Cataracts are a relatively common eye condition in people in dogs that can result in blurred vision and eventual blindness, but surgery can help to restore sight in many cases. Today our Ocala vets share a little about cataract surgery for dogs, and what you can expect if your dog has cataract surgery.
What are cataracts in dogs?
A lens similar to a camera lens is located within each of your dog's eyes. This lens works to focus your dog's vision and provide clear vision. A cataract is an opacification or cloudiness that can occur on all or part of the lens, interfering with the focus of a clear image on the retina and impairing your dog's ability to see clearly.
How can cataracts in dogs be treated?
It is often possible for cataracts in dogs to be surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens. That said, not all dogs with cataracts are suitable candidates for this surgery. If your pooch has a pre-existing retinal detachment, retinal degeneration, glaucoma, or severe inflammation of the eyes, cataract surgery may not be an option for your pooch.
When it comes to saving your dog's vision, early diagnosis of conditions such as cataracts is important. Regular twice-yearly wellness exams give your vet the opportunity to check your dog's eyes for signs of developing cataracts and recommend treatment before they become more serious.
In dogs diagnosed with cataracts that are good candidates for surgery, the sooner the surgery can be performed, the better their long-term outcome is likely to be.
If your dog isn't a candidate for surgery, rest assured that it can still live a very good life despite remaining blind. With a little practice, your dog will quickly adapt and navigate their home environment by relying on their other senses.
What is the cataract surgery process for dogs?
Each veterinary hospital is bound to do things a little differently however, in most cases, you will drop your dog off either the morning of surgery or the night before. While some special care is required for dogs with diabetes, in all cases your vet will provide you with detailed instructions regarding feeding and care leading up to surgery day. Be sure to follow your vet's instructions carefully.
- Before the surgery begins your dog will be sedated and an ultrasound will be performed to check for issues such as retinal detachment or rupture (bursting) of the lens. An electroretinogram (ERG) will also be done in order to confirm that your dog's retina is working properly. If these tests turn up any unexpected issues, unfortunately, your dog may not be suitable for cataract surgery.
- A general anesthetic will be used for cataract surgery. A muscle relaxant will also be given to your dog to help his eye sit in the correct position for the operation. Cataracts in dogs are removed using a procedure known as phacoemulsification. This procedure, which is similar to cataract surgery on humans, uses an ultrasonic device to break up and remove the cloudy lens from the dog's eye. After the cataract-affected lens is removed, an artificial lens implant (intraocular lens, or IOL) can be implanted in the eye to allow images to be focused clearly onto the retina.
- Typically the vet performing your dog's ocular surgery will recommend that your dog stay overnight for monitoring, following cataract surgery. Intensive at-home aftercare will be required following surgery including the use of several types of eye drops, multiple times each day.
What is the success rate of cataract surgery in dogs?
Many dogs will have some vision restored by the very next day, but typically it will take a few weeks for vision to settle as the eye adjusts to the effect of surgery and the presence of the artificial lens. Provided that the rest of the eye is in good working order, cataract surgery in dogs is considered a very successful treatment with a high rate of positive outcomes.
Approximately 95% of dogs regain vision immediately after surgery. Your veterinarian can give you a long-term prognosis for your dog, but in general, maintaining vision after surgery is about 90% at one year and 80% at two years. Good post-operative care and regular visits to the veterinarian for eye examinations and monitoring, both after surgery and throughout your dog's life, are critical to long-term success.
How much is cataract surgery for dogs?
Speak to your vet directly if you're concerned about cost. They should be able to give you a more accurate estimate.
Are there risks with cataract surgery for dogs?
All surgical procedures on animals or humans carry some level of risk. Complications from cataract surgery in dogs are uncommon, but vets have seen corneal ulcers and pressure elevations within the eye after cataract surgery. Taking your dog to the veterinary surgeon for a follow-up exam is critical for preventing complications after surgery.
What is the recovery like for cataract surgery in dogs?
The initial healing period following cataract surgery in dogs is approximately 2 weeks. Throughout that period, your dog will need to wear an E-collar (cone) at all times and have their activity restricted to leash walks only. You will also need to administer a number of medications to your dog during this time, including eye drops and oral medications. Carefully following your vet's instructions is essential for achieving a good outcome for your dog's vision.
Your dog's medications may be reduced based on the results of the 2-week follow-up appointment; however, some dogs will require medication indefinitely.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.