Dog Cataract Surgery Explained

Understanding dog cataract surgery and what your dog will go through can help you help your dog cope with recovery from surgery. Depending upon how long it took for the cataract to develop, your dog will be returning to sight in the affected eye after a potentially long period of time without vision and having to readjust to this sudden change.


Your dog will be given general anesthesia prior to the veterinary ophthalmologist beginning the surgical procedures. This prevents your dog from struggling or causing problems during the various steps in the process.

Cutting Open the Eye

The veterinary ophthalmologist makes a small incision, about 2 to 3 millimeters long, into the eye. At this time a thick gel is injected into the anterior chamber (the back chamber) of the eye to prevent the eyeball from collapsing and to prevent the cornea from being injured.


An ultrasonic tool, very much like a needle, is inserted into the lens of the eye. The tip of the needle vibrates about 40,000 vibrations per second, breaking up the crystallized lens. The pieces are removed from the lens capsule, leaving the clear capsule in place.

Older dogs whose lens has become too hard or dogs where the lens attachments are loose are not viable candidates for phacoemulsification. In these instances, the entire lens is removed. The dog will still have functional vision, but the images won't be as sharp or clear as a dog with an intraocular lens implant.

Intraocular Lens Implant

In some instances, the veterinary ophthalmologist will insert a plastic or acrylic disc into the lens capsule, replacing the natural lens and providing for sharper, clearer vision. This is called an intraocular lens implant (IOL) and becomes a permanent part of your dog's eye. As stated above, if the entire lens has to be removed, an IOL cannot be used.

Post-Operative Care

After surgery, your dog will be fitted with an Elizabethan collar to prevent him from hitting or digging at his eye. He should wear the collar for 2 to 3 weeks, depending upon your veterinary ophthalmologist's advice. You will also be giving your dog antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications as well as anti-inflammatory eyedrops given several times a day.

Post-Surgical Appointments

There are several post-surgical appointments your dog will need with the veterinary ophthalmologist in order to ensure the eye is healing appropriately after the cataract surgery. These are typically about 1 to 2 days after surgery, at 1 and 4 weeks after surgery and about 6 months after surgery. After the 6 month appointment, the veterinary ophthalmologist will want to see your dog once a year just to check on your dog's vision and to ensure secondary issues like glaucoma have not set in.

Cataract surgery returns functional vision to approximately 90% of the patients who undergo the procedure. The return of vision can allow your dog to move around your home and yard without bumping into things that have been moved and can even allow them to enjoy outings into the field without the worry of them losing their way because of lack of vision. Dogs rely on their vision and cataract surgery will allow them to return to a better quality of life.