Cataracts are a relatively common eye condition found in dogs as well as humans that can lead to blindness if left untreated. Today, our Bonita Springs veterinarians explain cataracts in dogs and the surgery required for treatment.
Cataracts in Dogs
Each dog's eye contains a lens, similar to the lens of a camera. These are the lenses that are used to focus vision. A cataract is a clouding or opacification of all or part of the lens that prevents a clear image from being focused on the retina, impairing the dog's ability to see clearly.
Causes of Cataracts in Dogs
Cataracts can develop as a result of diabetes, eye inflammation, ocular trauma, or retinal disease, but they are most frequently found in older dogs and are typically inherited.
Breeds Commonly Affected By Cataracts
Several breeds such as Boston terriers, miniature schnauzers, poodles, and American cocker spaniels tend to be susceptible to developing cataracts.
Diagnosing Cataracts in Dogs
If your dog exhibits signs of vision problems, such as bumping into furniture or having difficulty locating 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 conduct tests to confirm the diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment for your dog.
Treating Cataracts in Dogs
Although there is no treatment available to reverse cataracts once they have formed, cataracts can frequently be surgically removed to help restore your dog's vision. Regrettably, not all dogs with cataracts are surgical candidates, and thus surgery may be out of the question for your pooch.
Early detection is critical when it comes to saving your dog's sight. Regular twice-yearly wellness exams allow your veterinarian to examine your dog's eyes for signs of developing cataracts and to recommend treatment before they progress to a more serious stage.
If your dog has been diagnosed with cataracts and is a good candidate for surgery, the sooner the surgery can be performed, the better the long-term outcome for your pet is likely to be.
Here is the process for most, if not all, dog cataract surgery.
Every veterinary hospital is different however, in most cases, you will drop your dog off either the night before the surgery is due to take place or the morning of the cataract surgery.
Dogs suffering from diabetes will require some special management. Your vet will advise you on caring for your dog before the cataract surgery, follow your vet's instructions carefully.
Before the surgery begins, your dog will be sedated and an ultrasound will be performed to rule out any complications such as retinal detachment or lens rupture (bursting). An electroretinogram (ERG) will then be performed to ensure that your dog's retina is functioning normally. Unfortunately, if any unexpected issues are discovered during these tests, your dog may not be a candidate for cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery on dogs is performed under a general anesthetic. A muscle relaxant will also be administered so that the eye comes into the correct position for the operation.
Phacoemulsification is a technique used to remove cataracts. This procedure, which uses an ultrasonic device to break up and remove the cloudy lens from the eye, is identical to the one used in human cataract surgery. In most cases, it is possible to replace the old lens with an artificial lens designed specifically for dogs.
Typically, the veterinarian will recommend that your dog stay overnight for monitoring and then return home the next morning if all appears to be well. While many dogs will have some vision restored the very next day, it typically takes several weeks for vision to stabilize as the eye adjusts to the surgery's effect and the presence of the artificial lens.
Intensive aftercare is required following cataract surgery, including the use of several types of eye drops, multiple times each day.
Provided that the rest of the eye is in good working order, cataract surgery in dogs has a high success rate. Approximately 95% of dogs regain vision as soon as they recover from the procedure. 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.
Risks Associated With Surgery
All surgical procedures involving pets or humans involve some level of risk. Although complications from cataract surgery in dogs are uncommon, veterinary ophthalmologists frequently see corneal ulcers and pressure elevations within the eye following surgery. Attending a follow-up exam with your dog's surgeon is critical for preventing complications following surgery.
In dogs, the initial healing period after cataract surgery is approximately two weeks. During those two weeks, your dog must wear an E-collar (cone) at all times and be limited to leash walks only.
Several medications, including eye drops and oral medications, will also need to be administered to your dog during this time. Following your veterinarian's instructions precisely is critical for a successful outcome with 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.