What is Grid Keratotomy?

A grid keratotomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure involving the epithelium (outer layer) and stroma (thickest layer) of the cornea. It is used to treat chronic ulcers on the surface of the eye. These ulcers are painful to the dog, and often change in both size and shape. Performing a grid keratotomy can encourage the damaged epithelium to attach to the eye and heal. 

Generally, these ulcers begin from physical trauma to the eye. Topical and oral therapies may be attempted before a grid keratotomy is recommended. Dogs suffering from eye ulcers may experience constant discharge and tearing from the affected eye. The eye may appear swollen and red, with the pupil exhibiting a blue color. A veterinarian will need to perform the grid keratotomy, preferably one with optical experience.

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Grid Keratotomy Procedure in Dogs

A grid keratotomy does not require the use of general anesthesia, and can be performed during a regular veterinary visit. The dog will be sedated and a topical anesthesia will be applied to the eyes via drops to begin the process. An eyelid speculum will be used to prevent the eyelids from moving. Before a grid keratotomy can be performed, all loose epithelium tissue must be removed. This is done using a sterile cotton swab against the eye's surface. 

A veterinary technician will have to restrict the dog's movement during the grid keratotomy. A 20 gauge needle is then used to prick the eye. Multiple pricks or scratches are made right through to the stroma of the eye. This stimulates the epithelium to heal by making it easier to attach to the stroma.

Efficacy of Grid Keratotomy in Dogs

A grid keratotomy carries a very high success rate, with up to 95% of dogs relieved of their ulcers following this procedure. A contact lens is often bandaged to the eye for approximately one week to ease healing. The use of epithelium debridement and a bandaged lens alone yields only a 50% success rate. Diamond burring using a small rotary tool has also been found to successfully treat SCCEDs in dogs, however it requires special equipment to be completed.

Grid Keratotomy Recovery in Dogs

Chronic eye ulcerations can take several weeks to heal even with treatment. An Elizabethan collar is recommended during this time, especially if the dog's eye has been bandaged. The collar can prevent the dog from scratching at its damaged eye. It is possible for new ulcers to develop during the healing process. A prescription will be given for topical and oral medication, including steroids, NSAIDs and antibiotics. Pain relief is also given to help ease the irritation of the ulcer. On average, five to seven appointments will be needed to re-administer treatment and to assess how the eye is healing. Medication doses will be adjusted at these appointments. 

Cost of Grid Keratotomy in Dogs

As no general anesthesia is needed for this procedure, it is not as expensive as many surgical treatments. The price for a grid keratotomy can range from $500 up to $1,000. Keep in mind that the overall price may increase, as it is not uncommon for multiple procedures to be needed. Diamond burring is only offered at certain veterinary clinics and may cost more than grid keratotomy to offset the cost of equipment. Medical treatment may be needed for several weeks or more.

Dog Grid Keratotomy Considerations

A grid keratotomy is not associated with many risks and is minimally invasive, however SCCED can be a very stubborn disease. If the ulcers are recurring after multiple keratotomies, a keratectomy may be required. This procedure involves the use of general anesthesia. A conjunctival graft may also be recommended to treat severe cases. If a dog suffers from dry eyes, the healing process may be delayed. 

Grid Keratotomy Prevention in Dogs

SCCED is a genetically inherited issue that occurs due to a dog's anatomy. Boxers and other breeds who have bulging eye are especially susceptible to the issue. The dog's failure to fully blink leads to complications with the healing of the eye. It is always a good idea to enquire about your dog's family health history when obtaining the animal. This can help you prepare to certain issue before they develop. Treating the ulcers before they are large in size may be easier than dealing with excessive damage.