Cataracts are a relatively common eye condition in dogs that can result in eventual blindness and blurred vision. However, in many circumstances surgery can help to restore your pooch's sight. Today, our Powder Springs vets explain cataract surgery in dogs, and what to expect if your dog has cataract surgery.
What are cataracts in dogs?
Each one of your dog's eyes contains a leans similar to the lens of a camera. This lens works to focus your pooch's vision to provide clear sight. A cataract is a cloudiness or opacification that may appear 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?
While it's often possible for cataracts in dogs to be surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens, not all dogs with cataracts will be suitable candidates for this surgery. If your pooch as a pre-existing retinal degeneration, retinal detachment, glaucoma or severe inflammation of the eyes, cataract surgery may not be a treatment avenue we can recommend for your dog.
When it comes to preserving your dog's vision, early diagnosis of conditions including cataracts is critical. Regularly scheduled, 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 serious.
If your dog is diagnosed with a cataract and proves to be a good candidate for surgery, the sooner the surgery can be performed, the higher probability of a long-term outcome.
If it turns out that surgery isn't an option for your pooch, rest assured that, while your dog will remain blind, they can still enjoy a very good quality of life. With a little practice, your dog will soon adapt and use their other senses to navigate their home environment.
What is the cataract surgery process for dogs?
You'll likely find that each animal hospital does things a little differently when it comes to cataract surgery procedures. That said, in most cases, you'll be asked to drop your dog off the morning of the surgery or the night before. While some special care is needed for dogs with diabetes, in all cases your vet should provide you with detailed instructions regarding care and feeding in the lead-up to surgery day. Make sure to follow your vet's instructions carefully to avoid a postponed surgery.
- Your dog will be sedated pre-surgery and an ultrasound will be done to look for issues such as rupture (bursting) of the lens or retinal detachment. An electroretinogram (ERG) will also be done to confirm that your dog's retina is working properly. If these tests turn up any unexpected issues, unfortunately, this may prevent your dog from being eligible 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. Intensive at-home aftercare will be required following surgery including the use of several types of eye drops multiple times each day.
Will my dog be able to see after cataract surgery?
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.
Are there risks with cataract surgery for dogs?
All surgical procedures with pets come with some level of risk. Complications stemming from cataract surgery in dogs is rare, but some complications seen by vets 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.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from cataract surgery?
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 several medications to your dog, 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.