By Dr. John De Jong / Ask the Vet | Sunday, May 20, 2012
Photo by Faith Ninivaggi
Dear Dr. John,
Our 9-year-old cocker spaniel has started to develop cataracts and our vet has talked to us about surgery to correct the condition. He did inform us that we would probably have to see a specialist since he does not do the surgery.
Strangely enough, it seems that the right eye is worse than the left one. Both eyes seem to be getting more dense or worse as time goes on. Does it make sense to proceed with surgery and will it benefit our dog? Is there a lot of risk and how successful is the procedure?
Cataracts in dogs can be small or involve the entire lens. Cloudy, hazy eyes are not necessarily cataracts and may be lenticular sclerosis.
The first thing I would advise is to have a second opinion from a veterinary ophthalmologist. While your veterinarian probably has made a correct assessment, those who do this kind of procedure would be the best judge of need and success.
Cataracts are often inherited and can crop up at any age. They can be secondary to diabetes, caused by a drug reaction, trauma or a nutritional deficiency. Cataract disease in dogs is progressive and left untreated will often lead to further lens degeneration and other secondary problems.
Early surgical intervention will benefit your dog, and there is not a great deal of risk if done properly by qualified individuals. The treatment nowadays is to do what is called phacoemulsification to fragment and then aspirate the lens material out of the eye through a minimally invasive opening at the limbus, which is where the sclera (white of the eye) meets the cornea. An artificial lens is then put in place in the lens capsular sac to re--create a normal situation.
Lenses are now acrylic and can be folded. They are designed to make contact with the back of the eye, preventing cell movement or new lens fibers developing, reducing the need for potential follow-up procedures. Once performed, your dog’s vision can be restored to near normal, provided that there are no other underlying issues. Good luck!
John de Jong, D.V.M., is the owner/operator of Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic and CEO/director at Boston Animal Hospital.