What are cataracts?
A cataract is a change in the clear lens inside the eye. The lens becomes crystallized and opaque. As the opaque areas (cataract) get larger, more and more of the image becomes distorted until vision is significantly decreased.
What causes cataracts?
There are several causes of cataracts including injury to the eye, other diseases of the eye, internal diseases of the patient (especially-diabetes), and aging changes. However, the most common causes among dogs are inherited factors. These vary from one breed to another in how they are inherited, at what age and how quickly they develop and how much they affect vision.
What treatment is there for cataracts?
No medication will keep cataracts from becoming worse or cause a cataract to "clear-up". Medical treatment (usually eye drops) is often useful to control the inflammation caused by the cataract or to open the pupil to increase vision.
Removal of the cataract (surgery) is still the only method of improving vision in a patient with cataracts. Whether or not cataract surgery would be helpful for an individual patient depends upon many factors. Differences between a human eye and a dog's eye are considered in determining if cataract surgery is advisable for your pet.
Normal dog vision is not the same as normal human vision. Dogs do not see 20/20 as we do but more like 20/100 and therefore do not see detail or colors well. A dog's superior hearing and smell help it compensate for this difference.
A dog's lens is much larger than a human lens and cataracts are usually much more advanced before vision is affected. A dog's eye develops much more inflammation after cataract surgery than a human eye. This must be well controlled for good results.
Before cataract surgery the eyes need to be carefully evaluated. Problems within the eye must be controlled before surgery is considered. Certain laboratory tests detect other internal medical problems which may require treatment. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia (gas with oxygen).
The cataract (the lens of the eye) is removed using an ultrasonic needle that breaks up the cataract and vacuums the pieces out of the eye. The lens is then replaced with a clear artificial lens and eye is sutured closed.
A pet's owners also need to consider carefully the benefits of improved vision. Some dogs function very well with limited vision using their smell and hearing. Others need useful vision to function well. Each patient is different.
What can I expect after surgery?
Specific medications may be used prior to surgery for a few days
Good vision is obtained in approximately 90-95% of patients after cataract surgery. Best results occur when the patient is monitored very closely, medicated as scheduled and evaluated regularly after surgery. The surgeon can explain the specific details of your pet's surgery.
What treatment is necessary after the surgery?
Several visits after surgery are necessary to monitor the patient’s progress; it is important to follow the recommended schedule of recheck visits.
Your pet will be wearing a plastic collar to protect the eye and prevent rubbing of the eyes. Both oral and eye medications will be used after surgery. These will be gradually reduced during the followup examinations. Dogs that have cataract surgery usually remain on medication indefinitely to keep inflammation controlled.
It is also important, for a few weeks after surgery, to limit the pet’s activity to minimize the likelihood of damage to the newly operated eye from wind, dust, irritation, other pets, etc.
Please contact us with questions about any eye conditions your pet may have.