Cataracts in Dogs - Symptoms & Surgery

Cataracts interfere with light reaching the retina of your dog's eye, resulting in blurred vision and eventual blindness. In today's blog our Memphis vets explain 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 inside, much like the lens of a camera. These lenses are used for focusing vision. A cataract is an opacification or cloudiness of all or part of the lens, which prevents a clear image from being focused on the retina and interferes with the dog's ability to see clearly.

What causes cataracts in dogs?

Cataracts can develop as a result 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 vet suspects that your dog has cataracts they may refer you to a Veterinary Ophthalmic Specialist (eye specialist for pets) who will be able to run tests to confirm the diagnosis, and recommend appropriate treatment for your dog.

What is the treatment for cataracts in dogs?

There is no treatment available that can reverse a cataracts once it has formed however, cataracts can often be removed surgically to help restore your dog's vision. Sadly, not all dogs with cataracts are suitable candidates for surgery, so it may not be an option for your pooch.

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?

Drop-Off

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.

Pre-Surgery Testing

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.

Surgical Procedure

Cataract surgery on dogs is performed under general anaesthetic. A muscle relaxant will also administered so that the eye comes 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 it 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.

Post-Surgery

Typically the veterinary surgeon will recommend that your dog stay overnight for monitoring then head home in the morning if everything looks good. Many dogs will have some of their vision restored the very next day, but typically it will take a few weeks for vision to settle as the eye adjusts to the effect of surgery and the presence of the artificial lens.

Intensive aftercare is required following cataract surgery, including the use several types of eye drops, multiple times each day.

Will my dog be able to see normally after cataract surgery?

Provided that the rest of the eye is in good working order, cataract surgery in dogs is considered a very successful treatment with a high rate of positive outcomes. 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 post-operatively. Successful long-term outcomes depend upon good post-operative care and regular visits to the veterinarian for eye examinations and monitoring.

Are there any risks with this surgery?

All surgical procedures with pets or people come with some level of risk. Complications from cataract surgery in dogs is 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.

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.

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.

If your dog is having vision difficulties, contact our North Memphis veterinary hospital today to book an appointment for your canine companion. 

Cataracts in dogs, symptoms and surgery, Memphis Vet

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