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Extracapsular lens extraction is usually performed to address cataracts in your dog's eyes. Cataracts are cloudy formations in the lens of your dog's eyes, resulting in impaired vision. While vision may not be severely impaired initially, over time, damage to the lens and lens capsule can occur. The lens capsule is the membrane-like covering for your dog's eye lens. Some medications can improve cataract conditions and slow the progression of the disease, however, extractions of the cataract and affected lens provides permanent results and will be required as the condition progresses.
Extracapsular cataract and lens extraction is performed to remove the affected lens from the lens capsule, leaving the capsule partially intact, which allows an artificial lens implant, an intraocular lens, to be inserted and restore vision to your dog. This surgery is less invasive, and allows for attachment of an intraocular lens, while the alternative intracapsular lens removal, which involves the removal of the lens and lens capsule, is more invasive and does not allow for an artificial lens to be inserted in a remaining lens capsule. This surgery is performed by a veterinarian ophthalmic surgeon under general anesthetic.
Prior to cataract surgery, your dog will need to be fasted from food for 12 hours to prevent regurgitation during general anesthetic. On the day of surgery, your dog will be sedated, administered intravenous anesthetic and then administered anesthetic by gas, which will be maintained for the procedure. A small incision will be made in the cornea of the eye. A procedure called phacoemulsification will be performed to break down the damaged lens and cataract and then the emulsified lens will be removed through the small incision in the lens capsule. An ultrasonic probe will be used to break the lens down and remove it with gentle suction. If the lens can not be emulsified due to hardening, a larger incision can be made and the lens removed without breaking it down first. The back of the lens capsule is left in place. A silicone or plastic intraocular lens is implanted on the remaining lens capsule, which provides attachment for correct lens placement.
Extracapsular surgery to resolve cataract in dogs is highly successful, with most dogs recovering adequate sight to function in their environment with near normal vision. Vision may still be impaired after surgery, but will improve within a few days as your dog adjusts to the artificial lens. This procedure is also less invasive than the alternative intracapsular lens extraction, and provides appropriate attachment for an artificial lens.
Eye drops and oral medications will be prescribed to address pain, inflammation, and infection post-surgery. It is important that these medications are administered as directed. They will be required frequently, up to 4 times daily, in the immediate post-surgery phase, and daily for several weeks to months after surgery. Follow-up appointments with your vet will be required immediately after surgery and then again at weekly intervals followed by monthly intervals. Your veterinarian will give you direction on required follow-up appointments. Follow-up every 6 months to yearly can be expected long-term to ensure healing occurs, assess vision, evaluate pain, and monitor for complications and disease. You will need to keep your dog from interfering with their eye with the use of an e-collar and careful supervision immediately after surgery. Your dog will require assistance in the days following surgery, if their vision is impaired, to negotiate their environment.
The cost of cataract surgery ranges from $1,500 to $3,000 per eye. It requires the intervention of a specialized ophthalmic veterinarian and special surgical tools, which contribute to the cost.
If the lens capsule is too severely damaged to accommodate an intraocular lens it may need to be removed with the lens, resulting in impaired vision.
When successful implantation of artificial lenses is achieved, vision recovery is good. However, some farsightedness occurs and vision impairment can remain in some cases. Complications such as hemorrhage, uveitis, infection, corneal ulceration, glaucoma, retinal detachment and degeneration, and blindness can result from optical surgery to remove the lens and cataracts. It is important to ensure your dog does not cause further trauma to the eye area by scratching, which could result in irreversible injury.
A nutritious diet with beta carotene may help prevent cataracts in some cases. Avoiding medications that could cause toxicity and removing hazards that could cause eye injury to your dog will reduce trauma and degenerative eye conditions that contribute to cataract formation. Diabetes is a major contributing factor and avoiding obesity in your dog will also lessen the chances of cataracts forming as a secondary condition to diabetes.
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