- Cataracts are clouded lenses in your dog’s eye — The cloudiness causes blurred vision and blindness.
- Dogs can develop cataracts naturally during the aging process — Cataracts can also happen after an injury to your dog’s eye.
- Surgery is the only way to fix cataracts — The procedure removes the cloudiness and places an artificial lens to help restore your dog’s vision.
- Cataracts aren’t fatal — If your dog isn’t a candidate for surgery, they can still live a quality life with cataracts.
What are cataracts in dogs?
If you’ve ever seen clouding in a dog’s eyes, you’ve probably seen a cataract. A cataract is an opacification, or a clouding, of the eye’s lens. It can blur your dog’s vision, making it as if they were looking through a foggy window, and lead to blindness over time. Most cataracts develop during the aging process or after an injury to the eye that changes the tissues in the eye’s lens.
Breeds more susceptible to cataracts
While any breed can develop cataracts, several breeds are more susceptible to them, including:
- Golden retrievers
- Siberian huskies
- American cocker spaniels
- Miniature poodles
- Miniature schnauzers
- Boston terriers
Pet insurance may cover surgery and rehabilitation. Get your quote today based on your pet’s breed, age, and location at Fetch by the Dodo.
Treatment for cataracts in dogs
Cataracts are surgically removed by a veterinary ophthalmologist using a technique called phacoemulsification to break up and remove the cloudy lens from the eye. The surgeon then replaces the lens with an artificial lens that provides clearer vision.
However, not all dogs with cataracts are suitable for surgery. If your pup has a pre-existing eye condition, such as retinal degeneration or glaucoma, surgery might not be a viable option for them. If they aren’t eligible for surgery, your pup will remain blind, but they can have a good quality of life.
There are many ways for dog owners to support a blind pup to help them adjust, such as keeping furniture in the same spots so they learn the layout of the house. You can train them with verbal versus visual cues, too.
What to expect with cataract surgery
While every veterinary center is different, dog owners will drop their pup off either the morning of surgery or the night before. Your vet will give you detailed instructions on feeding your dog leading up to surgery day, as they usually need to fast for a certain amount of time the day before.
- Pre-surgery testing. Before surgery begins, your veterinarian will run a variety of tests to check for issues such as retinal detachment or a rupture of the lens, along with an electroretinogram (ERG) to confirm that your dog’s retina is working properly. If your vet finds any issues during this testing phase, your pup may not be able to undergo cataract surgery.
- Surgical procedure. Cataracts are removed with phacoemulsification, a procedure using an ultrasonic device that breaks up and removes the cloudy lens from the eye. Once the lens with the cataract has been removed, the vet can place an artificial (called an intraocular lens, or IOL) in the eye to help your dog’s retina focus and be clear.
- Post-surgery. In most cases, your dog will stay at the vet overnight for monitoring following cataract surgery. Owners should prepare for intensive at-home care after the procedure.
- Recovery. The initial recovery period following your dog’s cataract surgery is about two weeks. They’ll need to wear a cone at all times to prevent rubbing or pawing at their eyes, and your vet will likely restrict your put to leash walks only for exercise. Also, you’ll need to administer eye drops and oral medications to promote healing and prevent infection.
Can dogs see after cataract surgery?
A lot of dogs will have at least some vision restored as early as the day after surgery, but typically it’ll take a few weeks for the eye to adjust to the artificial lens before vision is fully restored. Cataract surgery for dogs has a success rate of about 90% a year after surgery and around 80% after two years.
How much does cataract surgery for dogs cost?
In general, pet owners can expect to pay between $2,700 and $4,000 for their dog’s cataract surgery. Luckily, many pet insurance plans cover some or all the cost of cataract surgery. It’s important to note, however, that most policies won’t cover cataracts as a pre-existing condition, and if you sign up for a new insurance plan while your pet has cataracts, they likely won’t be covered for surgical removal later on. If you think your pup is going to be predisposed to cataracts, it’s best to get them signed up for insurance early on so you’ll be covered in the long term.
Potential risks with cataract surgery for dogs
Complications from cataract surgery in dogs are rare, but all surgical procedures come with some level of risk. Post-surgery complications include corneal ulcers, pressure elevations within the eye, and retinal detachment. Pet owners need to take their dog for a follow-up exam with the surgeon to help identify and prevent issues from developing after surgery.
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Frequently asked questions
Is cataract surgery for dogs worth it?
In most cases, yes. Assuming that the rest of your dog’s eye is in good working order, cataract surgery in dogs is a very successful treatment with approximately 95% of dogs regaining vision as soon as they recover from surgery.
Can my dog live with cataracts?
Yes. Cataracts aren’t fatal, but there can be complications associated with cataracts that may be uncomfortable. These include uveitis (inflammation of the tissue within the eye), development of glaucoma, or detachment of the retina. If your pup isn’t a good candidate for surgery, however, they can adapt to being blind and learn to live a quality life with the condition.
How much does cataract surgery for dogs cost?
The average for cataract surgery in dogs is around $3,500 but can range from $2,700 to $4,000.
Can you prevent cataracts?
No studies have proven that it’s possible to prevent cataracts or slow the progression of cataracts. However, keeping up with regular vet visits and being aware of any changes in your dog’s eyes can help catch cataracts in the early stages if they do develop.