A cataract is a disease in which the lens has degenerated (become white) and lost its ability to focus light. Blindness results if the cataract becomes solid white. There are many causes and stages of cataract. Not all whitish looking eyes are cataracts. An old-age "drying out" of the lens (sclerosis) is much more common than a true cataract, yet may resemble cataract at first glance. Although sclerosis may cause blurred vision it rarely results in complete blindness. The ophthalmologist (eye specialist) will be able to tell you what, if any, treatment is best for your pet. Surgery may be recommended if your pet has become blind and is not able to navigate the home or cope with the loss of sight. Not all pets are good candidates for cataract surgery. The eye specialist will help you determine whether removal of the diseased lens will help your pet.
Unlike man, dogs do not need perfect vision after surgery since they obviously do not read or drive cars. Since the goal is to "restore vision" usually only one eye is operated. The added risk associated with implanting an artificial lens during surgery is usually not warranted. If your pet is still having vision problems later the opposite eye may then be operated on.
Care immediately following the surgery is extremely important to the success of the operation. Therefore, your pet may be hospitalized following the operation. A special collar may be used if it is felt that your dog might rub at the face. While some dogs can see immediately after the surgery it is not unusual for a delay of a few weeks before vision returns. In rare cases, if the retina (the "film" in the camera) has also degenerated, the ability to see may never return. Only time will tell if this is the case. As with any delicate operation there is always the risk of complications, in this case the loss of the eye. The eye surgeon will use the most up-to-date equipment to maximize the success rate and minimize the risk.