By definition a cataract is any focal or diffuse opacity of the normally transparent lens. Cataracts are commonly caused by inherited defects of the lens, metabolic disorders (most commonly diabetes mellitus), and traumatic injuries. Many, but not all cataracts, progress in one or both eyes to cause vision impairment and blindness. Pets with cataracts can be evaluated for cataract surgery and have the surgery performed at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
Appointments for cataract surgery evaluations are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday mornings. Prior to this appointment, we recommend that your dog have a complete physical examination by your veterinarian and two blood tests (a complete blood count and chemistry panel) and a urinalysis performed within one month before the appointment. The results of these should be brought with you to the appointment. After a complete eye examination is performed on your pet, the procedures involved in cataract surgery will be discussed with you. In most instances, dogs can be admitted from this appointment for surgery that same week. Most dogs are hospitalized for three to four days. Prior to the surgery, two additional tests will be performed: electroretinography (ERG) and an ultrasound examination. The ERG assesses the function of the retina, the light-sensitive layer of the eye; the ultrasound examination looks for retinal detachment. If retinal function is poor by ERG determination or if the retina is detached, surgery may not be performed.
Cataract surgery is performed under general anesthesia, usually on both eyes at the same time. An intraocular lens (IOL) is usually inserted after the cataract has been removed. The success rate of uncomplicated cataract surgery is 85 to 90%. Postoperative concerns include excessive postoperative inflammation, bleeding, glaucoma (increased eye pressure), and retinal detachment. Note that these complications are also common in eyes with blinding cataracts that are not operated on!
Because dogs’ eyes develop more serious inflammation than human eyes after cataract surgery, they must receive treatments (a combination of pills, eye drops, and ointments) several times daily for four to six weeks after this surgery. They also must be rechecked by a veterinary ophthalmologist two or three times during this period. Both postoperative treatments and follow-up are critical to achieve the best results!
The cost of uncomplicated cataract surgery is approximately $3,400, inclusive of the preliminary examination, ERG and ultrasound examinations, hospitalization, initial medications, surgery, anesthesia, and operating room use. The professional fee for the first three postoperative rechecks within 90 days is included in the surgery fee; medication refills are not included.
Note: If dogs are receiving cortisone drugs (e.g., prednisone, dexamethasone) for skin or other conditions, or arthritis drugs (e.g., Deramaxx ®, Rimadyl ®, Zubrin ®, Aspirin), these must be stopped at least 10 days prior to the appointment.
To schedule a consultation for your pet with cataracts with the Ophthalmology Service, please call the Companion Animal Hospital at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University at (607) 253-3060. New York State Law requires a valid rabies certificate be presented upon arrival to our hospital. Failure to do so may result in your pet not being evaluated.