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Eye Removal (Enucleation) in Cats

If your cat suddenly needs to have an eye removed you can be left with many questions about how it will affect their life moving forward. Here, our veterinarians in Cumming discuss the eye enucleation procedure for cats, why removal is needed and what you can expect during recovery.

Enucleation in Cats

There are various reasons why your cat may require eye enucleation (removal surgery). Knowing the causes and what to expect during the procedure and as your cat heals can help to put your mind at ease.

This surgical procedure is typically performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist or ocular specialist. Your vet may recommend this treatment as a permanent solution for issues like:

  • Irreparably damaged eyes.
  • Unmanagable pain in cats.
  • Eye conditions or tumors with no cure.

There are two types of enucleation surgery: transconjunctival and transpalpebral:

Transconjunctival: With a transconjunctival procedure, less extraocular tissue is removed, leaving the affected area fuller once healing is complete.

Transpalpebral: The transpalpebral approach may be used if the eye is infected or irreparably damaged. In this procedure, the entire eyeball is removed, including the contents of the conjunctival sac (eyelids, protective membrane and third eyelid).

Occasionally, the vet may replace the internal contents of the eye with a prosthesis, giving the eye a more natural appearance. However, this method is not suitable for eyes with tumors or infections.

Cat Eye Removal Surgery: Procedure & Cost

Our staff will take your cat's vital signs before administering pre-anesthetic medication. Once your cat has been anesthetized, the vet will then shave the fur around the affected eye and trim the upper eyelashes with fine scissors before using tape to remove the fine hairs from the skin.

The surgical procedure will follow the surgical approach your veterinarian has chosen based on the condition and needs of your cat's eye. During the procedure itself, your cat's eyeball and eyelids will be carefully removed, and the wound will be sutured.

Your vet will use stitches to close the wound. Some stitches are made of an absorbable, invisible material and will not need to be removed as they gradually dissolve. Most often, stitches are not absorbable and are visible on the surface of the skin. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you what type of stitches were used and when to return to have them removed.

Once the surgery is complete, the empty eye socket will be covered with skin. The cost of your cat's enucleation depends on many factors, including the pre- and post-operative care your cat requires. Ask your veterinarian for an accurate, detailed estimate of the cost of the procedure for your cat.

Cat Eye Enucleation: Complications

One of the most common complications from surgery is infection and subsequent swelling. You may also notice a discharge of pus from the incision. If this occurs, the affected area will require drainage and your cat will need to begin antibiotics.

If you notice these symptoms and suspect your cat suffers from a post-surgical infection, consult your vet as soon as possible.

When an animal's eyes are removed due to severe damage, vets sometimes find it difficult to remove the eye in one piece. A small fragment of the eye's back membrane may remain. If enough of this tissue remains, liquid secretions may continue to ooze from the incision. If this secretion is excessive, a second surgical procedure may be required to clean the animal's orbit completely.

Recovery After Eye Removal Surgery

Cat eye enucleation is a permanent solution for conditions that have not or will not respond to treatment. Completely removing an eye that's been damaged by injury, infection, or disease will ideally eliminate the issue and prevent the condition from spreading. 

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

Bruising: There may be some mild bruising and swelling soon after your cat'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 cat'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 will likely feel a small amount of pain and discomfort post-surgery. Most of this can be managed with medication. Ensure you administer all medicines correctly once your cat has returned home. Contact your vet if your cat still seems to be in severe pain. Once healing is complete, the surgical area should be pain-free and comfortable. 

Protect the Wound: You must prevent your cat 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 cat 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 cat 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 cat 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 cat's wounds and sutures by separating them while your cat recovers.

Keep Your Cat Indoors: If your cat 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 cat recovers, likely for a week or so after surgery. Make sure to provide this as instructed.

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

Provide Soft Food: If your cat 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 must be removed within 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.

After a few weeks, your cat should be back to regular activities and already getting around much better than they were when you first brought them home.

Life After Eye Removal Surgery

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

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

  • Moving any objects the same height as your cat's head that may cause harm or injury (since they 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 cat 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 care extra when bringing small children and other animals around your cat. 

Preventing the Need for Enucleation in Cats

Cat eye removal surgery is often recommended for eye conditions whose causes are unknown. Prevention is, therefore, not always possible.

You can, however, monitor your cat regularly for signs of any issues affecting their eyes like swelling, redness and weeping, and schedule an examination at the first signs of any of these symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can help achieve the best possible outcome.

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.

Is your cat showing symptoms related to an eye condition? Contact our vets in Cumming today to schedule a visit.

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Crestview Animal Hospital is always welcoming new patients! Our Cumming vets provide veterinary services designed to promote good health and longevity. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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