Cataracts obstruct light from reaching your dog's retina, resulting in blurred vision and, eventually, blindness. Our Pflugerville 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
Similar to a camera lens, each dog's eye has one. These lenses aid in sharpening vision. A cataract is a cloudiness or opacification of all or part of the lens that impairs the dog's ability to see clearly by preventing a sharp image from being focused on the retina.
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 displaying symptoms of vision issues, such as running into objects or having trouble finding their food or water bowl, or if you notice that your dog's eyes appear cloudy, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
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.
Early detection is crucial for saving your dog's sight. Your dog's vet can examine your dog's eyes for early indications of cataract development and recommend treatment before they worsen during routine twice-yearly wellness examinations.
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.
Your dog will be sedated prior to 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 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 for removing 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.
The veterinary surgeon will usually advise that your dog stay overnight for monitoring and then return home in the morning if everything appears to be fine. Many dogs' vision will be 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?
If the rest of the eye is functioning normally, cataract surgery in dogs is thought to be a very successful treatment with a high rate of successful results. 95 percent of dogs instantly regain their vision after the procedure. At one year and two years following surgery, your dog's long-term prognosis for maintaining vision is roughly 90% and 80%, respectively. Proper post-operative care and regular vet visits for eye exams and monitoring are essential for long-term success.
Are there any risks with this surgery?
Any surgical procedure, whether it be on humans or animals, carries some level of risk. Although complications following canine cataract surgery are rare, veterinary ophthalmologists have observed corneal ulcers and increases in intraocular pressure. Attending a post-operative checkup with your dog's vet is essential for avoiding complications.
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.
During this time, your dog will also require the administration of several medications, including eye drops and oral medications. For the vision of your dog to improve, it is essential to carefully adhere to your veterinarian's recommendations.
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.