Learning that your cat or dog needs eye removal surgery can be shocking, and you'll likely have many questions. In this post, our Rock Hill veterinarians explain pet eye removal in detail. We also discuss recovery time, potential complications, and more.

Enucleation in Cats & Dogs

Finding out that your pet needs an eye removed can invoke many emotions, including shock, alarm, sadness, and of course, concern for your pet's health during surgery and the recovery process.

The procedure to surgically remove a pet's eye is called enucleation, and it is normally performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist or ocular specialist.

Your vet may recommend this permanent and irreversible solution if:

  • Your pet's eye is badly or irreparably damaged
  • Your pet's eye pain is unmanageable
  • Your pet has an untreatable eye condition or tumor

There are two types of enucleation surgery: transconjunctival or transpalpebral. The transconjunctival approach to enucleation reduces orbital tissue loss and subsequent orbital sinking. There is less risk of hemorrhaging and the procedure time is faster overall.

If the eye is damaged beyond repair, your veterinarian may choose to use the transpalpebral approach. We remove the entire eye globe, which includes the eyelids, conjunctiva, and nictitating membrane, during this surgery.

A veterinarian has the ability to replace the inner contents of the eye with a prosthesis, resulting in a more natural-looking eye. However, eyes with tumors or infections should not be subjected to this.

Pet Eye Removal Surgery: Procedure & Cost

The hospital staff will check your pet's vital signs prior to administering pre-anesthetic drugs. Once sedation is achieved, we will proceed with initiating general anesthesia. The staff will shave the fur around the affected eye and trim the upper eyelashes with fine scissors. They will then use tape to remove any fine hair from the skin.

Your veterinarian and you will choose the surgical approach for your pet's eye condition and needs, and complete the surgery accordingly. We will carefully remove the eyeball and eyelids and stitch their wounds.

We use stitches to close wounds. Certain stitches are made of a material that is absorbable and invisible, so they don't need to be removed as they gradually dissolve. Stitches that are non-absorbable are typically visible on the skin's surface. Discuss with your vet the type of stitches used and receive instructions on when to return for their removal.

After the surgery, the skin will cover the empty eye socket. Although the eye may stay swollen for about a week, the scar will be barely noticeable once the fur regrows.

The cost of your pet's enucleation surgery will be determined by various factors, such as their requirements for pre-operative and post-operative care. Inquire with your veterinarian about obtaining a comprehensive and precise cost estimate for your pet's procedure.

Pet Eye Enucleation: Potential Complications

In case of infection, the eye area will stay swollen for a longer period of time than usual, and you might observe pus draining from the incision. Drainage and antibiotics would be necessary to treat the infection in this case.

If you observe any of these symptoms and have concerns about your cat or dog possibly having a post-surgical infection, it is important to promptly consult your veterinarian.

Veterinarians may encounter challenges when removing a pet's eyes that have been severely damaged, making it difficult to remove the eye intact. The rear eye membranes may leave behind a small fragment. When there is sufficient remaining tissue, the incision may continue to secrete fluid. A second surgery may be necessary to thoroughly clean the pet's eye socket if this is deemed excessive.

Recovery After Eye Removal Surgery

This procedure offers a long-lasting solution for eye conditions that have not or will not respond to treatment. Ideally, removing an eye that has been damaged by injury, infection, or disease completely eliminates the issue and prevents the condition from spreading.

Here's what you can expect and some actions to take to ensure your pet's recovery from surgery goes as smoothly as possible:

Bruising - There may be some mild bruising and swelling soon after your pet's surgery. It's normal for this to worsen in the first 24 hours, then ease gradually over the first week of recovery.

Weeping - You may see a small amount of blood-stained fluid come from your pet's wound or, occasionally, from the nose. This is because the tear ducts are connected to the inner nostrils. Contact your vet for further instruction and care if there are more than a few drips. Blood dripping from the nose should diminish about two to four days after the operation. 

Pain - Your cat or dog is likely to feel a small amount of pain and discomfort post-surgery. Most of this can be managed with medication. Make sure to administer all medicines correctly once your cat or dog has returned home. Contact your vet if your cat or dog still seems to be in severe pain. Once healing is complete, the surgical area should be pain-free and comfortable. 

Protect the Wound - You'll need to prevent your cat or dog from pawing at or damaging the surgical site to avoid infection or reopening the wound, especially in the first 3-5 days post-surgery. Your pet should wear their e-collar (Elizabethan collar, also referred to as a head cone) the incision has healed and your vet says it can be removed (usually within 10-14 days). Your pet should be able to eat and drink with the collar in place, but if you have concerns, check with your vet about removing the collar at meal times. Make sure your pet is well-supervised if you do remove the e-collar. If you have other pets living in your home, you'll also need to stop them from licking your pet's wound and sutures by separating them from your pet during your pet's recovery.

Keep Your Cat or Dog Indoors - If your pet normally ventures outside, it's important to keep them indoors as they recover. This decreases the risk of injury or infection.

Administer Medication as Directed - Your vet will prescribe pain medication to be administered while your [et recovers, likely for a week or so after surgery. Make sure to provide this as instructed.

Make Sure Your Pet Gets Lots of Rest & TLC - Arrange a warm, comfortable, quiet place for your pet to rest and recover after the surgery.

Provide Soft Food - If your pet is experiencing pain or a loss of appetite, soft food may help. Try warming their normal food slightly or giving them something with a strong scent, such as tuna.

Return to Your Vet for Stitch Removal - Stitches typically need to be removed within about 7 to 14 days after the operation.

Monitor Whisker Regrowth for Cats - After enucleation surgery, whiskers won't typically grow back for six to eight weeks. Since cats use their whiskers to sense their surrounding environment, they should be monitored and protected during this timeframe as cats without whiskers are prone to becoming imbalanced. 

Life After Eye Removal Surgery

Many pet parents wonder, "What happens when my pet loses an eye?". Some worry for their pet's safety and ability to enjoy a good quality of life.

Owning a one-eyed pet will come with its challenges, but shouldn't be particularly different from having a fully sighted pet, as they tend to adapt well. You can help them by: 

  • Moving any objects that are the same height as your pet's head and may cause harm or injury (since your pet will not be able to see from the side where they've had the eye removed). 
  • Take other preventive measures as directed by your vet if your pet has a condition that may threaten the remaining eye.
  • Speak to them when approaching on their blind side to avoid startling them. Tell guests to do the same and take extra care when bringing small children and other animals around your pet. 

Most pets respond well to partial blindness and resume regular activities quickly. 

Enucleation Prevention in Pets 

Surgeons often recommend pet eye removal surgery for eye conditions with unknown causes. Prevention is not always possible. Starting with preventing eye trauma and promptly seeking veterinary care if you notice any issues is crucial.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have questions about surgical eye procedures for pets? Perhaps you are seeing concerning symptoms in your furry friend. Contact our Rock Hill veterinary team today to find out of there's anything wrong.