What is hereditary cataract?

Cataract is a common cause of blindness in dogs. The condition is the same in people - over time the lens in the eye begins to cloud over until the world becomes blurred and vision is lost.

In dogs, hereditary cataract is an inherited condition passed down from parents to puppies. Some dogs are born with hereditary cataract…

Taking a DNA cheek swab is quick, simple and non-invasive

Researching hereditary cataract 

Hereditary cataract is complex – we believe it is likely that variants in several genes, acting independently or together, could influence whether a certain dog, or breed, develops it. Because of this, our research is trying to understand what causes the disease so we can do two things: aid prevention and improve treatment.

We don’t know why some breeds are more susceptible than others, but to learn more we are focussing our research on breeds that we know are regularly affected. These include Labrador Retrievers, Irish Red and White Setters, Australian Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Samoyeds, Alaskan Malamutes, Icelandic Sheepdogs and Norwegian Buhunds, as well as Miniature Schnauzers who are sometimes born with hereditary cataract.



There are treatments available, but with a huge number of cataracts being genetically inherited our research hopes to prevent dogs from having to undergo corrective procedures by minimising the risk of the genetic risk factors being passed down the generations. A better understanding of why it develops will, in the future, mean less affected dogs.

Dr Sally Ricketts
Dr Sally Ricketts, Complex Disease Team Leader, Canine Genetics Research Group

4 DNA tests for hereditary cataract developed at the AHT

48 minimum number of dogs of one breed affected by hereditary cataract needed to help our research

Help our research into hereditary cataract 

In order to learn more and develop new DNA tests, we need help from owners and breeders of:

  • any dogs affected by any bilateral cataract
  • any dog, over six years of age, confirmed clear of cataracts by a veterinary ophthalmologist

We cannot develop DNA tests to help more dogs without your help! You can help by requesting a cheek swab collection kit to gather DNA from your dog which you simply send back to us in the post!

Please send me a cheek swab kit to help with cataract research

Please help our cataract research

Donate now

We have already successfully created DNA tests for hereditary cataract in a number of breeds including Australian Shepherds, French Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

These can be purchased from www.ahtdnatesting.co.uk 

Research lead

Dr Sally Ricketts

Dr Sally Ricketts

Complex Disease Team Leader, Canine Genetics Research Group

Sally’s current role within the Canine Genetics Research Group involves designing, co-ordinating and analysing genome-wide association studies of complex conditions in the dog, including hereditary cataract and idiopathic epilepsy.

Read Dr Sally Ricketts's bio

We are very grateful to the following for their ongoing support of this work:

The Kennel Club Charitable Trust,
Dogs Trust,
various Breed Clubs and individuals.