About Cataracts in Animals
A cataract is a lens that has become opaque or cloudy. The lens is normally a clear structure that focuses images on the retina in the back of the eye. When the lens is no longer clear, it is called a cataract. Cataracts in animals are often inherited and develop in young to middle aged pets. We also see cataracts secondary to diabetes or in older patients as an age-related change.
How are cataracts treated?
The equipment and techniques used for cataract surgery in pets are identical to those used for cataract surgery in humans. To restore functional vision, cataracts are removed using a specialized instrument called a phacoemulsifier which breaks up and removes the cataracts through a small incision. A replacement lens is then inserted into the eye to correct the vision.
What to expect the day of surgery?
The morning of surgery we perform several preoperative tests on our patients to completely evaluate the eyes and to determine any risk factors for longterm prognosis. Testing may include; tonometry, electroretinogram, ultrasound, gonioscopy and physical examination. Patients also receive eye drops for several hours to prepare the eyes for surgery. You should expect your pet to spend the entire day with us.
Patients that have had cataract surgery typically may be a bit groggy or inactive the first evening. This is common. Some patients, however, will be restless the first evening after cataract surgery. Typically patients are feeling well by the next morning. Vision gradually improves over the first 72 hours and most pets regain functional vision in a few days. Patients will receive medications up to 4 times daily during the first week following cataract surgery. The frequency of administering medications decreases after the first week, but patients will be on medications for approximately 3 months postoperatively. Baths, swimming and rough play behavior are restricted for the first two weeks after surgery.
Risks associated with Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is highly successful (90- 95%), and the vast majority of patients regain vision. However, not all pets will regain vision due to complications, which is disappointing both to us and you. We try to identify if your pet is at risk for these issues and discuss those risks thoroughly prior to surgery. The complications seen with cataract surgery include but are not limited to:
Glaucoma: This is increased pressure in the eye. This can lead to permanent loss of vision very quickly and is painful.
Retinal Detachment: This condition is not painful but can result in complete loss of vision. Certain breeds or patients with rapid onset cataracts are predisposed to this condition.
Corneal Degeneration: The cornea can become cloudy as an age-related change which reduces vision. This can become worse with surgery.
Infection: This is very rare but can lead to loss of vision and loss of the eye.
Anesthesia Risks: The anesthetic risk for cataract surgery is no higher than any other routine surgery. While most anesthesia is very safe, pets can have unforeseen life-threatening complications. We do require a CBC and Chemistry Profile (blood tests) to help us identify any potential complications we may face prior to surgery. We also stay in contact with your family veterinarian so that everyone is informed about your pet’s progress. During surgery, your pet is constantly monitored for any indication of a problem.