Was your dog diagnosed with cataracts? If so, you must know cataracts in dogs are usually associated with age but it is not the only cause. Genetics, diabetes, nutritional disorders, infection, other diseases, and former eye injury are also possible roots.
Cataracts appear as a cloudy or bluish-gray covering in your dog’s eyes causing blurry vision. They may affect one or both eyes and may vary in size and progression.
However, in the long run, they may lead to painful inflammation or total blindness.
Once developed, cataract surgery is the only known method to clear the vision and has long proven to restore more than 85% of one’s vision. Then again, not all dogs may need it. Only a veterinary ophthalmologist can decide.
Average Cost of a Dog Cataract Surgery
Simply put, dog cataract surgery is quite expensive. On average, it amounts to $3,500 – $4,500, depending if one or both eyes are affected. This amount already covers expenses from pre-surgery up until post-surgery.
This amount may also depend on your location and the condition of your dog, though. It may be more expensive for dogs with other illnesses and older dogs since this may give rise to more complications.
The reason for this exorbitant fee is mainly because the surgery is similar to what is done in humans.
During the surgery, two of the most expensive equipment used is the phacoemulsification apparatus and the operating microscope. Not to mention the specialized training of veterinary ophthalmologists – the only professionals who can perform the surgery.
To give you a better view of what you are actually paying for, let’s break down that cost for you.
First and foremost, for your dog to be diagnosed properly, diagnostic tests need to be conducted. This includes the use of a tonometer to measure the pressure in the eye and check if your dog has already developed glaucoma – a result of the cataract. Initial examination costs around $168.
Like humans, blood work will also be conducted to check for any signs of other illnesses like diabetes. This ensures that proper medication is given to the dogs and the necessary adjustments to the operation are done. This amounts to another $194.
Additional tests may also be run such as:
- Electroretinography (ERG) test, $410;
- Gonioscopy testing to verify retinal function, $39;
- Blood pressure measurement, $36; and
- Ultrasonogram, $220.
You can never be too sure, right? Now, if your dog is qualified for the surgery, the operation is scheduled.
During the actual surgery, since it is done inside the eyes, one needs to make sure your dog cannot feel any pain. As such, general anesthesia is used, which adds to the bill. The syringes, needles, gloves, and equipment used during the procedure add to the overall cost too.
Now, the costs depend on whether surgery is done with one eye or both, and if one wants intraocular or artificial lenses (IOL) to be inserted. Eye Specialists Animals is the one of veterinary clinics clearly stating its price list. It offers the following prices:
- One eye, without IOL – $2,500
- One eye, with IOL – $2,750
- Both eyes without IOL – $3,300
- Both eyes with one IOL – $3,500
- Both eyes with two IOLs – $3,700
As you might know, eye surgeries are very delicate. In the case of cataract surgery, everything is done under a microscope all throughout the procedure.
The surgery starts with a small incision in the eye to reach the lens. For dilating the pupils, epinephrine is then injected. A dye and viscoelastic gel are injected afterward to protect the eye structure.
Soon, another incision is created again to allow the phacoemulsification probe to enter. This is a specialized apparatus that literally sucks the eye lenses out. But before that happens, a balanced salt solution is introduced to mobilize the lens for surgery.
A third incision is then made just in case another instrument needs to be used. Then phacoemulsification is performed.
Again, this entails the actual removal of the damaged lens through suction using a specialized probe. Visualize it as a micro vacuum cleaner pushed through the eye – that is basically phacoemulsification.
After which, an acrylic foldable lens is injected to replace the removed lens. Viola! Your dog now has new synthetic lenses.
Finally, the area is cleaned stitched using absorbable sutures to keep everything in place.
As you may imagine, only highly trained, board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist can perform the surgery. This means higher than normal veterinarian professional fee.
After surgery, your dog may need some time in the hospital for proper monitoring. This time, hospitalization prices may vary from hospital to hospital across states.
Nonetheless, there are a lucky few that are permitted to return home the same day without hospitalization.
Medication such as eye drops and antibiotics will also be prescribed. This may be required for weeks, months, or for the rest of the dog’s lifetime to guarantee perfect recovery.
Antioxidant supplements may also be advised to avoid further tissue scarring and other complications.
Immediately after the surgery, your dog is also required to wear a cone-shaped restraint Elizabeth collar for the next two weeks to prevent further eye injury. Follow-up visits to the veterinary ophthalmologist should also be done to ensure that no complications have occurred.
When recovery goes well, dogs may regain their vision once the incisions are healed. Around 90% of vision will be restored; not a hundred. This is because of the scars left by the procedure.
Fortunately, cataracts will not recur. But this is not an assurance that other eye diseases will not occur. If other complications arise, they may still give rise to problems with vision.
Pet Health Insurance
Since there is no running away from the high cost of cataract surgery, getting pet insurance beforehand may be beneficial. In the United States, a number of pet insurance companies that cater to dogs have already surfaced offering different deals to best fit your needs:
- Healthy Paws
- Pets Best
Like human health insurances, pet insurance may be more expensive depending on the age and health condition of your dog. For the best deal, it is best that you get pet insurance the moment you own a dog; just before any health problems develop.
Cataract Surgery Risks
Although cataract surgery has an 85%-90% success rate, it nonetheless, involves risks. After surgery, some dogs may not regain normal vision due to possible complications like eye trauma or further inflammation.
These, in turn, may lead to blindness.
Be that as it may, if the prescribed medication and aftercare instructions are followed carefully, there is no need to worry.
What Happens if Surgery is not Done?
As previously mentioned, cataracts vary in size and progression. If they are relatively stable and small, surgery may not be needed. Ideally, however, cataracts are better removed as early as possible.
Without the proper surgery, chances are, your dog may acquire lens-induced uveitis (LIU). This may lead to more severe issues such as glaucoma or feasibly, retinal detachment.
It may also complicate the success rate of the cataract surgery if ever you decide to forego with it at this time.
Another possible consequence is lens luxation which may put your dog in considerable pain. Ordinarily, cataracts do not cause pain. However, if it has progressed to lens luxation, pain is inevitable.
If more complications arise, cataract surgery may not be viable. The only option then would be eye removal.
Cataracts cannot be reversed. However, antioxidant supplements, antibiotics, and specialized eye drops may be prescribed to prevent LIU, glaucoma, detached retina, lens luxation, and other complications.
Quite recently, there have been studies involving a new eye drop solution aiming to reverse cataract growth.
In 2015, Zhang and colleagues tested a lanosterol solution on dogs which they found effective. The study is still in its early stages, however. The long-term effects of the said solution are yet to be studied further.
As such, to this day, only cataract surgery reverses the effects of cataracts – both in animals and in humans.
Is Cataract Surgery Worth It?
It cannot be emphasized enough that only surgery can reverse the damage caused by cataracts. Without a doubt, it is the best option.
Nonetheless, the cost to get a cataract surgery done on your dog is outright expensive. Hence, one may resort to other options just to prevent cataracts from worsening and prevent other complications from happening.
It is most fitting then to get pet insurance the moment you acquire a dog before any health problems arise. Because truly, having a dog is a commitment.