Enucleation: Eye Removal In Dogs


Enucleation is a surgical removal of the eye of a dog. It is used as a last resort in special circumstances where drugs or other medical techniques do not save the eye. Once the eye is removed, the dog will be blind in the eye and special precautions will have to be taken into account for the health and protection of your pet.

Conditions Requiring Eye Removal

Enucleation is not required in any case of canine blindness. If blindness occurs due to age or other reasons that do not cause discomfort, the eye is usually left in place, although it may be removed. Conditions that usually involve enucleation include cancer inside or around the eye, extreme damage resulting in injury that cannot be healed by surgery, congenital deformities, or inflammation of the eye that cannot be controlled by medication. Another disease, glaucoma, is often treated with enucleation if drugs or other surgeries are unable to relive the pressure inside the eye.

What Does The Operation Involve?

The surgery requires a general anesthetic for your pet. The hair around the eye is clipped; the eye is entirely removed and the skin of the eyelid is then closed over the eye socket (the bony space within the skull that protects the eye). Stitches that may need removal may or may not be inserted within the outer layers of the eyelid tissue. Most pets can go home on the day of surgery, but if surgery is done in the afternoon or in the case of an older animal, it might be appropriate to keep your pet in the hospital overnight.

What Happens To The Eye After Is Removed?

The eye can be sent to a histologic pathologist. This is equivalent to sending a lump to a biopsy and could be advised in certain cases to confirm the source of the problem within the eye. Pathology is important with nearly all enucleated eyes to see if there are any repercussions for your pet’s natural eye, as well as your dog’s overall health. The specialist and the pet owner will be told of the pathology findings, normally within three weeks of surgery.

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What Limitations Will The Dog Have?

As long as the other eye is visual, there are not likely to be severe handicaps. The pet would not be able to see on the enucleation side and will bump into the artefacts. The pet could be easily frightened when approached from that side. Otherwise, life will return to normal until recovery is complete. If your pet has a disorder that puts the remaining eye at risk, be sure to consider any preventive steps that need to be taken.

What Is The Postoperative Care?

Dogs are sent home with an Elizabethan collar to shield the eye when the incision is healing (plastic cone). This prevents the surgery area from scratching or rubbing on floors or furniture. Medications for pain and antibiotics are recommended after surgery.

Some swelling of the eye area is required, often with bruising. Mild oozing can be observed for a couple of days. Draining from the nose on the same side of the affected eye is also a common observation.