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Cataract Surgery For Dogs - What to Expect

Cataracts are a fairly common eye condition in dogs, leading to blurred vision and eventual blindness if left untreated, but surgery can often help to restore a pet's sight. Here, our Los Angeles vets share more about cataract surgery for dogs.

Dog Cataracts

A lens similar to a camera lens is located within each of your dog's eyes. This lens works to focus your dog's vision and provide clear vision. A cataract is an opacification or cloudiness that can occur on all or part of the lens, interfering with the focus of a clear image on the retina and impairing your dog's ability to see clearly.

Treating Cataracts in Dogs

Cataracts in dogs can frequently be surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens. However, not all dogs with cataracts are candidates for this surgery. If your dog already has a retinal detachment, retinal degeneration, glaucoma, or severe inflammation of the eyes, cataract surgery may be out of the question.

When it comes to saving your dog's vision, early diagnosis of conditions such as cataracts is important. 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. 

Cost of Cataract Surgery in Dogs

How much does canine cataract surgery cost? The cost of any veterinary surgery is determined by a variety of factors, including your dog's overall health, the severity of the condition, and where you live. The only way to get an accurate cost estimate for your dog's cataract surgery is to consult with your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon. They will be able to provide you with a cost breakdown as well as insight into whether your dog is a good candidate for cataract surgery.

Dog Cataract Surgery Process

Every veterinary hospital has its own procedure, but in most cases, you will drop your dog off the night before or the morning of surgery. While some special care is required for diabetic dogs, your veterinarian will always provide you with detailed feeding and care instructions prior to surgery day. Make sure to carefully follow your veterinarian's instructions.

Pre-Surgery Testing

  • Before the surgery, your dog will be sedated, and an ultrasound will be performed to look for problems such as retinal detachment or lens rupture (bursting). An electroretinogram (ERG) will also be performed to ensure that your dog's retina is functioning properly. If these tests reveal any unexpected problems, your dog may not be a candidate for cataract surgery.

Surgical Procedure

  • A general anesthetic will be used for cataract surgery. A muscle relaxant will also be given to your dog to help his eye sit in the correct position for the operation. Cataracts in dogs are removed using a procedure known as phacoemulsification. 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. After the cataract-affected lens is removed, 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

  • 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.

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 their vision as soon as they recover from surgery. Your veterinarian will be able to give you a long-term prognosis for your dog, but in general, maintaining vision after surgery is about 90% at one year and 80% at two years. Good post-operative care and regular visits to the veterinarian for eye examinations and monitoring, both after surgery and throughout your dog's life, are critical to long-term success.

Risks Associated with Cataract Surgery for Dogs

Every surgical procedure performed on animals or humans carries some level of risk. Complications from cataract surgery in dogs are uncommon, but vets have seen corneal ulcers and pressure elevations within the eye after cataract surgery. Taking your dog to the veterinary surgeon for a follow-up exam is critical for preventing complications after surgery.

Recovery After Dog Cataract Surgery

In dogs, the initial healing period after cataract surgery is about 2 weeks. During that time, your dog must wear an E-collar (cone) at all times and limit their activity to leash walks only. During this time, you will also need to give your dog a number of medications, including eye drops and oral medications. It is critical to carefully follow your veterinarian's instructions in order to achieve a positive 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.

Do you think that your dog has cataracts? Contact our experienced Los Angeles vets today to book an examination for your dog, and to learn more about cataract surgery at Shatto Veterinary Center.

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Shatto Veterinary Center welcomes cats, dogs, and their people to our clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Los Angeles companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's appointment.

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