Eye Enucleation in Dogs

Enucleation is the surgical removal of a dog's eye. It's used as a last resort in specific conditions were medication or other surgical procedures will not save the eye. Once the eye is removed, the dog will be blind in that eye and special considerations will need to be made for the comfort and safety of your pet.

Why Enucleation Is Performed

Surgical removal of a dog's eye is not a decision made lightly. It is only used if the eye is beyond saving. Common reasons for enucleation are:

  • Cancer within the eye

  • Eye disease located within the orbit of the eye

  • Eye disease that is going to spread to other areas of the body

  • Glaucoma that cannot be controlled

  • Severe birth defects

  • Severe injuries to the eye that cannot be repaired

How Enucleation Surgeries Are Performed

The surgical procedure for eye removal generally depends on the reason why the surgery is necessary. If cancer or infection is involved, the veterinarian will perform an exenteration. During this procedure, all tissue within the eye socket is removed, including the muscle. After the surgery, the skin over the eye socket may sink in and look unusual.

The other option is most common, With this enucleation, the eye is removed and the eyelid stitched shut. Most veterinarians fill the empty eye socket with a silicone orb to retain the natural shape. Dogs undergoing this procedure tend to look normal after the surgery other than having the eye permanently closed.

With either of the eye removal surgeries, it is essential that the site has time to heal. Inflammation is likely for the first few days. An Elizabethan collar will be used to keep the dog from being able to scratch or rub at his eye. Make sure you check the Elizabethan collar a few times a day because some dogs seem to have a knack for removing them. It's not uncommon for a cat to groom his canine friend. If you have other pets, keep them away until the stitches are removed in about a week.

Tips for Care Following an Enucleation Surgery

Use a warm compress a couple times a day to help alleviate pain. It's likely that your dog's veterinarian will prescribe pain medications and possibly antibiotics to prevent any infection during the healing process. If you notice any oozing from the surgical site also call your veterinarian.

Within two to four days, your pet will feel better and be ready for normal activity. It may take time to adjust to the lack of vision in that eye, but most dogs will not seem any different.

In the event that both eyes had to be removed or one eye is already blind, you'll need to make a few changes for the safety and comfort of your dog. Avoid moving your dog's food and water bowls. Your dog is going to rely on memory to locate things like his food, water or bed, always keep them in the same place. In areas where your dog spends most of his time, don't rearrange furniture. Leave the space as open as possible so that he doesn't walk into objects or trip over items he wasn't expecting.