If you've ever seen a one-eyed dog, chances are the dog underwent enucleation, a surgical procedure that removes an eye in dogs suffering from painful eye conditions. The procedure is done as a means of pain elimination and is therefore not performed in simple cases of blindness. While the procedure affects the physical appearance of your dog, it does not cause him long-term pain. Most dogs adapt to blindness or the loss of an eye very well.
Enucleation is not necessary for every case of canine blindness. If the blindness occurs due to age or other reason that does not cause pain, the eye is typically left in place though it can be removed. Conditions that typically require enucleation include cancer inside or around the eye, severe trauma resulting in an injury that cannot be repaired surgically, congenital deformities or an infection of the eye that medication is unable to control. Another condition, glaucoma, is often treated with enucleation if medications or other surgeries are unable to relive the pressure in the eye.
While trauma can occur with any dog, certain breeds are predisposed to conditions that can create a need for enucleation. Glaucoma risks are higher in beagles, basset hounds, chow chows, cocker spaniels, Dalmatians and poodles. Labrador retrievers have an increased risk for uveal melanomas, an eye cancer treated with enucleation.
Before the surgery, hair around the eye must be clipped. For enucleation surgery, the veterinarian places your dog under general anesthesia. There are two different types of eye removal surgery. The first one removes just the eyeball, leaving the surrounding tissue. This is an enucleation. If the surrounding tissue needs removing, such as with cancer, the procedure is called exenteration. After the surgeon removes the eye, the eyelids are shut with sutures. If a trauma was responsible for eye removal, the surgeon may choose to insert a plastic ball into the eye socket to prevent skin from sinking after healing. This method, however, is not possible in cases of cancer or infection due to the possibility of recurring infection.
Enucleation surgery is typically low risk. Commons complications during surgery include problems or reactions to the general anesthesia or bleeding. After surgery, the risk of infection is always a possibility. The sutures must be kept clean at all times. In most cases, your dog will be sent home wearing an Elizabethan collar. The veterinarian may prescribe pain medications, as well as antibiotics in cases of an infection. Swelling and a mild discharge from the surgical site for the first few days are normal, as is swelling. Your veterinarian will send you home with post-operative care instructions. Sutures are typically removed 10 to 14 days following surgery.
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