Cataract Surgery for Dogs

Cataracts are a condition that can affect dogs just as they can people, having the potential to lead to blindness if left untreated. Luckily, many dogs are good candidates for surgical treatment. Here, our Columbia vets share some information about cataracts in dogs and what to expect from your pet's surgery.

Dog Cataracts

Inside the eye of your dog, there is a tiny lens that works to focus and unfocus as needed to see objects at different distances and clarities. This lens works to focus your pup's vision in order to provide clear sight. 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. 

Treating Cataracts in Dogs

While it's often possible for cataracts in dogs to be surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens there are some dogs which this surgery will not be suited for. If your pup has a pre-existing retinal detachment, retinal degeneration, glaucoma, or severe inflammation of the eyes, cataract surgery may not be an option for your pooch.

Like most conditions the sooner that your dog is diagnosed the better the potential outcome can be. 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.

Typically, the sooner that cataract surgery for dogs can be performed the better the possible outcome will be.

Unfortunately, not all dogs will be able to have surgery but the ones that don't will still be able to have a good quality of life and will learn to maneuver their environment with ease.

How much is cataract surgery for dogs?

You may be wondering how much cataract surgery is for dogs but the cost will vary. The cost of any veterinary surgery depends on multiple factors including the overall health of your dog, the severity of the condition and where you live. The only way to get a realistic estimate of how much your dog's cataract surgery will cost is to speak to your vet or veterinary surgeon. Your vet will be able to offer a thorough breakdown of each of the costs associated with dog cataract surgery and whether or not your dog will be able to have this type of procedure.

What can you expect with cataract surgery for dogs?

Speak with your vet to learn about their drop-off instructions for your dog's cataract surgery as this step can be affected by a number of factors. While some special care is required for dogs with diabetes, in all cases 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.

Pre-Surgery Examination & Testing

  • 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.

The Surgical Procedure

  • 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.

Post-Surgery Aftercare

  • 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.

What is the dog cataract surgery success rate?

You may be wondering how long it will take for your dog to begin to see again. While we are happy to report that many dogs have much of their vision restored the next day, it can take weeks for their vision to fully return. 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.

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 as well as ongoing routine examinations for the duration of your pet's life.

Risks Associated with Cataract Surgery for Dogs

Every surgical procedure performed on pets or people comes with some level of risk. Complications stemming from cataract surgery in dogs are 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.

What can you expect from dog cataract surgery recovery?

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 a number of medications to your dog during this time, 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.

Are you concerned that your canine companion may be showing signs of cataracts? Contact our vets in Columbia today to schedule an examination.