Cataracts prevent light from reaching your dog's retina, causing blurred vision and, eventually, blindness. In today's blog, our Mechanicsburg veterinarians discuss the causes and symptoms of cataracts in dogs, as well as the surgery used to treat this eye condition.
Cataracts in Dogs
Each dog's eye has a lens, much like a camera lens. These lenses are used to improve visual acuity. A cataract is a cloudiness or opacification of all or part of the lens that prevents a clear image from being focused on the retina and impairs the dog's vision.
What causes cataracts in dogs?
Cataracts can develop as a result of diabetes, eye inflammation, ocular trauma, or retinal disease, but they are most commonly found in older dogs and are an inherited condition.
Which breeds are more likely to develop cataracts?
Cataracts are common in a variety of breeds, including Boston terriers, miniature schnauzers, poodles, and American cocker spaniels.
How are cataracts diagnosed?
If your dog is showing signs of vision problems, such as bumping into furniture or having trouble finding their food or water dish, or if their eyes appear cloudy, contact your veterinarian to schedule an examination.
If your veterinarian suspects your dog has cataracts, he or she may refer you to a Veterinary Ophthalmic Specialist (pet eye specialist), who can perform tests to confirm the diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment for your dog.
What is the treatment for cataracts in dogs?
There is no way to reverse a cataract once it has formed; however, cataracts can often be surgically removed to help restore your dog's vision. Unfortunately, not all dogs with cataracts qualify for surgery, so surgery may not be an option for your dog.
Early detection is critical when it comes to saving your dog's sight. Regular twice-yearly wellness exams allow your veterinarian to check your dog's eyes for signs of cataract development and recommend treatment before they worsen.
If your dog has cataracts and is a good candidate for surgery, the sooner the surgery can be performed, the better your pet's long-term outcome is likely to be. If you're wondering how cataract surgery for dogs is, please speak with your veterinarian for a good-faith estimate.
What is the cataract surgery process for dogs?
Below is the process of cataract surgery in dogs, from drop-off to pick-up.
Every veterinary hospital is different, but in most cases, you will drop your dog off either the night before or the morning of the cataract surgery.
Diabetes-affected dogs will necessitate special care. Your veterinarian will advise you on how to care for your dog before cataract surgery; carefully follow your veterinarian's instructions.
Your dog will be sedated before surgery, and an ultrasound will be performed to check for problems such as retinal detachment or lens rupture (bursting), followed by an electroretinogram (ERG) to confirm that your dog's retina is functioning properly. Unfortunately, if the results of these tests reveal any unexpected issues, your dog may not be a good candidate for cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery is performed on dogs under general anesthesia. A muscle relaxant will also be administered to ensure that the eye is in the proper position for the operation.
Phacoemulsification is a cataract removal technique. An ultrasonic device is used to break up and remove the cloudy lens from the eye, similar to how cataract surgery is performed on humans. In most cases, the old lens can be replaced with an artificial lens designed specifically for dogs.
The veterinary surgeon will usually recommend that your dog stay overnight for monitoring and then return home in the morning if everything appears to be fine. Many dogs will have some of their vision restored the next day, but it will usually take a few weeks for the eye to adjust to the effects of the surgery and the presence of the artificial lens.
Following cataract surgery, intensive aftercare is required, including the use of several types of eye drops multiple times per day.
Will my dog be able to see normally after cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery in dogs has a high success rate as long as the rest of the eye is in good working order. Approximately 95% of dogs regain their vision as soon as they recover from the procedure. The long-term prognosis for your dog retaining vision after surgery is approximately 90% at one year and 80% at two years postoperatively. Long-term success is dependent on proper post-operative care and regular visits to the veterinarian for eye exams and monitoring.
Are there any risks with this surgery?
All surgical procedures involving animals or humans are risky. Although complications from cataract surgery in dogs are uncommon, veterinary ophthalmologists have seen corneal ulcers and intraocular pressure elevations following surgery. Attending a post-surgery check-up with your dog's surgeon is critical for avoiding complications.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from cataract surgery?
The initial recovery following cataract surgery in dogs is about 2 weeks. Throughout those 2 weeks, your dog will need to wear an E-collar (cone) at all times and have their activity restricted to leash walks only.
Several medications, including eye drops and oral medications, will be required for your dog during this time. To achieve a positive outcome for your dog's vision, it is critical to carefully follow your veterinarian's instructions.
Your dog's medications may be reduced if you attend the two-week follow-up appointment, but some dogs will need to be on medication indefinitely.