Cataracts obstruct light from reaching your dog's retina, resulting in blurred vision and, eventually, blindness. Our Las Vegas vets explain the causes and symptoms of cataracts in dogs, as well as the surgery used to treat this eye condition, in today's blog.
Cataracts in Dogs
Each dog's eye contains a lens, similar to a camera lens. These lenses help to focus vision. 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 ability to see clearly.
What causes cataracts in dogs?
Cataracts can develop as a result of diabetes, inflammation in the eye, ocular trauma, or retinal disease, but are most often found in older dogs, and tend to be an inherited condition.
Which breeds are more likely to develop cataracts?
A number of breeds such as Boston terriers, miniature schnauzers, poodles, and American cocker spaniels tend to be susceptible to developing cataracts.
How are cataracts diagnosed?
If your dog is showing signs of vision problems such as bumping into furniture or having difficulties locating their food or water dish, or if you notice that your dog's eyes appear cloudy, contact your vet to book an examination for your pet.
If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has cataracts, they may refer you to a Veterinary Ophthalmic Specialist (pet eye specialist) who can run tests to confirm the diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment for your dog.
What is the treatment for cataracts in dogs?
Although there is no treatment available to reverse cataracts once they have formed, cataracts can often be surgically removed to help restore your dog's vision. Unfortunately, not all dogs with cataracts are surgical candidates, so surgery may not be an option for your dog.
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 good candidate for surgery, the sooner the surgery can be performed, the better the long-term outcome for your pet is likely to be.
What is the cataract surgery process for dogs?
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, your dog will be sedated, 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 working properly. Unfortunately, if these tests reveal any unexpected problems, your dog may not be a good 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 is similar to cataract surgery on humans, uses an ultrasonic device to break up and remove the cloudy lens from the eye. In most cases, it is possible to replace the old lens with an artificial lens designed specifically for dogs.
Typically, the veterinary surgeon will advise 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 same day, but it usually takes a few weeks for vision to settle as the eye adjusts to the effects of surgery 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.
Will my dog be able to see normally after cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery in dogs is considered a very successful treatment with a high rate of positive outcomes if the rest of the eye is in good working order. Approximately 95 percent of dogs regain vision immediately after the procedure. The long-term prognosis for your dog retaining vision after surgery is approximately 90% at one year and 80% at two years. 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 on animals or humans carry some level of risk. Although complications from cataract surgery in dogs are uncommon, veterinary ophthalmologists have seen 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 after surgery.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from cataract 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.
Several medications, including eye drops and oral medications, will also need to be given to your dog during this time. It is critical to carefully follow your veterinarian's instructions in order to achieve a positive 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.