Cataracts in Dogs - An Expensive Problem

Do your dog’s eyes look as if the lenses where covered with a milky-bluish haze? Or does it have a high-stepped walk, refuse to recognize people it should know, trip over stuff or bump into walls?

If you answered “yes” to one of more of these questions, it is most likely that your dog has cataracts and could go blind.

The causes of cataracts in dogs

If you’re wondering why in the world your dog would develop cataracts, there are several possible answers. First, they could be genetic or inherited. In other words, if you could go back and check out the dog’s dam and sire, you might find one or both of them had cataracts.

Second, a cataract can develop in a dog’s eye due to trauma. Maybe the eye was injured in a fight or the eye was poked by a stick or bitten by a wasp.

Third, dog cataracts may be related so some metabolic disease such as diabetes. Another possible cause is aging, as some older dogs of some breeds are just more at risk for developing cataracts.

No medical treatment

Unfortunately, there is no known medical treatment that can shrink or reverse cataracts in dogs, just as there is no medical treatment for cataracts in humans. As a result, the only possible treatment is a surgical procedure called phacoemulsification.

In this procedure, the phacoemulsification instrument uses ultrasonic waves to break apart the lens in the dog’s eye and then sucks it out. Phacoemulsification will remove most of the lens but the lens capsule (“bag”) is next cleaned of any remaining lens material. In most cases, the treating ophthalmologist will then implant a prosthetic lens (intraocular lens) into the lens capsule. This usually restores the dog’s vision to as close to normal as possible.

If, for some reason, an implant cannot be used, the phacoemulsification procedure should still improve the dog’s vision a great deal.

Two other cataract surgeries

A second way to remove cataracts is through a procedure called extracapsular lens extraction. This is often used when no phacoemulsification machine is available or if the cataract is so old or hard that the machine isn’t powerful enough to break up and remove the old lens. And, finally, there is a type of surgery called intracapsular lens extraction, which is used when a cataractous lens has shifted out of position and is no longer firmly in place inside the lens.

Regardless of whether the procedure is an extracapsular or intracapsular lens extraction, it will most likely be followed by a lens implant.

Not inexpensive

As you might guess none of these cataract surgeries are inexpensive. In fact, the cost of dog cataract surgery can range from $1,500 to $3000, depending on where you live and the type of surgery required.

As you have read, there are surgical procedures than can cure your dog’s cataracts but they are not inexpensive. For this reason, some owners have decided to have just one of the dog’s eyes treated – which at least restores half of his vision – giving the dog many more happy years of not stumbling over things or bumping into walls.