Dog Cataract Surgery | MedVet | What to Expect | Veterinary Ophthalmology
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MedVet Medical & Cancer Centers for Pets strives to provide the best compassionate ophthalmology care.
The ophthalmology department at MedVet Medical & Cancer Centers for Pets is highly equipped with the best surgical equipment. All of our doctors have completed an additional four years of training after veterinary school, and have undergone rigorous testing to become board certified veterinary ophthalmologists. The doctors are supported by registered veterinary technicians, who have also undergone additional ophthalmology training.
Cataracts are any opacity of the lens or its surrounding capsule. This results in a gray or white appearance to the center of the eye, visible through the pupil. It is common for both eyes to be impacted by cataracts, but not necessarily at the same time. Cataracts are a very common eye disease in pets of all ages, and can be due to various causes. The most common causes include diabetes, inherited or genetic cataracts, age, intraocular inflammation, trauma, and exposure to chemicals.
Cataract surgery is the only way to remove cataracts and restore vision. At MedVet, the initial ophthalmic exam will be performed on your pet with you in the exam room. Some initial tests will be performed, and drops will be instilled to dilate the pupil for a thorough evaluation. Once the pupils are adequately dilated, the doctor will assess vision. Depending on the severity of your pet's cataracts, they may or may not still have vision. Specialized instruments that provide light and magnification are utilized to examine the intraocular structures in the front of the eye. A complete retinal exam is then performed. All of these tests are identical to you seeing your own ophthalmologist. Other tests included in the initial exam are a tear test to evaluate for dry eye, and tonometry to check for glaucoma, both of which are important in determining your pet's prognosis for cataract surgery. An ocular ultrasound to evaluate for a retinal detachment, and an electroretinogram, also known as an ERG, will be offered to evaluate retinal function.
Surgeries are scheduled on a separate day than your initial exam, so that a general physical examination and blood work can be completed to ensure that the risk of anesthesia is as low as possible. The day of surgery drop off your pet early in the morning, so that we may adequately prepare them for surgery. After anesthesia induction, a technician will prepare the periocular area for surgery by clipping the hair around the eye or eyes to keep the surgical field sterile. The eyes are irrigated to remove any excess hair or discharge.
Once in the operating room, your dog is placed in a special pillow to position their head for surgery and all possible monitoring equipment. The eye is draped and an eyelid speculum keeps the eyelids open. Surgery is completed under an operating microscope with fine microsurgical instruments. The cataract is removed using the same technology as human cataract surgery. This is called phacoemulsification. After the cataract is completely removed, an artificial lens is replaced to restore normal vision.
The success rate for cataract surgery is usually between 95 and 98 percent. However, if the stage of the cataract is advanced, the surgical success rate could be lower. Patients are sighted immediately after surgery, and are usually discharged the same day.
Complications of the surgery, although uncommon, include glaucoma, retinal detachment, inflammation, and infection. Your doctor will discuss any possible complications with you before and after the surgery.
Dogs are sent home with an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from rubbing their eyes. The E collar can easily be removed with the Velcro attachment on the outside to allow daily cleaning. Your pet will be able to sleep, eat, and drink with the E collar in place. At home care involves applying eye drops several times daily. Four times daily for the first two weeks, then slowly decreasing the frequency of medications over time. You will be instructed to apply a warm compress to the eyes a few times daily, to eliminate discharge that can accumulate. This also helps to keep your dog comfortable and clean.
Follow-up appointments are important to help maintain sight and to help prevent complications. The doctor will recommend a follow up at two weeks after surgery, at 2-3 months, and then at least biannual evaluations will be recommended. The frequency of medications is determined at each follow-up visit, but most patients are off all topical medications by 4-6 months after surgery.
The cause of cataracts in dogs are usually inherited, age related, or diabetes. The overall success rate for surgery is well over 90 percent. Cataract surgeries are often performed in both eyes, and cataracts do not recur after surgery. Lastly, patients are released the same day as surgery.