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A cataract is an opacity that forms on the lens of the eye, which prevents light from reaching the retina. Cataracts may begin as small cloudy sections of the lens that do not impair the vision. Typically the opacity grows to cover the entire lens and functional vision is lost. Cataracts may develop in one or both eyes quickly over the course of several weeks or slowly over several years.
For most dogs, surgery to remove the cataracts becomes necessary. As long as the dog is in otherwise good health, the animal is considered a good candidate for the surgery. The success rate for the surgery is greater than 90 percent.
The most common method of canine cataract removal is phacoemulsification, the same procedure that is used for human cataract removal. In phacoemulsification, a small incision is made through which a probe breaks up the cataract with ultrasonic vibration. After the entire lens is removed, an artificial replacement lens is put in place.
Another reason the surgery is so successful is the introduction of anti-inflammatory drugs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have proven to be quite useful at controlling the inflammation that is a consequence of cataract surgery.