Cataracts are opaqueness of the eye's lens. They're caused by debris within the eye and prevent the retina and optic nerve from receiving light. A cataract can be small, causing minor vision problems, or can cover the entire lens, causing total blindness. The average cost of cataract surgery for dogs is between $1500 and $3000 per eye, which covers the cost of the surgery itself plus anesthesia, hospitalization and recovery.
Most dog cataracts are inherited, but they can also be caused by diabetes, poor nutrition, physical trauma and infection. Cataracts often develop quickly and can strike at any age. Untreated cataracts can deform or detach the lens, block eye drainage and lead to glaucoma.
The only effective treatment for cataracts is surgical replacement of the lens, or cataract surgery. During this procedure, the dog's defective lens is removed and an artificial lens is placed in the eye, restoring the dog's vision. A small incision is made in the capsular bag of the eyeball and a probe is inserted to ultrasonically emulsify the lens, allowing it to be removed. The new intraocular artificial lens is placed and the incision is closed.
Risks of surgery include anesthesia reaction, infection, damage to the structures surrounding the lens and blindness. However, surgery is effective and uncomplicated in 95 percent of patients and is considered safe enough that it is usually performed on an outpatient basis. Surgery performed under high magnification and the steady hand of a board-certified veterinary ocular surgeon elicits the best results.
Most dogs will have improved vision immediately after a successful procedure, though their sight may be blurry for a week or more following surgery. Treated dogs typically have near-normal, though farsighted, vision.
Cataract surgery is expensive because it is extremely delicate and requires a great deal of skill and technical equipment. The procedure in dogs is much the same as the procedure in humans, but most dogs do not have medical insurance to cover any of the cost. The average cost of cataract surgery in dogs ranges from $1,500 to $3000 per eye, depending on the facility and skill level of the surgeon.