What are cataracts?
Within each of your dog’s eyes, there is a lens that works in a very similar way 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.
While laser surgery for cataracts in people is readily available, dog cataract laser surgery is not yet available. However, the science is developing and laser surgery is now used to treat dogs suffering from glaucoma. Below is a brief outline of how cataracts in dogs can often be treated with surgery, and what to expect if your dog has cataract surgery.
What treatments are available for cataracts in dogs?
While it's often possible for cataracts in dogs to be surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens, not all dogs with cataracts are suitable candidates for this surgery. If your pup 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.
Early diagnosis of conditions such as cataracts is essential when it comes to preserving your dog's vision. 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 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.
How much is cataract surgery for dogs?
This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. The cost of any veterinary surgery depends on multiple factors including the overall health of your dog, the severity of the condition and even where in the country you live. The only way to get an accurate estimate of how much your dog's cataract surgery will cost is to speak to your vet or veterinary surgeon. They will be able to supply you with a breakdown of costs, as well as insights into whether they feel your dog is a good candidate for cataract surgery.
What is the cataract surgery process?
Every veterinary hospital has its own process, but 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.
- 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.
- Usually, 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 dog cataract surgery success rate?
Our vets are often asked, 'Will my dog be able to see after cataract surgery?'. The great news is that 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 through your dog's life.
Are there any risks associated with cataract surgery?
Every surgical procedure performed on pets or people comes with some level of risk. Complications stemming from cataract surgery in dogs is 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 dog cataract surgery recovery like?
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.
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.