Cataract Surgery for Dogs

Cataracts are a relatively common eye condition in people in dogs that can result in blurred vision and eventual blindness, but surgery can help to restore sight in many cases. Today our Simi Valley vets share a little about cataract surgery for dogs, and what you can expect if your dog has cataract surgery.

What are cataracts in dogs?

A lens similar to a camera lens is located within each of your dog's eyes. This lens works to focus your dog's vision and provide clear vision. A cataract is an opacification or cloudiness that can occur on all or part of the lens, interfering with the focus of a clear image on the retina and impairing your dog's ability to see clearly.

How can cataracts in dogs be treated?

Cataracts in dogs can frequently be surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens. However, not all dogs with cataracts are candidates for this surgery. If your dog already has a retinal detachment, retinal degeneration, glaucoma, or severe inflammation of the eyes, cataract surgery may be out of the question.

Early detection of conditions such as cataracts is critical for saving your dog's vision. Regular twice-yearly wellness exams allow your veterinarian to examine your dog's eyes for signs of developing cataracts and recommend treatment before they worsen.

In dogs diagnosed with cataracts that are good candidates for surgery, the sooner the surgery can be performed, the better their long-term outcome is likely to be.

If your pup isn't suitable for surgery rest assured that, although your pooch will remain blind they can still enjoy a very good quality of life. With a little practice, your dog will soon adapt and navigate their home environment well by using their other senses to guide them. 

What is the cataract surgery process for dogs?

Each veterinary hospital will do things a little differently, but in most cases, you will drop your dog off either the morning of surgery or the night before. While some special care is required for diabetic dogs, your vet will always provide you with detailed feeding and care instructions prior to surgery day. Follow your veterinarian's instructions exactly.

Pre-Surgery Testing

  • Before the surgery, your dog will be sedated and an ultrasound will be performed to check for issues such as retinal detachment or lens rupture (bursting).An electroretinogram (ERG) will be performed to ensure that your dog's retina is functioning properly. If these tests reveal any unexpected issues, your dog may not be a candidate for cataract surgery.

Surgical Procedure

  • A general anesthetic will be used for the cataract surgery. A muscle relaxant will also be given to your dog to help his eye sit in the correct position for the procedure. Phacoemulsification is a technique used to remove cataracts in dogs. This procedure, similar to cataract surgery on humans, uses an ultrasonic device to break up and remove the cloudy lens from the dog's eye. After the cataract-causing lens is removed, an artificial lens implant (intraocular lens, or IOL) can be implanted in the eye to allow images to be focused clearly onto the retina.


  • Typically the vet performing your dog's ocular surgery will recommend that your dog stay overnight for monitoring, following cataract surgery. Intensive at-home aftercare will be required following surgery including the use of several types of eye drops, multiple times each day.

How much is cataract surgery for dogs?

This question is best posed to your vet directly. They should be able to provide you with a much more accurate estimate.

What is the success rate for cataract surgery in dogs?

Many dogs will have some vision restored by the very next day, but typically it will take a few weeks for vision to settle as the eye adjusts to the effect of surgery and the presence of the artificial lens. Provided that the rest of the eye is in good working order, cataract surgery in dogs is considered a very successful treatment with a high rate of positive outcomes.

Approximately 95% of dogs regain vision after surgery. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with a long-term prognosis for your dog, but in general, maintaining vision after surgery is about 90% at one year and 80% at two years. Good post-operative care and regular visits to the veterinarian for eye examinations and monitoring following surgery and throughout your dog's life are critical to long-term success.

Are there risks with cataract surgery for dogs?

All surgical procedures on animals or humans carry some level of risk. Complications from cataract surgery in dogs are uncommon, but vets have seen corneal ulcers and pressure elevations within the eye after cataract surgery.Taking your dog to the veterinary surgeon for a follow-up exam is critical for preventing complications after surgery.

What is the recovery process like for dogs that have had cataract surgery?

In dogs, the initial healing period after cataract surgery is about 2 weeks. During that time, your dog must wear an E-collar (cone) at all times and limit their activity to leash walks only. During this time, you will also need to give your dog a number of medications, including eye drops and oral medications. It is critical to carefully follow your veterinarian's instructions in order to achieve a positive outcome for your dog's vision.

Depending on the results of the 2 week follow-up appointment, your dog's medications may be reduced, however, some dogs will need to remain on medication permanently.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog losing their vision to cataracts? Contact our Simi Valley vets to book an examination for your pooch.