The Removal of Cataracts in Cats

After cataract removal surgery, your cat will be able to see clearly again.

After cataract removal surgery, your cat will be able to see clearly again.

As your kitty ages, he may develop cataracts, making the lenses of his eyes cloudy, impairing his eyesight and possibly causing blindness. Depending on your furry friend's health and the severity of his cataracts, your veterinary ophthalmologist may recommend surgery to remove them.

Cataracts

Cataracts form within the lenses of the eyes, hindering light from reaching the retinas. Cataracts progress slowly -- over years -- and typically form in both eyes, though one usually develops earlier than the other. Depending on the size of the cataracts, you might be able to see them. They give eyes a milky or cloudy appearance. Illness, injury and aging are prime causes of cataracts. Hypertension, diabetes, feline leukemia and feline infectious peritonitis are all illnesses that cause cataracts. No treatment exists to reverse or cure cataracts other than surgery to remove them, according to PetPlace.com.

Veterinary Ophthalmology

If you suspect your kitty may be suffering from cataracts, bring him to your vet for an exam. Your regular vet may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for a more detailed exam of your furry friend's eyes if surgery is being considered. A specialist will perform tests such as an ultrasound and an electroretinogram on your kitty's eyes. An electroretinogram tests how responsive your furry buddy's retina cells are. These tests determine whether your kitty's eyes are generally healthy and free from inflammation, making him an appropriate candidate for surgery. Treating issues like diabetes and high blood pressure can prevent your kitty's cataracts from worsening without having to resort to surgery if they are relatively small, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Surgery

If your kitty is a candidate for surgery, a veterinary ophthalmologist will remove the cataracts from the cat's eyes through one of three surgical methods. They include extracapsular lens extraction, intracapsular lens extraction, and phacofragmentation, also known as phacoemulsification. Your veterinary surgeon performs ECLE only if the lenses are too hard for phacofragmentation and ICLE only if the lenses have slipped out of their normal positions, according to WebMD. The most common form of surgical technique is phacoemulsification. In this method, the surgeon makes incisions into the cornea and lens capsule of the eye. He'll then liquify the lens using a small ultrasonic device that emits high-frequency sound through these incisions. The vet removes the liquified lens and replaces it with a new, artificial one. At the end of surgery, the vet closes the incisions and your kitty will go home with you to recover. The procedure takes about an hour.

Considerations

If your kitty has relatively healthy eyes and the veterinary ophthalmologist recommends surgical removal of your the cat's cataracts, it is important to have this done soon. Cataracts can progress quickly, leading to glaucoma and retinal detachment, which permanently damage his eyes, making surgery a relatively pointless endeavor. Surgery isn't generally recommended for kitties with nonhereditary cataracts, according to the petMD website. After surgery, your furry friend will need his activities restricted and will require special eye drops daily, several times a day, for up to six months, according to the Animal Eye Care Clinics. This surgery is relatively expensive, costing up to $3,586 for cataract removal in both eyes, as of November 2012, according to VetInfo. Feline cataract surgery is successful in more than 90 percent of cases, according to petMD.

 

About the Author

Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.

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