Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing


Cataract Surgery for Dogs - What to Expect

Cataract Surgery for Dogs - What to Expect

If left untreated, cataracts in dogs can cause a number of issues as well as potentially lead to blindness. Here, our Citrus Heights vets talk about cataracts in dogs, how surgery can help treat this vision issue and what to expect from the procedure.

Cataracts in Dogs

Within the eye, there is a small lens. This lens helps to focus the vision. When your dog suffers from cataracts, it is an opacification or cloudiness that can occur on all or part of the lens, which interferes with a clear image being focused on the retina, ultimately causing the deterioration of your dog's vision.

The Treatment Options For Dog Cataracts

For many dogs experiencing cataracts, these can be surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens. Unfortunately, however, not all dogs with cataracts are suitable candidates for this surgery. If your dog has a pre-existing retinal detachment, retinal degeneration, glaucoma, or severe inflammation of the eyes, cataract surgery may not be an option for your pooch.

If you are concerned that your dog is showing signs of cataracts it is important to seek veterinary care for your dog right away. Regular twice-yearly wellness exams allow your veterinarian to check your dog's eyes for signs of developing cataracts and recommend treatment before they become more serious.

If the vet determines that your dog is suited for cataract surgery they will want to complete it as quickly as possible.

Pet parents with dogs who are not suitable for surgery should rest assured that, although their dog will remain blind they can still enjoy a good quality of life. Dogs are very adaptable creatures and with a little practice, your dog will adapt and be able to navigate their home well by using their other senses to guide them.

Cataract Surgery in Dogs

When it is time for your dog to undergo cataract surgery you will need to bring them to the clinic either the night before their surgery or the morning of. While some special care is required for dogs with diabetes, in all cases your veterinarian will provide you with detailed instructions regarding feeding and care leading up to surgery day. You should always follow your vet's instructions fully in order to ensure success.

Diagnostics Prior to Surgery

Before the surgery begins, your dog will be sedated and an ultrasound will be performed to check for issues such as retinal detachment or rupture (bursting) of the lens. An electroretinogram (ERG) will also be done to confirm that your dog's retina is working properly. If at this point your vet discovers any issue they will need to cancel the surgery and look to other treatment options. 

What to Expect From the Surgical Procedure

Your dog will need to receive general anesthetic if they will be undergoing cataract surgery. In order to keep your dog's eye where it needs to be the vet will inject a muscle relaxant locally to the eye area.

Cataracts in dogs are removed using a technique called phacoemulsification. This procedure uses an ultrasonic device to break up and remove the cloudy lens from the dog's eye and is the same procedure that is used in cataract surgery on people. Once the lens with the cataract has been removed, an artificial lens implant (intraocular lens, or IOL) can then be placed in the eye to allow images to be focused clearly onto the retina.

Post-Surgery Recovery & Care

While not always needed, your vet may request that your dog stay the night after their surgery. Once your dog heads home, intensive aftercare will be required, including the use of several types of eye drops, multiple times each day.

Will my dog be able to see once the surgery is complete?

Many dogs will have some vision restored by the very next day, but typically it will take a few weeks for vision to settle as the eye adjusts to the effect of surgery and the presence of the artificial lens. Provided that the rest of the eye is in good working order, cataract surgery in dogs is considered a very successful treatment with a high rate of positive outcomes.

Approximately 95% of dogs regain vision as soon as they recover from the surgery. Your veterinarian will be able to give you a long-term prognosis for your dog. However, generally speaking, maintaining vision after surgery is about 90% at 1 year, and 80% at 2 years postoperatively. The key to successful long-term outcomes is good post-operative care and regular visits to the veterinarian for eye examinations and monitoring, following surgery and throughout your dog's life.

Are there any potential risks or concerns with cataract surgery?

All surgical procedures with pets or people come with some level of risk. Complications stemming from cataract surgery in dogs are rare, but some complications seen by veterinary ophthalmologists following cataract surgery are corneal ulcers and pressure elevations within the eye. Taking your dog for a follow-up exam with the veterinary surgeon is essential for helping to prevent issues from developing after the surgery.

What is the timeframe for cataract surgery recovery?

Once the surgery is complete your dog will need to take special care for at least 2 weeks. You will need to monitor your dog's activities and ensure that they wear an e-collar to help prevent damage to the eye. You will also need to administer several medications to your dog during this time, including eye drops and oral medications. Carefully following your veterinarian's instructions is essential for achieving a good outcome for your dog's vision.

Your vet will reevaluate the medications needed and adjust the doses as necessary.

Where do I look to find a veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist?

Veterinarians that specialize in caring for the eyesight of pets are called veterinary ophthalmologists. Typically, these specialists only book appointments when patients have been referred to them for care by their primary veterinarian. If you are concerned about your dog's eyesight, contact your regular veterinarian and request a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist near you.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you worried that your dog may be experiencing vision problems? Contact Family Friends Veterinary Hospital for an examination. 

New Patients Always Welcome

Family Friends Veterinary Hospital is happy to accept new patients! Our vets are passionate about improving the health of Citrus Heights companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

Book Online (916) 344-8765