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What is Corneal Debridement?

Corneal debridement is a procedure that removes excess tissue from the most sensitive areas of the eye. A dog's eye is a very sensitive organ, and as such disruption to its internal structure due to pressure from excess tissue can, over time, cause damage, distortion of vision, and even blindness. The cornea can be especially susceptible to this problem, because as the external layer of the eye it is singularly exposed to potential damage and abnormalities. Unwanted cells on the cornea can be directly removed via debridement, giving the dog's vision a new lease on life and reducing the impact that various health problems can have on its lifestyle.

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Corneal Debridement Procedure in Dogs

The dog will first be placed under a general anesthetic in order to both lessen the stress felt by the animal and prevent the eye itself from moving during the procedure. Next, the eyeball will be numbed via a mild general anesthetic delivered in the form of an eye-drop. The veterinary surgeon will then use a blunt instrument (in conjunction with a high-magnification lens) to incrementally remove cells from the target area of the cornea. This process will continue until all of the unwanted tissue has been removed. Following this, the surgeon will most likely choose to utilize a diamond-tipped tool known as a 'burr' to smooth out the cells that have been left behind. Many vets will simply use the burr by itself to both debride the excess tissue and perform the polishing.

Efficacy of Corneal Debridement in Dogs

The effects of the debridement procedure will be virtually instantaneous in terms of restoring the dog's vision, though it will take a week or so until the dog is able to fully use the eye. This is due to the fact that the debrided tissue will require some time in which to fully repair itself, causing the vision to become slightly blurred for a period of roughly three or four days. After this, the effects of the procedure will be permanent, with a repetition only being required if the dog somehow incurs additional damage to the eye in a separate incident.

Corneal Debridement Recovery in Dogs

Following the procedure, the dog will require some time for its eye to fully recover from the debridement. Typically, this will last just under a week, as the thin layers of cells on the outside of the cornea reconfigure themselves to repair the area targeted by the debridement. The dog may need to wear a contact lens for some time after the operation, as this will help keep contaminants out of the eye as it heals. Owners will have to administer a painkiller periodically for a couple of days, which will come in the form of an eye drop. This may be the most difficult part of the aftercare, especially if the dog in question is particularly uncooperative.

Cost of Corneal Debridement in Dogs

In general terms, the procedure can cost between $200 and $500, depending on factors such as locality, the age of the dog, and the severity of their condition. Dog owners should bear in mind that the cost of anesthetic and painkillers can add to this sum.

Dog Corneal Debridement Considerations

Whilst the procedure of corneal debridement is quite fast and relatively risk-free, dog owners should be aware that there can be some associated risks. General anesthetic is often used in order to ensure compliance from the dog, which can be risky for older animals or ones with breathing difficulties. That said, many vets will be willing to forgo it in favor of just using the local anesthesia in conjunction with a brace to hold the dog still (though this may prove stressful for the animal). With some conditions (especially ulcers) there is a potential for the procedure to cause further damage to the eye, especially if the pre-existing damage goes deeper than anticipated. However, this can be avoided if the vet is diligent in their preparation for the procedure and evaluates the eye correctly.

Corneal Debridement Prevention in Dogs

The vast majority of dogs that incur damage to their eye do so as a result of either violence or running into sharp household objects. Keeping the dog separated from hostile animals such as cats can go a long way towards mitigating the risk of such an injury occurring. It is also advisable to keep their living environment clean (which can help prevent infections) and free of junk and clutter that may poke or scratch the animal as it moves through the house.

Corneal Debridement Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Boston Terrier
7 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

My dog had a corneal debridement a few days ago, as he has recently had a significant amount of corneal ulcers in both eyes (which we are treating with an oral anti-inflammatory/pain medication "Meloxyn" and an eye drop.) since the procedure which our vet used a que tip, there is now a red mark in his eye, surrounding the cloudy part which is the ulcer. Recheck is in 7 days, and we are seeing a opthamologist. Should I be concerned and go back to the vet right away?

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Pit bull
8 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Not opening eye much and drainage

My blind dog had a debridement yesterday and a contact lens put in place. He was born blind. He has a non- healing ulcer that will not heal with just antibiotics alone. He’s not opening his eye much today after the procedure and there is a cloudy looking film over his eye. His eye is also a little droopy. He’s on oral doxycycline, trobymycin antibiotic eye drops, remend eye moisture drops, a pain med and antropine for four days to keep his eye dilated. Is it normal for the first few days to keep his eye shut or not open much as well as have some whitish guck drain out of his eye? I would guess so since the outer layer of his eye was pretty much cleaned up.

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Golden Retriever
11 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Eye Clouding

my dog had a corneal ulcer debridement 2 days ago. Her eye now has a filmy layer over the cornea and the bottom lid is completely drooping. Is that a usual part of the healing or is there a problem?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1608 Recommendations
There is typically some cloudiness as the cornea heals and new blood circulation comes to the area, but without seeing Bailey, I'm not sure if what you are seeing is normal or is a problem. Corneal ulcers can be difficult to manage and heal, and often need frequent rechecks. It would be a good idea to have your veterinarian recheck her eye just to make sure that everything is okay.

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