Thank you for considering the MU Veterinary Health Center Ophthalmology Service for evaluation of cataracts in your pet and potential cataract surgery. We have provided some helpful information below for your review prior to bringing your pet in for its first appointment.
Why should you consider cataract surgery for your animal?
Cataract surgery is one of the most rewarding procedures veterinary ophthalmologists have the privilege of performing in animals. The goal of surgery is to take a blind pet and restore vision, thus improving the pet’s quality of life. A second important reason to consider pursuing surgery is that cataracts, when left untreated, often cause secondary changes in the eye that may result in severe ocular discomfort. Two common complications in untreated cataract patients are uveitis (inflammation inside of the eye) and glaucoma (elevated pressure inside of the eye).
Steps to take prior to your pet’s first appointment
Our first goal in providing you and your pet with optimal client and patient care is to determine if, in fact, your pet has cataracts. There are some conditions that will appear like cataracts, but in fact, are not (for example, endothelial degeneration or dense nuclear sclerosis). We are happy to examine your pet at our earliest available appointment to first answer this question for you. However, if you or your primary care veterinarian are confident that cataracts are present, in order to ensure cataract surgery can be performed as promptly as possible in your pet, it is important that your pet be in good health prior to surgery. For this reason, we recommend your pet have complete bloodwork, including a complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry profile, a urinalysis with culture and sensitivity, and a dental cleaning if dental disease is present performed by your primary care veterinarian prior to surgery. These can be performed before or after your initial exam with our service in which we will confirm and evaluate the extent of cataract development in your pet, but these tests/ procedures ARE REQUIRED prior to undergoing cataract surgery in the vast majority of our patients.
Additionally, if your pet has other systemic illnesses, such as skin/ear infections or diabetes, it is very important these conditions are controlled prior to surgery. For example, if your pet is diabetic, a glucose curve should be performed to ensure that the diabetes is well controlled. In addition, a urine culture with sensitivity should be performed to ensure that a bladder infection is not present, as diabetics are more susceptible to infections. If an infection is present within the body, it could spread to the eye via the bloodstream during cataract surgery, causing a vision threatening intraocular infection.
What to expect at your pet’s first appointment
During the initial consultation with our specialty service you and your pet will meet a veterinary student who will take a history, perform initial screening tests and examine your pet. You will then meet a veterinary ophthalmology resident and board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist faculty member who will examine your pet’s eyes closely both before and after pupillary dilation. The doctors will determine the severity of the cataracts and if any other eye conditions are present which require management prior to surgery. The cost of this examination is approximately $240, which does not include any medications prescribed at that time.
If your pet is deemed healthy and the cataracts are at a stage where surgery is recommended, the doctors will recommend further testing to determine if your pet is a good candidate for cataract surgery. These tests include an electroretinogram (ERG), ocular ultrasound and gonioscopy. The cost of an initial examination that includes these three additional screening tests is approximately $900 to $950. Providing the test results are positive, cataract surgery will be scheduled at the next available surgical appointment. It is important for owners to realize that at no time can the ophthalmology service guarantee that surgery can be performed the day following the initial consultation examination (there is currently a three- to six-week waiting period) and typically most pets require several weeks of pre-treatment medications prior to being deemed a good surgical candidate.
Cost estimate for cataract surgery
Cataract surgery in our domestic animals requires full general anesthesia. The cost estimate for cataract surgery in one eye at this time (June 2022) is $3,500-$3,800. For surgery performed on both eyes under the same general anesthetic episode, the estimate is $4,200-$4,600. This estimate DOES include the initial consultation and diagnostics tests. This estimate DOES NOT include recheck examinations (which are approximately $170 each), any additional procedures that may be recommended after surgery, or medication refills.
What to expect when your pet is scheduled for cataract surgery
Your pet will be scheduled to come in the day before surgery and stay two nights in our hospital. On this recheck examination, our ophthalmology staff and doctors will perform another pre-surgical examination to monitor for any changes that may have occurred in your pet’s eyes. The doctors will then review with you the details of surgery, after care requirements, recheck appointments, and you will be asked to fill out several forms before leaving your pet. During your pet’s stay, you will receive a minimum of two updates via phone per day. Typically, your pet will go home one day after surgery has been performed. In most cases, we recommend recheck examinations at one week, three weeks, and six to eight weeks, four months, eight months, and then yearly after surgery.
We are here to support you
At every examination, you and your primary care veterinarian will be provided with a written summary of our examination findings and detailed instructions of medical therapy. This is especially important because the initial month after cataract surgery demands frequent topical and oral medical therapy and we rely on teamwork among our hospital personnel, the owner’s careful adherence to instructions, and your primary care veterinarian’s assistance in some of the follow-up care. You will also be provided with handouts that discuss cataracts in more detail. Finally, we recommend to all our prospective clients that you watch the following video:
Last updated June 2022