How Much Does Cataract Surgery for Dogs Cost?

Written by: Staff

When a dog’s lens of its eye “clouds” in a white to blue color, it may be time for cataract surgery.  Just like in a human, this surgery will replace the damaged lens with an intraocular lens implant, also known as IOL.

The cataract is the opacity of the lens that prevents the light from reaching the retina, and these cataracts can develop for a variety of reasons.  Cataracts can be caused by a disease, old age, genetics or even trauma to the eye.  They may be present at birth or as they develop, usually between one to three years old. notes that cataracts are often associated with diabetes.

Chester Portrait by nathanmac87, on Flickr
Chester Portrait” (CC BY 2.0) by nathanmac87

How much does cataract surgery for a dog cost?

On average, this surgery can range anywhere from $1,400 to as much as $3,900 for both eyes.  The cost of this surgery is going to greatly depend on the veterinary ophthalmologist performing it, the location, as well as the complexity of the situation.  Cataracts are removed by board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists.

The Cornell University Hospital for Animals, for example, explains the entire procedure and charges $3,500, inclusive of the preliminary analysis, ERG and ultrasound scans, hospitalization, medication, surgery, anesthesia, and the operating room.

Cataract surgery for a dog overview

Most vets, before the surgery begins will consult with you to explain what needs to be done prior, during, and after the surgery to ensure that your dog has the best experience possible.  During this consult, they may want to perform a complete physical examination and take two blood tests, one being a complete blood count and the other will be a chemistry panel.  A urinalysis should also be performed to make sure the dog is a suitable candidate and to confirm the diagnosis.

Before the surgery, the vet will perform an electroretinography, known as an ERG and an ultrasound.  The ERG will access the retina, while the ultrasound will be able to look at the retinal detachment.  If the retinal function is deemed to be poor or detached after the ERG, the vet may not perform the surgery.

Three to five days before the surgery begins, the vet will have you administer medication at home, designed to help your dog’s eyes prepare for the surgery.

During the procedure, the dog will be placed under a general anesthesia, and the vet will replace the bad lens with the intraocular lens implant using advanced anesthetic agents and monitoring.  A slight incision will be made in the top corner of the dog’s eye and a small circular portion of the clear lens capsule, which surrounds the cataract, will have the lens fibers removed.  Once these fibers are removed, the artificial lens will be placed inside the lens capsule and the surgical incision, usually less than a half centimeter, will be closed.   The surgery will take about 30 to 45 minutes and the general anesthesia will wear away at 60 minutes.

9 times out of 10, this surgery works, but there is the rare case that the implant does not take.  Most dogs will have to stay at the vet’s office for three to five days to monitor its progress.  The dog should be able to see well about two to three weeks after the surgery has been performed.

After the surgery, the cataract won’t come back because the lens fibers will be removed during the surgery.  In some cases, however, scarring of the capsule surrounding the lens may experience cloudiness.

What are the extra costs?

Depending on the vet’s billing procedure, additional bills may be sent for operating room usage, anesthesia, surgery, ultrasound scans, hospital stays and for the preliminary exam.

After the procedure, the dog will require a combination of pills, eye drops and ointments for up to six weeks after the procedure.  The vet will also want to see the dog at least two times to monitor its progress and remove the eyelid sutures.

The dog will be required to wear either a cone or e-collar, which may or may not be included in the surgical costs.

Tips to know:

The risks, while seen in less than 10 percent of surgeries, can include scar tissue, corneal ulcerations, corneal scarring, glaucoma, retinal detachment, and intraocular infection.  Many vets also warn that an animal can die under general anesthesia.

Dogs that tend to need this surgery include Golden Retrievers, Labradors, German Shepard, and many of the Terriers breed.

A majority of the time, cataracts are present at birth and inherited or acquired — meaning it’s simply in their genes.  Cataracts can also become hereditary and can develop later in life.  Most vets have found that it can develop around 8 years old.

This type of surgery is going to be considered a “quality of life” surgery, not a life-saving surgery, so don’t feel as if you have to get this accomplished in order for your dog to live a longer life.

To date, there are no known medical drops that can successfully get rid of cataracts.

How can I save money?

If you’re getting this surgery done, it’s best to talk with at least two to three different vets to compare prices, opinions and veterinarian skills.  Remember, when it comes to your dog’s health, cheaper is not always better.

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Average Reported Cost: $560

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How much did you spend?

Was it worth it?  

  1. Anonymous paid $ and said: said:

    Want to know what to expect, can’t afford much

    Was it worth it? Yes

  2. Michael D (Denver,  Colorado) paid $1680 and said:

    We paid $1380 for one eye (Not cheap, but considering it will give your dog his sight back, its not expensive either). You have to understand the nature of veterinarians. They are greedy by nature and will see how “concerned” you are with your dogs well being and then use that as a way to guide you into a certain cost point.

    If they see you are overly concerned and look like you have the money then the price just went up.

    The procedure is risky mostly die to the anesthesiology since they tend to be the ones who mess up. (Make sure they are monitoring (at all times) your dogs vitals and are ready and able to perform any emergency resuscitation if necessary.

    Vets hate making promises and like to give vague answers when you ask because they know they cant promise anything but still want you to promise the money.

    Make sure the vet you have performing the operation has done it as many times as you think makes you feel comfortable (get documents not just word) and make sure that actual vet will be doing the procedure (not an assistant). Run background on credentials of anesthesiologist make sure they are up to date. These are the people who you are trusting your family members life with, so ask questions until you are satisfied. If they get defensive or don’t answer look elsewhere.

    Overall it comes down to how your individual dog behaves and how you think their lives are affected and to what extent.

    Was it worth it? Yes

  3. Darlene (Leesburg,  Virginia) paid $ and said:

    I’m trying to fine out how much it’s going to cost for cataracts to be remove from a small dog

    Was it worth it? Yes

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