A cataract is any opacity (cloudiness) of the lens. If the opacity involves a significant portion of the lens, your pet may exhibit visual difficulty. Heredity, metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, congenital (birth) defects, trauma, or other eye diseases may be responsible for cataract formation.
Your pet must be in good general health to be considered as a potential candidate for cataract surgery, largely because cataract surgery is performed with your pet under general anesthesia. Routine bloodwork is usually necessary prior to surgery, so that the doctor may more thoroughly evaluate your pet’s health. Diabetic patients must have their blood sugar levels regulated with insulin prior to surgery.
A preoperative examination by a veterinary ophthalmologist is necessary to determine if your pet is an acceptable candidate for cataract surgery.
Inflammation: The cataract may induce inflammation within the eye, which is called uveitis. The success rate of cataract surgery might be decreased by the presence of uveitis. If inflammation is noted at the time of examination, cataract surgery may be delayed for a short period until the inflammation can be decreased with medications.
Retinal health: The retina comprises the nervous tissue of the eye that is necessary for vision. If the retina is significantly diseased, cataract surgery will not improve your pet’s vision. The retina lies behind the cataract and cannot be visualized in cases of advanced cataract development. If the doctor cannot visualize the retina, retinal testing by electroretinography and/or ultrasonography will be recommended.
If your pet is determined to be a candidate for cataract surgery, the surgical success rate varies by patient but is 90% for the optimal candidate. This assumes that all postoperative recommendations are followed including treatments and examinations. Without the proper follow-up, complication rates significantly increase. In the 10% or so where major complications develop, these are sometimes manageable but blindness can be the result. In some cases, additional surgery can even become necessary.
Although general anesthesia is required for cataract surgery in animals, cataract surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. Your pet must stay with us for the day of surgery and must return to the clinic the following day for the first postoperative examination.
Cataract surgery in animals is very similar to cataract surgery for people. The technique used to remove the cataract is called phacoemulsification. The procedure basically employs the use of high frequency sound waves to fragment the cataractous lens, which can then be removed from the eye as a liquid.
Once the cataract is removed, your pet should regain vision but far-sightedness will result (near objects will be out of focus). In order to correct for this far-sightedness, we offer the option of replacement with an artificial lens (IOL). Artificial lenses serve to focus light rays on the retina and to correct for near vision. Most patients are candidates for IOL placement. Occasionally, the decision cannot be made until the time of surgery that the eye is not suitable for an IOL.
The cost of cataract surgery primarily depends upon whether one or both eyes have surgery and upon whether the lenses are replaced with artificial intraocular lenses. The cost for cataract surgery generally ranges from $1900-2950.
Fees quoted are estimates. The cost for diabetic dogs is generally higher than for non-diabetic dogs, partially due to the requirement for frequent blood sugar determination.
Included in the price of surgery:
Anesthetic monitoring (including pulse oximetry, ECG, blood pressure, and CO2 monitoring)
Two postoperative examinations
Not included in the price of surgery:
Medications disepensed on surgery day
Recheck examinations after second postoperative exam
Refills on medications after surgery
Capsular tension rings
Any lasering procedures performed at the time of cataract surgery
Postoperative care is vital to a successful outcome from cataract surgery. Your pet’s vision depends on strict adherence to our recommendations for medical therapy and recheck examinations. Medical therapy is usually the most intensive for the first 1-2 weeks after surgery. Most patients remain on decreasing levels of medical therapy for at least 4 months after surgery. Occasional patients require long-term medical therapy.
The eye should be considered fragile after surgery. All precautions should be taken so that your pet does not damage the eye(s). The protective Elizabethan collar should be worn by your pet until directed otherwise (generally for the first 3 weeks after surgery). Activity should be restricted for the first month after surgery.
Recheck examinations are important for the doctor to determine the condition of the eyes and to advise you on medical therapy. The number of appointments will depend upon your pet’s progress, but 4-6 examinations are typically required during the first 6 months after surgery. Annual examinations are recommended for long-term monitoring.
Vision-threatening complications can develop after surgery and must be monitored for closely. Early detection of a complication maximizes the chance that it can be successfully managed. The most common of the serious complications are glaucoma and retinal detachment.
-For more information on cataracts and cataract surgery, please enjoy the ACVO video, Cataracts, You and Your Pet, on YouTube!