Canine Cataract Surgery

Canine cataract surgery can greatly improve vision for dogs suffering from the condition. Surgery has a high success rate, and once it's been performed, cataracts cannot grow back.

Cataracts in Dogs

The lens of your dog's eye lets in light to help him see. When cataracts form, vision can be impaired as the lense grows cloudy and eventually opaque. Not all cataracts require surgery; small, incipient cataracts often don't interfere with vision. Immature catracts can cover the entire lens and cause vision to blur. Mature cataracts can cover the whole lens of the eye and cause total blindness.

Cataracts are not the same things as nuclear sclerosis, a hardening of the lens of the eye that occurs in all dogs with age, and which doesn't impair vision.

Causes of Canine Cataracts

Cataracts in dogs can be an inherited condition. They may develop quite suddenly, in a matter of weeks, or very slowly over a period of years. They usually happen in geriatric dogs over the age of eight years. They are common in dogs with diabetes mellitus and orphaned puppies who are placed on a diet of artifical milk replacer.

Treating Cataracts in Dogs

Once your dog has developed cataracts, there are two options for treatment. One involves the use of medicated eye drops, which must be administered two to three times daily for a period of three months to a year. The drops gradually make the lens clear again. This form of treatment is less invasive than surgery and appropriate for many dogs, no matter their age or state of health, though the results can be quite variable.

Canine cataract surgery provides far more immediate results, though not all dogs are good candidates for the procedure. Dogs must meet health and age requirements in order to qualify for canine cataract surgery. The surgery is expensive, but the results are generally predictable and the procedure has a success rate of about 95%.

With the help of a powerful operating microscope, your vet will make a small incision in the eye, and a hole in the capsular bag that contains the lens of the eye. Using a process known as phacoemulsification, your vet will ultrasonically emulsify and remove the cataract.

Once your vet has removed the cataract, he will place an artifical replacement lens, or intraocular lens, into the eye. He will close the incision on the eye with sutures. If your dog has cataracts in both eyes, the vet will operate on both eyes at once.

Cataract surgery can greatly improve your dog's vision, though chances are it cannot return it to normal. The range of intraocular lenses available to dogs is too small to guarantee perfectly restored vision. Dogs also experience a certain amount of scarring in the eye, which can degrade the quality of their post-op vision. However, dogs who have undergone canine cataract surgery do regain, in most cases, about two thirds of their vision.