Cataracts are a white opacity of the lens that obstructs vision. Cataracts can be caused by older age, genetics, abnormalities of development in utero, or secondary to Diabetes Mellitus. Cataracts can vary in their degree of severity; therefore, recommendations for treatment can vary. However, the only treatment for advanced cataracts that are causing vision changes is surgical removal of the cataract. Reasons to consider surgery would be to improve your pet’s vision and to remove a potential source of inflammation and secondary complications that long term cataracts can cause.
Surgery to treat advanced cataracts includes removal of the cataract and, as long as all of the anatomy is normal, placement of a prosthetic lens. Once the cataract is removed surgically, it cannot return. The complication rate with surgery is low; however, complications seen can include inflammation, infection, glaucoma, inability to place a prosthetic lens, and retinal detachment.
Before surgery, your pet will need to have bloodwork and a urinalysis performed by us here at Upstate Veterinary Specialists or by your family veterinarian to be sure that they are good anesthetic candidates. Additionally, we will perform an electroretinogram (ERG) and ultrasound prior to surgery to be sure the retina is functioning normally and there are no anatomic abnormalities in the back of the eye that would change the prognosis for surgery.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure. Patients are typically dropped off by 7:30 am the morning of surgery, and postoperatively they are often ready to go home by 4:00pm. We like to recheck our patients regularly after surgery to ensure that they are doing well, and we typically rechecks are one day, one week, one month, two months, and five months after surgery. They do need to be on oral medications for one week, wear an e-collar for two weeks, have restricted activity and bathing for one month, and are often on eye drops for approximately 4 months. Giving eye drops is typically very easy to do, and we will teach you how to administer them appropriately. Improvement in vision is noticed almost immediately after cataract removal with pet owners generally noticing a significant improvement in quality of life for their pet.