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What is a cataract?
A cataract is an opacity of the lens. The lens normally focuses light onto the back of the eye and allows animals to focus. Cataracts typically affect vision and may be very small or involve the entire lens causing blindness.
What causes cataracts?
Cataracts in dogs are most commonly inherited or the result of diabetes mellitus. Cataracts can also be caused by uveitis (internal eye inflammation), severe trauma, or inherited retinal diseases like Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Canine cataracts are frequently in all age groups, including young dogs. The genetics of cataracts is complex and we are still finding out exactly how it is inherited.
How can cataracts be treated?
No medical treatment has been proven to prevent or eliminate cataracts. Cataracts can be removed with surgery, just as in people. The technology to remove cataracts in animals is the same in animals as in people. We use ultrasound or phacoemulsification to break up the cataract and remove it. The equipment at Veterinary Eye Centers PLLC is the same quality and standard as for human cataract surgery.
How is vision affected by removing the lens?
The lens focuses objects that are about 2 to 4 feet and closer. Animals without a lens replacement will have very blurry vision in this near range. Dogs and cats actually have a more grainy vision than people, and their near vision is also worse, even with a normal lens.
How successful is cataract surgery? Can vision always be restored?
Cataract surgery in dogs is typically 90% successful at improving or restoring vision. One in ten dogs does not have improved vision because of complications that include uveitis (internal eye inflammation), glaucoma (high pressure in the eye) or retinal detachment.
When is the best time to do cataract surgery?
Cataracts are best removed when vision impairment is present, but before the lens has matured too much.
What are the complications of cataract surgery?
Complications include chronic uveitis (internal eye inflammation), glaucoma (high eye pressure), retinal detachment and infection. Diabetic dogs are at an increased risk for some of these complications.
Can a cataract regrow after surgical removal?
A dense cataract will not regrow in dogs or cats after surgical removal. A few animals can develop lens capsule deposits that might need laser treatment in the future. In young animals (less than 5 years old), the lens is still growing. In surgery, the majority of cells that make new lens material are removed. In very young animals (less than 1 year of age), a small amount of lens can regrow. This will typically not affect vision but can cause chronic uveitis (internal eye inflammation).
What treatment is needed in the recovery period after surgery?
The treatments after surgery are as important to the outcome as the surgery itself. Pets will need eye drops and oral medications following surgery to control inflammation and prevent infections of the eyes. The eyes will be carefully monitored by a veterinary ophthalmologist in recheck examinations. These recheck examinations are done at 1 week and then every 2-3 weeks after surgery for several visits. We are looking for any problems or complications from surgery, and medication dosages will be adjusted for each patient depending on how their eyes are healing after surgery. After surgery, sutures that are finer than hair are placed on the eye so the eyes are delicate. Animals need to wear an E (Elizabethan) collar at all times until their incisions have healed. Written discharge instructions with "signs to watch for" are discussed and provided to the owners for each pet after surgery. We want to work as a team with owners to provide the best communication and care for their animals after cataract surgery. Animals that have had cataract surgery are examined annually.
What else should I know about cataract surgery?
Please see the Cataract, You and Your Pet video created by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.