Cataracts impact the way light reaches your dog's retina, resulting in blurry vision and eventually blindness. Here, our Cave Creek vets talk about the causes of cataracts in dogs and the surgery that may be needed for treatment.
Cataracts in Dogs
In their eyes, dogs have a lens that's similar to a camera that helps them focus their vision. A cataract is an opacification or cloudiness of part or all of the lens, that prevents a clear image from being focused on the retina, interfering with a dog's ability to see clearly.
The Causes of Cataracts in Dogs
Dogs can develop cataracts as a result of inflammation in the eye, diabetes, retinal disease, or ocular trauma. However, they are seen most often in older dogs and are generally an inherited condition.
Dog Breeds Most Likely to Get Cataracts
A handful of dog breeds are susceptible to developing cataracts including poodles, Boston terriers, miniature schnauzers, and American cocker spaniels.
Diagnosing Dog Cataracts
If your pooch is exhibiting signs of having problems with their vision such as bumping into furniture, having a hard time finding their water or food dish, or if your dog's eyes look cloudy, call your vet to arrange an appointment for your pup.
If your vet thinks your dog has cataracts they might refer you to a Veterinary Ophthalmic Specialist (eye specialist for pets) that can conduct tests to officially diagnose your dog with cataracts and prescribe the best possible treatment for your dog.
Treating Cataracts in Dogs
There aren't any treatments available that have the ability to treat cataracts after they have formed but, cataracts could often be surgically removed to help restore your dog's vision. Although, your dog might not be a candidate for cataract surgery, because not all dogs are suitable for this procedure.
When it comes to saving your dog's sight, early diagnosis 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.
If your dog has been diagnosed with cataracts and is a candidate for surgery, the sooner the procedure can be performed the better your pet's chances are of having good long-term outcomes.
Cataract Surgery For Dogs
Every veterinary hospital is different however, in most cases, you will drop your dog off either the night before your dog's scheduled surgery or the morning of the procedure.
Dogs that have diabetes will need some special management. Before the surgery takes place your vet will inform you of the post-operative care requirements for your dog, carefully follow your vet's instructions.
Before the surgery begins your dog will be sedated and an ultrasound will be performed to check for problems such as retinal detachment or rupture (bursting) of the lens. Then, an electroretinogram (ERG) will be done to confirm that your dog's retina is working properly. Unfortunately, if these tests turn up any unexpected issues, your dog may not be suitable for cataract surgery.
The Surgical Procedure
Cataract surgery on dogs is performed under a general anesthetic. A muscle relaxant will also be administered so the will eye move into the correct position for the operation.
Cataracts are removed using a technique called phacoemulsification. This procedure uses an ultrasonic device to break up and remove the cloudy lens from the eye and is the same procedure that is used in cataract surgery on humans. In most cases, it is possible to place an artificial lens specially created for dogs, where the old lens had been.
Generally, veterinary surgeons ask dogs to stay overnight so they can be monitored and send them home the next morning if everything looks alright. Lots of dogs will get some of their vision back the next day, but it usually takes a few weeks for their vision to settle as the eye get's accustomed to the effect of surgery and the artificial lens.
After cataract surgery dogs require Intensive care, including the use of several types of eye drops, multiple times a day.
A Dog's EyeSight After Cataract Surgery
If the rest of a dog's eye works well, cataract surgery generally has a high percentage of positive results. About 95% of dogs get their vision back right after they have recovered from the surgery. The long-term prognosis for your dog maintaining vision after surgery is about 90% at 1 year, and 80% at 2 years postoperatively. Successful long-term outcomes depend upon good post-operative care and regular visits to the veterinarian for eye examinations and monitoring.
The Risks of Cataract Surgery
All surgical procedures with pets or people come with some level of risk. Complications from cataract surgery in dogs are rare, but some complications seen by veterinary ophthalmologists post-surgery are corneal ulcers and pressure elevations within the eye. Attending a follow-up exam with your dog's surgeon is essential for helping to prevent issues from developing after the surgery.
Recovery Time For Dogs Following Surgery
The initial healing period following cataract surgery in dogs is about 2 weeks. Throughout that 2 week period, your dog will need to wear an E-collar (cone) at all times and have their activity restricted to leash walks only.
A number of medications will also need to be administered 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.
When you attend the 2-week follow-up appointment your dog's medications may be reduced, however, some dogs will need to remain on medication permanently.
How Much Cataract Surgery Costs For Dogs
The cost of your dog's surgery will depend on various factors including your location, your individual vet, the complexity of the surgery, and your dog's condition.
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.