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UC Davis Helps Rescued Dog See Again

It’s said that breakups are hardest on the kids, or in this case, the dog. In late 2012, Hank, a 5-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, lost his home due to a breakup. The NorCal GSP Rescue in Menlo Park, Calif., took him in and quickly got him some much-needed help. That initial help, though, wasn’t a new home. It was a new perspective of the world. With the exception of seeing some lights and shadows, Hank was almost completely blind due to cataracts in both eyes.

Hank is a happy, healthy dog today, thanks to NorCal GSP Rescue, the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis and donations to its Compassionate Care Funds. Photographs courtesy UC Davis.

Hank was brought to Eye Care for Animals in Santa Rosa, where he was deemed a candidate for cataract surgery. Eye Care referred Hank to the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis, for the surgery. Ophthalmologists there confirmed Eye Care’s diagnosis, and were confident they could restore a significant amount of his vision. An appointment for surgery was set.

Cataract is an opacification, or clouding, of the lens of the eye, and is not, in itself, a painful condition, but it can have some painful consequences such as glaucoma. Cataracts can occur in either or both eyes, and at any age. They usually begin as small, white opacities. Because the rest of the lens is clear in the early stages, the patient will be able to see around these opacities. However, if the opacity becomes large enough, it may render the entire lens opaque, and vision may be completely lost.

Many things can cause cataracts: genetics, meaning they were inherited; diabetes mellitus; intraocular inflammation, called “uveitis”; and trauma, to name a few. There is no reliable way of preventing most cataracts, and medical therapy still is not available. The only possible treatment available is surgical removal of the cataract.

Hank is prepped and ready for surgery with just one eye peeking from behind a sterile drape.CAPTION:

Before cataract surgery can be considered, the retina must be shown to be normal. This can be determined by an electroretinogram, known as an “ERG.” Often an ocular ultrasound should be done. The ERG tests the electrical function of the retina, like an electrocardiogram tests the heart. The ocular ultrasound assesses the position of the retina and specifically detects retinal detachment. If the retina is not normal, cataract removal would not be recommended because the patient would not be able to see. If the retina is normal, surgery can usually be done.

In Hank’s case, his retina was deemed to be normal, so UC Davis ophthalmologists proceeded with surgery. The cataract in Hank’s left eye has been there for so long that the lens was completely calcified, making the surgery more challenging. Hank’s right eye needed a routine cataract surgery. Overall, the surgeons deemed the two surgeries successful, and Hank was able to see again.

It takes an entire team to perform Hank’s successful cataract surgeries.

A recent study at UC Davis looked into the success rate of cataract surgeries. The study was led by a senior veterinary student under the supervision of the UC Davis faculty. The study focused on dogs which had undergone cataract surgery within the last five years. It revealed that 81 percent of the dogs’ owners were so satisfied with the outcome of their dogs’ cataract surgeries that they would have the procedure done again if a second dog of theirs developed cataracts.

“We have so many other success stories just like Hank,” says David J. Maggs, B.V.Sc., ophthalmologist and professor of veterinary ophthalmology in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

“It’s very rewarding to see our work change the lives of so many dogs and their owners,” adds ophthalmology resident Stephanie Moore, D.V.M. “When Hank first came to us, he was a shy and timid dog, but now he’s as playful as a puppy again.”

“The entire car ride home from UC Davis, he just stared out the window,” says Cheryl Warner, foster and volunteer coordinator for NorCal GSP Rescue. “He was, no doubt, amazed at all the sights he hadn’t been able to see in years.”

Hank has since been adopted into a permanent home. His owners plan to continue to use UC Davis for his eye care follow-ups, as surgery is only the beginning of the process of eliminating cataracts. Proper recovery from a cataract surgery is not difficult, but, in order for the surgery to remain successful, does require regular examinations and a regimented eye drop routine.

Hank’s new family reports that he’s a very happy, healthy dog thanks to being able to see again. In April, they brought him back to the veterinary hospital for a re-check appointment.

“Hank’s eyes are healing well,” Moore says. “We performed a routine re-check, and Hank’s eyes are open and comfortable with no inflammation and good pressure. We are very pleased with his recovery.”

Warner adds, “Everybody at NorCal GSP was rooting for Hank. Being only 5 years old, he has so much more life ahead of him. We are extremely excited about this outcome and grateful for everything UC Davis provided.”

This success story was made possible, in part, by generous donations to the School of Veterinary Medicine’s “Compassionate Care Funds,” which are used to help families defray costs involved with treating their sick or injured animals, and to treat shelter, stray and wild animals brought to the UC Davis veterinary hospital. To make a tax-deductible contribution to this fund, please visit http://bit.ly/14bRVXZ.

This article, written by Rob Warren of UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, was reprinted with minor changes and with the permission of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

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  • Judy Higgins Kasper July 22, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    VERY interesting!

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