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 Clarksville 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?
Cataracts in dogs are frequently surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens. However, not all dogs with cataracts are good candidates for this surgery. If your dog has a pre-existing retinal detachment, retinal degeneration, glaucoma, or severe inflammation of the eyes, cataract surgery may not be an option.
When it comes to saving your dog's vision, early detection of conditions such as cataracts is critical. Regular twice-yearly wellness exams allow your veterinarian 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 pup isn't suitable for surgery rest assured that, although your pooch will remain blind they can still enjoy a very good quality of life. With a little practice, your dog will soon adapt and navigate their home environment well by using their other senses to guide them.
What is the cataract surgery process for dogs?
Each veterinary hospital will handle things differently, but in most cases, you will drop your dog off the morning of surgery or the night before. While some special care is required for diabetic dogs, your veterinarian will always provide you with detailed feeding and care instructions prior to surgery day. Make sure to carefully follow your veterinarian's instructions.
- 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.
- Cataract surgery will be performed under a general anesthetic. A muscle relaxant will also be administered to help your dog's eye sit in the correct position for the operation. Cataracts in dogs are removed using a technique called phacoemulsification. This procedure uses an ultrasonic device to break up and remove the cloudy lens from the dog's eye, and is the same procedure that is used in cataract surgery on people. Once the lens with the cataract has been removed an artificial lens implant (intraocular lens, or IOL) can then be placed 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.
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 process like for dogs that have had cataract surgery?
In dogs, the initial healing period after cataract surgery is about 2 weeks. During that time, your dog must wear an E-collar (cone) at all times and limit their activity to leash walks only. During this time, you will also need to give your dog a number of medications, including eye drops and oral medications. It is critical to carefully follow your veterinarian's instructions in order to achieve a positive outcome for your dog's vision.
Depending on the results of the 2-week follow-up appointment, your dog's medications may be reduced, however, some dogs will need to remain on medication permanently.
How much is cataract surgery for dogs?
This question is better posed to your vet directly. They should be able to give you a more accurate estimate.
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.