cataracts? Is This Something Younger Boston’s Can Have As Well Or Just Older Dogs?

Bostons can develop cataracts at any age. It seems to be most common for Bostons to develop cataracts over the age of 7, but younger Bostons still have a risk of developing cataracts.

Gelatt and MacKay, veterinary researchers from the University of Florida provided a breakdown of the age of Boston Terriers with cataracts. The highest age prevalence was in the 7-15+ year range though any age appeared to be at risk.

Some Boston Terriers with congenital cataracts were diagnosed at under 2 weeks of age. Early-onset cataracts in Boston Terriers can occur between 1 and 7 years of age, and this is thought to be genetic.

The following table shows the prevalence of cataracts in Boston Terriers that were patients at North American veterinary teaching hospitals broken down by age.

Age of Boston TerrierPercent of Boston Terriers that age with cataracts
< 2 weeks of age2.78%
2-6 months1.18%
6-12 months1.31%
1-2 years3.64%
2-4 years6.67%
4-7 years8.32%
7-10 years16.42%
10-15 years26.54%
15+ years8.33%

Table 1. Prevalence of cataracts in Bostons by age of presentation (Gellatt & MacKay, 2005).

Signs And Symptoms Of Cataracts In Boston Terriers

If you notice a cloudiness in your Boston’s eye, it may be challenging to determine if this is from a cataract or a normal aging change. I always recommend consulting with a veterinarian if you suspect that your dog has a cataract.

What Do Cataracts Look Like? How Can You Tell If A Boston Has Cataracts?

Cataracts are white cloudy opacities in the center of the eye. If your Boston has a fully developed cataract, they won’t be able to see very well and may even be blind.

The most common signs that you may notice if your Boston has a cataract are:

  • White Cloudiness Within The Pupil Of The Eye Or Eyes
  • Vision Loss
  • Bumping Into Objects
  • Clumsiness
  • Reluctance To Jump On Furniture Or Climb Stairs

Video Of A Boston With Possible Cataracts

Boston Terrier With Possible Cataracts.

Can Bostons Develop Cloudy Eyes As They Get Older?

Nuclear sclerosis, also known as lenticular sclerosis, is the normal aging changes that occur within the lens that causes cloudiness. Unlike cataracts, dogs with nuclear sclerosis can see normally.

Almost every dog over the age of 6 or 7 years old develops nuclear sclerosis, so this is very common within older Boston Terriers. 

Usually, with nuclear sclerosis, the eye will appear slightly cloudy, but there are no white opacities within the eye.

How Can You Differentiate Cataracts And Nuclear Sclerosis At Home? 

Again, it is always important to consult with your veterinarian anytime you notice a change in your Boston’s eyes.

As you are waiting for your vet appointment, here is a simple test you can try at home. Have you ever noticed how dogs’ eyes sometimes glow in the dark? The glowing happens because an area in the retina lights up and reflects. 

If you shine a flashlight into your dog’s eye from a few feet away at night and the eyes glow, most likely your dog does not have mature cataracts because the light is shining through the lens and hitting the back of the eye and reflecting back.

How Do Veterinarians Diagnose Cataracts?

Vets can diagnose cataracts on physical examination. They will be able to identify the presence of the cataract and the stage of the cataract on visual inspection of the eye.

Boston Terrier cataracts

Can A Boston Terrier Live With Cataracts? Is It Painful?

In general, cataracts are not painful. Most dogs can live a comfortable life with cataracts. My main recommendation is don’t move around any furniture in your house.

Bostons with cataracts usually develop them slowly over time so they gradually lose their vision and will learn to adapt to being blind. They will be able to navigate the house based on smell and memory.

That being said, Bostons with cataracts are at risk of developing complications. Some of these complications can be painful.

For example, some Bostons with cataracts may develop glaucoma which is an extremely painful condition. For this reason, your veterinarian may recommend regular monitoring and pressure checks of an eye with a cataract.

Also, cataracts may cause inflammation within the eye which can cause some discomfort so your veterinarian may recommend an anti-inflammatory eye drop.

Boston Terrier cataracts

Boston Terrier Cataract Treatment Options

After a cataract has formed, the only option to restore the vision is surgical removal. Currently, there are no medications on the market that will remove cataracts from a Boston’s eye.

Some cataracts can cause inflammation within the eye and your veterinarian may recommend regular anti-inflammatory eye drops for your Boston with cataracts if you cannot afford the surgery.

Phacoemulsification Surgery For Cataracts

The most common surgical treatment for cataracts is called phacoemulsification. This method uses ultrasonic energy to break up the cataract and lens material. Usually, an artificial lens will be placed in the eye.

Watch the video below that cover the phacoemulsification surgery. This was a surgery conducted on a Poodle.

Phacoemulsification surgery conducted on a Poodle.

This procedure is only done at specialty centers by veterinary ophthalmologists. They may recommend running a few specialty tests prior to removing the cataracts to ensure that the vision is still intact behind the cataract.

After surgery, your dog will need regular eye drops. Many dogs will need 4 or 5 different topical eye medications that need to be applied 4 to 6 times per day for many weeks after surgery. 

Your dog will have to wear an E-collar for around 3 weeks after surgery to protect the eyes. There will also be several recheck appointments after the surgery.

The most common complication from this procedure is glaucoma. Boston terriers seem to be at a higher risk of developing glaucoma after this surgery. 

In general, this procedure has a fairly high success rate with over 80% of dogs having a successful return of vision.

How Much Does It Cost To Remove Cataracts In Bostons?

Phacoemulsification surgery for removing cataracts can be rather pricey. Plan on an average bill of $3,000 – $6,000.

If you want to save on your veterinarian bills check out Pet Assure. This program offers 25% off vet visits with no pre-existing conditions requirements. Learn more to see if your vet participates here, Pet Assure.

Will Cataracts That Are NOT Corrected Always Get Worse Over Time?

It depends on a variety of factors. The majority of cataracts will get worse over time if they are not corrected. Occasionally, a very small incipient cataract will form and never get worse over time.

Is There A Way To Fix Cataracts Without Surgery?

Unfortunately, there is no way to fix cataracts without surgery. There have been a few experimental treatments tried, but at this point in November 2020, there are no readily available alternatives to surgery.

A Few Final Recommendations

Cataracts are extremely common within the Boston Terrier breed.

Cataracts will appear as a white cloudy area in the center pupil of the eye. Because cataracts are opaque, if a Boston has mature cataracts, they will be blind.

The treatment of choice for cataracts is phacoemulsification surgery which is extremely costly but has a very high success rate for return to vision. 

If you cannot afford surgery for cataracts, your veterinarian will recommend regular monitoring of the eye and possible anti-inflammatory eye drops to ensure that the eye stays comfortable.

If you suspect your Boston has cataracts or some other type of eye issue, I recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Addie Reinhard, DVM

Addie Reinhard, DVM- Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced small animal veterinarian. She is a Boston Terrier lover and always enjoys caring for her Boston patients at the veterinary clinic. She is passionate about providing helpful educational resources to pet parents regarding animal diseases and preventative care. She lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats.

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