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 Rabun County 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?
Within each of your dog’s eyes, there is a lens that is similar to the lens of a camera. This lens works to focus your pup's vision in order to provide clear sight. A cataract is an opacification or cloudiness that can occur on all or part of the lens, which interferes with a clear image being focused on the retina, and hampers your dog's ability to see clearly.
How can cataracts in dogs be treated?
Cataracts in dogs can frequently be surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens. However, not all dogs with cataracts are candidates for this surgery. If your dog already has a retinal detachment, retinal degeneration, glaucoma, or severe inflammation of the eyes, cataract surgery may be out of the question.
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 pup isn't suitable for surgery rest assured that, although your pooch will remain blind it can still enjoy a very good quality of life. With a little practice, your dog will soon adapt and navigate its home environment well by using its 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, your dog will be sedated, and an ultrasound will be performed to look for problems such as retinal detachment or lens rupture (bursting). An electroretinogram (ERG) will also be performed to ensure that your dog's retina is functioning properly. If these tests reveal any unexpected problems, your dog may not be a candidate 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.
How much is cataract surgery for dogs?
It's always best to discuss this kind of question directly with your vet. They will be able to give you a more accurate estimate.
What is the success rate for 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 as soon as they recover from the surgery. Your vet will be able to give you a long-term prognosis for your dog however, generally speaking, maintaining vision after surgery is about 90% at 1 year, and 80% at 2 years postoperatively. The key to successful long-term outcomes is good post-operative care and regular visits to the veterinarian for eye examinations and monitoring, following surgery and throughout your dog's life.
Are there risks with cataract surgery for dogs?
All surgical procedures with pets or people come with some level of risk. Complications stemming from cataract surgery in dogs are rare, but some complications seen by vets following cataract surgery are corneal ulcers and pressure elevations within the eye. Taking your dog for a follow-up exam with the veterinary surgeon is essential for helping to prevent issues from developing after the surgery.
What is the recovery like for dogs that 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.
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.