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Cataract Surgery for Dogs - What to Expect

Cataract Surgery for Dogs - What to Expect

If your dog is suffering from cataracts then they will have a decrease in their vision along with blurriness which will eventually lead to blindness. Here, our Fairhaven veterinarians offer some information about cataracts in dogs and what to expect from the surgery required to treat them.

Cataracts in Dogs

Your dog's eyes have a lens that helps your dog to focus their vision. Cataracts are a concern that can interfere with the ability to see clearly. 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.

Is there any treatment for cataracts in dogs?

In many cases, dog cataracts can be surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens. However, cataract surgery will not be suited for every dog. 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 for your pup.

As with most conditions, the sooner the diagnosis the better the chance of a good outcome. You should bring your dog in for twice-yearly examinations which include a look at their eye health.

If your pup has been diagnosed with cataracts and is a good candidate for surgery then your vet will discuss the next steps with you. Remember, the sooner the surgery can be performed, the better the long-term outcome for your pet is likely to be.

Pet parents with dogs who are not suitable for surgery should rest assured that, although their dog will remain blind they can still enjoy a good quality of life. Dogs are very adaptable creatures and with a little practice, your dog will adapt and be able to navigate their home well by using their other senses to guide them.

What should I expect from my dog's cataract surgery?

Every clinic is different and so you should speak with your vet about specifics regarding your dog's visit. While some special care is required for dogs with diabetes, in all cases your veterinarian will provide you with detailed instructions regarding feeding and care leading up to surgery day. Always follow your vet's instructions very carefully.

Pre-Surgery

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 to confirm that your dog's retina is working properly. If there are any concerns during the pre-surgical tests then your vet may determine cataract surgery to not be ideal for your dog.

During the Procedure

General anesthesia is used for the duration of cataract surgery as your pet needs to stay completely still for the procedure. A muscle relaxant will also be administered to help the 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 be placed in the eye to allow images to be focused clearly onto the retina.

Post-Surgery

Dogs are commonly kept overnight after their surgery to allow the vet to continue monitoring them. Once your dog is allowed to go home, you will need to understand their care instructions and be prepared to administer their eye drops as required.

Will my dog's vision return immediately after surgery?

Your dog may experience some improvement by the next day but generally, it can take a few weeks for the full effect to take place. 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.

Nearly all dogs will regain their vision as they recover. Your vet will be able to provide you wth expectations based on your dog's specific case. 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.

What are the potential risks of 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 veterinary ophthalmologists 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 does recovery from cataract surgery look 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 several medications to your dog during this time, including eye drops and oral medications. Carefully following your veterinarian'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.

How do I go about finding an ocular surgeon for my dog?

Veterinarians that specialize in caring for the eyesight of pets are called veterinary ophthalmologists. Typically, these specialists only book appointments when patients have been referred to them for care by their primary veterinarian. If you are concerned about your dog's eyesight, contact your regular veterinarian and request a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist near you.

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.

If you are concerned that your dog may be having issues with their vision, contact New England Animal Hospital for an examination. 

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New England Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Fairhaven companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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