Cataracts are a prevalent eye problem that can impact both humans and dogs. While they can cause blurred vision and, eventually, blindness, surgery is often effective in restoring vision for most individuals. In this post, our Baltimore vets discuss cataract surgery for dogs and what you can expect if your dog undergoes the procedure.
What are cataracts in dogs?
Just like in humans, dogs can develop cataracts. A cataract is an opacification or a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. It can cause vision blurred vision that can be compared to looking through a frosty or fogged-up window.
How can cataracts in dogs be treated?
In some cases, dogs with cataracts can undergo surgery to remove them and have an artificial lens implanted. However, not all dogs with cataracts are suitable candidates for this procedure. If your dog has pre-existing conditions like retinal detachment, retinal degeneration, glaucoma, or severe eye inflammation, cataract surgery may not be an option.
Early detection of cataracts is crucial for preserving your dog's vision. Regular wellness exams every six months allow your veterinarian to monitor your dog's eyes for signs of developing cataracts and recommend appropriate treatment before they worsen.
For dogs that are eligible for cataract surgery, the sooner the procedure is performed, the better their long-term prognosis tends to be.
If your dog is not suitable for surgery, take comfort in knowing that although they may be blind, they can still have a fulfilling life. With time and practice, your dog will adapt and rely on their other senses to navigate their home environment.
What is the process for cataract surgery in dogs?
Each veterinary hospital will do things a little differently however, in most cases, you will drop your dog off either the morning of surgery or the night before. 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.
- During cataract surgery for dogs, your pet will be placed under general anesthesia. To ensure proper positioning of the eye during the operation, a muscle relaxant will be administered. The technique used for removing cataracts in dogs is called phacoemulsification, which involves using an ultrasonic device to break up and extract the cloudy lens from the eye. This method is the same as what is used in cataract surgery for humans. After removing the cataract, an artificial lens implant known as an intraocular lens (IOL) can be inserted into the eye to allow clear focusing of images onto the retina.
- Typically the vet performing your dog's 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.
Will my dog be able to see after cataract surgery?
Most dogs will experience some improvement in vision within the first day after cataract surgery. However, it usually takes a few weeks for the vision to fully stabilize as the eye adapts to the surgery and the presence of the artificial lens. If the rest of the eye is healthy, the success rate of cataract surgery for dogs is around 90% at the one-year mark and 80% at the two-year mark.
To ensure positive long-term results, it is essential to provide proper post-operative care and schedule regular visits to the veterinarian for eye examinations and monitoring 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 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.
How much is cataract surgery for dogs?
In general, pet owners can expect to pay between $2,700 and $4,000 for cataract surgery with the average cost being $3,500.
How long is the dog cataract surgery recovery time?
After cataract surgery in dogs, the initial healing phase lasts for about two weeks. During this time, it's important to keep a cone on your dog at all times and limit their activity to leash walks only.
Additionally, you will need to administer various medications to your dog, including eye drops and oral medications. Adhering closely to your veterinarian's instructions is crucial for ensuring a positive outcome and preserving 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.