A cataract is an opacity or “clouding” of the eye lens. Cataracts impair vision by preventing light from focusing properly on the retina, resulting in poor vision or blindness. Cataracts can affect dogs of all ages. They are usually inherited, with some breeds being more susceptible than others. More susceptible breeds include Poodles, Bichon Frise, Retrievers, Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels. Other causes of cataracts are age and diabetes. Intraocular inflammation, trauma, or exposure to certain chemicals can also lead to cataract formation. Please go to our Ophthalmology page to watch our informational video on cataracts and cataract surgery.

Below are frequently asked questions about cataracts in dogs:

How Do We Evaluate and Treat Cataract Conditions?

During your first appointment, a complete ophthalmic examination will be performed to determine the level of visual impairment, likelihood of cataract progression, and the next course of action recommended by the ophthalmologist, be it monitoring or surgery. An electroretinogram (ERG) and ocular ultrasound will be offered to evaluate the condition of the retina. If retinal function is normal, cataract surgery and lens implantation will be discussed in detail, including a review of the surgical success rate and potential complications unique to your pet.

How is Cataract Surgery Performed?

 Cataract surgery involves the removal of the cataract by phacoemulsification. This procedure is performed with the aid of an operating microscope and requires general anesthesia. After the cataract is removed, an artificial lens is implanted to allow light to focus properly on the retina, offering the patient corrected vision. Without a lens implant, your pet is considered farsighted. It is common for both eyes to be affected by cataracts, but not necessarily at the same time. When both eyes are affected, cataract surgery is often performed in both eyes at the same time. Without a lens implant, your pet will be farsighted: therefore, implantation of artificial lenses is attempted in all cases.

What is the Success Rate of Cataract Surgery?

The success rate for cataract surgery is over 90%. However, if the cataract is advanced, the surgical success rate could be lower. Your pet’s individual situation will be discussed with you in detail once an evaluation has been performed by one of our ophthalmologists.

What are the Potential Complications of Cataract Surgery?

Complications directly related to the surgery, although very uncommon, include anesthetic death, hemorrhage, infection, and incisional dehiscence. Long term risks of having had a cataract include glaucoma, inflammation, and retinal detachment. The ophthalmologist will discuss any short and long term complications with you before and after the surgery. Follow-up appointments and administration of medications as recommended are extremely important to help minimize risks of complications and maintain sight.

What Happens if my Pet Does not Get Cataract Surgery?

If your pet does not get cataract surgery, for whatever reason, the cataract will remain and the lens will continue to leak lens proteins into the eye. These proteins cause inflammation within the eye, and predispose your pet to a lens luxation, retinal detachment and/or glaucoma. A retinal detachment is not painful; however, lens luxation, inflammation and glaucoma are painful and warrant medications or surgery to alleviate pain. If your pet does not have cataract surgery, we recommend that a complete ocular examination with intraocular pressure evaluation be performed every 3-6 months to prolong comfort for your pet, and the ophthalmologists may recommend eye drops to try to prevent the secondary complications of cataracts.

What Does it Mean to be Specialized in Veterinary Ophthalmology?

An ophthalmologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions involving the eyes and associated structures. The veterinary ophthalmologists at MedVet have dedicated their practice to protecting and preserving sight in all animal species including dogs, cats, horses, birds, exotic and zoo animals. Highly specialized equipment, identical to that used by your own ophthalmologist, is used by veterinary ophthalmologists for examination and treatment of your pet. Our operating rooms are also equally equipped to handle the very specific needs of eye surgery including operating microscopes and microsurgical instrumentation and equipment.

A board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO). There are just over 300 actively practicing members of the ACVO in North America. In order to become a Diplomate of the ACVO, one must complete a 1-year internship and a 3-year ophthalmology residency after graduation from veterinary school. These residencies are very rigorous and highly competitive. After successful completion of the residency, the veterinarian may be eligible to sit for the board examinations. If the candidate passes all four parts of the examination, he or she becomes a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.

The MedVet Ophthalmology team includes board certified specialists who use the most advanced diagnostic and treatment technologies to provide cutting edge ocular care. With the support of technicians solely dedicated to ophthalmology, the department is recognized internationally as a leader in ophthalmic care and has earned the trust of family veterinarians and clients for decades.