How Much Does Dog Eye Ulcer Surgery Cost?


Written by:  Howmuchisit.org Staff
Last Updated:  August 10, 2018

The cornea, being the outermost covering or layer of your dog’s eye and compromised of four layers, is transparent and admits light into the eye.  All of the other parts, including the pupil and iris, lay behind it, serving as a barrier to protect the inside of the eye from bacteria, foreign objects and just about anything that may appear with the vision.

To treat a corneal ulcer in a canine, a veterinarian or veterinarian eye specialist will perform what’s known as a chronic ulcer surgery or keratotomy, a procedure which treats indolent ulcers by removing the epithelial cells which are no longer attached.  This procedure, depending on the size of the ulcer, will be done under either a topical or general anesthesia.

Eyes open by Teresa Trimm, on Flickr
Eyes open” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Teresa Trimm

How much does dog eye ulcer surgery cost?

The to cost to have a canine’s eye ulcer removed will all depend on the type of procedure, the size of the dog due to the amount of anesthesia necessary for the surgery, your vet and geographical location.  A simple keratectomy for a smaller dog with little conflict could cost as little as $200 whereas a superficial keratectomy, considered to be a much more complex surgery for a larger and older dog, could cost as much as $2,300+.  

In some cases, ulcer surgery may not be recommended as in some cases as your vet may want to try a combination of drops, steroids and/or antibiotics to see if the ulcer improves.  To be considered for a surgery, the ulcer will often need to be deep and/or even ruptured in order to help save the eye, and if the ulcer doesn’t fit the criteria for the surgery, then antibiotics, painkillers and/or eye drops will be prescribed to help treat the infection to see if the symptoms improve.  Medication should cost less than $50 a month.

At MamaPedia.com, a member stated her 14-year-old beagle had an eye ulcer and her vet quoted $700 to make a cut at the eye surface to allow the eye to heal.  This was after trying multiple drops, steroids and antibiotics.  Someone who claimed to be a vet noted you should always seek a second opinion from an ophthalmology specialist, and if you feel the surgery will be worth the investment and the vet feel the success rate will be high, then, by all means, consider it.  For those who are on a budget, she did recommend removing the eye as many dogs are able to live a fulfilling life with one eye.

The American Shih Tzu Club notes that if a veterinarian suspects a dog does have an infected ulcer, he or she will be likely to order a cytology examination, which will look for the bacteria beneath a microscope and/or a culture analysis, which is used to grow the bacteria to determine which bacteria is present.  However, as mentioned, if this ulcer is deep or perforated, meaning there is a hole in the cornea, a surgical procedure, referred to as a conjunctival graft, will be required and can cost $1,000+

The procedure

Before a surgery is even considered, your vet will first want to thoroughly examine the eye by using what’s known as a diagnostic stain.  This stain will help allow the vet to visualize any ulcers or related injuries to the cornea itself.  It can also indicate how deep the ulcer is within the cornea as well.  Aside from the stain, other tests, including a dry eye test, bacteria culture and/or blood test may be ordered to check for the presence of an infection.  Again, unless the issue at hand is mild, surgery will be considered as a last resort.

During the procedure, your dog, as mentioned, will either be administered under a general or topical anesthesia, all depending on the size of the ulcer and the age/size of the dog.  Once the dog is sedated, the surgeon will first remove any of the epithelial cells which are still attached to the stroma.  Next, using a very fine needle, as small a piece of human hair, he or she will create a series of microgrooves on the corneal stroma to create a pattern to help disrupt the abnormal position of the cornea, allowing the new cells to anchor to the healthier ones in the unhealthy area.  After the treatment, the ulcer will eventually heal, but in some cases, the procedure may need to be repeated again or a different, more invasive procedure, such as a superficial keratectomy, may be considered.

Following the procedure, the veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic, which will be dispensed in the dog’s eye for up to three times a day to help prevent any infection.  At this time, a bandage will be applied to the eye to help prevent any exposed nerve endings and a collar may be considered to prevent the dog from pawing at its eye while recovering.  Along with the antibiotic, a pain medication will be prescribed as well to help combat the pupil pain.

Can they be prevented?

TheVeterinaryExpert.com recommends regular eye examinations to detect any weaknesses in the corneal health.  If there are any indications of white or brown marks or a sticky discharge which continues to develop, then this could be a sign of a corneal ulcer.  Also, cleaning the eyes with tap water, using a lint-free towel, should be done frequently, but this process should not substitute a vet visit as ulcers will require medication to achieve fast healing.

How do they occur?

While there are several causes, the VCA Hospital notes the most common cause is due to trauma, such as the dog rubbing its eye on the carpet or due to a laceration, such as coming into contact with a sharp object or a cat’s claw, for example.  A less common cause may be due to a chemical burn, such as coming into contact with drywall dust or shampoo.

Less common causes may include bacterial infections or other related diseases such as Epithelial Dystrophy, keratoconjunctivitis (dry eye) or Endocrine-related diseases.

Symptoms of a canine eye ulcer

If the cornea is injured in any way, the sensitive nerves will be exposed, causing your dog’s eye to water more than normal.  You may also notice your dog will paw at its eye, which often signals a sign of potential pain.

As this problem can cause a sensitivity to light, a film/cloud over the eye, slight discharge, or a red, inflamed and painful appearance may be noticed.  Your dog may also try to keep its eye closed throughout the day.

Tips to know

Although almost any dogs can develop a corneal ulcer, some breeds, known as brachycephalic breeds, are more susceptible, especially those with shallow muzzles and shallow eye sockets such as the Pekingese, Shih Tzu or Lhasa apso.

A normal cornea ulcer should heal within five to seven days.


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