How Effective Is Cataract Surgery for Dogs?

Cataract surgery for dogs is a relatively successful procedure with most dogs experiencing improved vision post-surgery. However, there are risks involved that should be considered before putting your dog under the knife.

Canine Cataract Surgery

Dog cataract surgery is very similar to human cataract surgery. A small incision is made in the eye so that a special probe can emulsify and then remove the cataract, which also involves removing the eye lens. The lens must then be replaced with an artificial lens.

In humans, an exact replicate lens can replace the cataract, but in dogs, there are only a few types of replacement lenses, which don't fit every dog perfectly. Thus, even though his vision will be greatly improved, it won't be perfect. Most pet owners notice that their dog still has some visual difficulties, which vary from dog to dog.

Those visual difficulties can also be caused by scar tissue, which occurs after the surgery because of inflammation associated with the surgery that humans don't experience.

After surgery, the cataracts cannot recur; however, your dog still might have reduced vision as he gets older due to increased scar tissue, glaucoma or retinal detachment.

Risks Involved with Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is considered a very successful procedure, but there are a few risks involved that range from mild to significant.

Cataract surgery involves your dog being put under anesthesia, which always involves risks. Some dogs are sensitive to anesthesia and even a healthy dog can die with properly administered anesthesia.

In about 30 percent of cases, glaucoma, which is increased pressure on the eye, develops after surgery. It is usually short-lived and resolves itself, but in rare cases, it can cause complete loss of vision and even require removal of the affected eye.

In some cases, a replicate lens cannot be added to the eye because of surgical complications, resulting in distorted far-sighted vision for your dog.

Retinal detachment sometimes occurs after surgery, which usually results in complete loss of vision. However, reattachment is possible in rare cases.

The most rare, but still possible, risk is intraocular infection, a post-surgery infection, which will result in complete vision loss and most likely removal of the eye.

Post-cataract surgery procedure is also extensive, requiring eye drops, frequent rechecks and an Elizabethan collar for two weeks to avoid injury. If the post-operative procedures are not followed, this can lead to an increased risk of complications.

Though cataract surgery involves risks, the high success rate makes it worth a try. Without surgery, cataracts continue to cause inflammation in the eye and must be treated with eye drops for the remainder of your dog's life. Even with eye drops, cataracts can eventually lead to glaucoma or detached retina without surgery, so you are facing many of the same risks anyway.

If your dog is developing cataracts, consult with your veterinarian about your options.