A lifelong commitment that includes client education and antioxidant support.
In the veterinary clinic, dogs and cats are most often seen for eye problems when there is an acute injury or obvious clinical signs of a problem. Vision health probably isn’t first and foremost in a client’s mind. So it’s important to start a dialogue about lifelong vision support as early in the pet’s life as possible.
Pet owners may not be aware that their dogs and cats can experience some of the same vision concerns as humans as they age. And because pets are so good at compensating for vision loss, clients may not notice early on that their pets’ vision is changing. The uncanny ability of dogs and cats to use their senses of hearing and smell to adapt to vision loss could very well trick their owners into thinking everything is fine, as most dogs and cats can get around fairly well until they have lost about 80% of the vision in both eyes.
The good news is that many ocular conditions once considered hopeless are not necessarily so today. You can help put your clients on the path to supporting their pets’ vision health by:
• Alerting them to any risks for ocular disease due to breed or age
• Encouraging them to have their pets’ vision checked annually by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist if ocular disease is present
• Explaining signs to watch for that indicate vision change
• Educating them about the benefits of antioxidants to help maintain cellular health of the eye, and protect the retina and lens against the damaging effects of oxidative stress.
ANTIOXIDANTS FOR OXIDATIVE STRESS
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules produced by the body during normal metabolic processes, and also by external factors such as dietary deficiencies, ongoing stress, or exposure to environmental toxins like pollution and pesticides. Free radicals are unstable “live wires” that can trigger a damaging chain reaction as they seek to stabilize themselves by stealing an electron from a healthy molecule.
Antioxidants help keep free radicals in check by neutralizing or removing them through donation of an electron. The body produces antioxidants naturally; however, recommending antioxidant support through diet and supplementation may help support already healthy cells while protecting pets from the effects of oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic inflammation and degenerative changes.
Daily antioxidant supplements that include ingredients such as lutein, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, grapeseed extract, and vitamins C and E may help protect the lens of the eye against a variety of oxidative stressors. Omega-3 fatty acids may complement these antioxidants in support of vision health.
Vision care and prevention that begins early in an animal’s life will offer the best outcome, so be sure to start the vision health conversation from day one. Keep in mind that for pets with already declining vision — especially older animals — a return to full vision is a lofty goal. Instead, focus on supportive care that will help slow vision loss and preserve remaining vision, to give these pets the best possible quality of life.