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Cataract Surgery for Dogs

Cataracts can cause your dog's vision to become blurred and eventually lead to blindness. However, surgery may be an option to help restore your pet's eyesight. In this article, our veterinarians in Pittsboro will provide you with information on what to expect when your dog undergoes cataract surgery.

What are cataracts in dogs?

Just like a camera, your dog's eyes also have a lens that helps them to focus and see clearly. However, if the lens becomes cloudy or opaque, it can lead to a cataract. Cataracts can affect the entire or a portion of the lens, which results in blurry vision and can impair your dog's eyesight.

What is the treatment for cataracts in dogs?

Cataracts in dogs can often be treated through surgery, during which an artificial lens can be inserted in place of the damaged one. However, not all dogs are suitable candidates for this procedure. 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.

Detecting cataracts early on is crucial to preserving your dog's vision. Regular, twice-yearly wellness exams with your veterinarian can help to identify signs of developing cataracts and recommend treatment before the condition worsens.

If your dog has already been diagnosed with cataracts and is considered a good candidate for surgery, it's important to have the procedure done as soon as possible. The earlier the surgery is performed, the better the long-term outcome will likely be for your furry friend.

If your dog is not a suitable candidate for surgery, please know they can still lead a good quality of life despite the blindness. Dogs are highly adaptable animals, and with some training, they can learn to rely on their other senses to navigate their surroundings effectively. Although they may initially face some challenges, they will eventually learn to navigate their home environment easily.

What is the dog cataract surgery process?

Most veterinary hospitals follow a similar process for cataract surgery in dogs. This typically includes:

Drop-Off

You will be informed when your dog must be dropped off at the veterinary hospital. It will most likely be the morning of or the night before surgery. While diabetic dogs require special attention, your veterinarian will provide detailed instructions on feeding and care leading up to surgery day. Make sure to follow your veterinarian's instructions carefully.

Pre-Surgery Testing

Your dog will be sedated before surgery, and an ultrasound will be performed to check for issues such as retinal detachment or lens rupture (bursting). To ensure that your dog's retina is functioning correctly, an electroretinogram (ERG) will be performed. If these tests reveal any unexpected problems, your dog may not be a candidate for cataract surgery.

Surgical Procedure

In dogs, cataract surgery is performed under a general anesthetic. A muscle relaxant will also be administered to help the eye sit correctly for the operation.

The procedure of phacoemulsification is used to remove cataracts in dogs. 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. Following removing the cataract-causing lens, an artificial lens implant (intraocular lens, or IOL) can be implanted in the eye to allow images to be focused clearly onto the retina.

Post-Surgery

Following cataract surgery, the veterinary surgeon usually recommends that your dog stay overnight for monitoring. After your dog returns home, they will require extensive aftercare, including the use of multiple types of eye drops multiple times per day.

What is the dog cataract surgery success rate?

Many dogs experience improved vision the day after cataract surgery. However, their vision may take a few weeks to stabilize as the eye adjusts to the new artificial lens. Cataract surgery is a highly successful treatment for dogs, with a high rate of positive outcomes, especially if the rest of the eye is functioning properly. 

Approximately 95% of dogs regain their vision as soon as they recover from the surgery. Your veterinarian can provide you with a long-term prognosis for your dog, but about 90% of dogs generally maintain their vision one year after surgery and 80% after two years. For successful long-term outcomes, providing good post-operative care and taking your dog for regular visits to the veterinarian for eye exams and monitoring throughout their life is crucial.

Are there risks with cataract surgery for dogs?

All surgical procedures involving pets or people carry some risk. Although complications from cataract surgery in dogs are uncommon, veterinary ophthalmologists have seen corneal ulcers and pressure elevations within the eye after the procedure. Taking your dog to the veterinary surgeon for a follow-up exam is critical for preventing complications after the surgery.

How long is dog cataract surgery recovery?

After cataract surgery in dogs, the initial healing period usually takes about two weeks. During this time, it is important to ensure that your dog always wears an E-collar (cone) and goes on leash walks only.

Your dog will require various medications, such as eye drops and oral medications, which must be given per your vet's instructions. It is essential to follow your vet's instructions carefully if you want to see an improvement in your dog's vision.

Based on the 2-week follow-up appointment outcome, the dosage of your dog's medications may be reduced, but some dogs may need to continue taking medication permanently.

How much is cataract surgery for dogs?

Several factors, including your location, the size of your dog, and overall health, will determine the cost of surgery for your pet. Your veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist will provide a detailed estimate for your pet's cataract surgery.

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.

Is your dog suffering from vision problems or showing signs of cataracts? Contact Hope Crossing Animal Hospital for an appointment today.

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Our vets at Hope Crossing Animal Hospital are now accepting new patients! Our talented veterinary team is passionate about caring for the pets of Pittsboro. Contact us today to book your first appointment. 

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