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  • Writer's pictureVera Marney

KEEPING THE WORLD BIG FOR A BLIND DOG (Part 1) - The diagnosis and treatment of congenital cataract

Updated: Jan 19


OCTOBER 2021

In October 2021, it was my turn to train my 5-year old American Cocker Spaniel Logan in a Competitive Obedience Training training day. For many years, my dogs and I travelled to Rayleigh from Diss in Norfolk every month to get trained

Black American Cocker Spaniel Dog walking to heel
Logan, my American Cocker Spaniel, walking to heel at an obedience competition

and coached by my trainer Kamal Fernandez to perfect our craft and of course to socialise with friends talking about dogs all day long. We loved Competitive Obedience, entered shows and most of all just enjoyed the training process.


That morning in October 2021, I set Logan up to practice our heelwork. I looked down into Logan's big brown attentive eyes (American Cockers have such fabulous big and beautiful eyes) to make sure he was ready - and I stopped and was confused. One of his eyes looked different, slightly grey and cloudy. I turned round and asked Kamal whether his eye looked cloudy to him too, that's how much it bothered me.


As fate would have it, a friend of mine was there who is a veterinarian, and she offered to have a look there and then. She used the torch function of my mobile phone, shining it into Logan's eye and confirmed that it was indeed a bit cloudy and looked like cataracts. She checked the other eye and detected some minor changes there too. The same day, I booked a vet appointment to have Logan's eyes examined and assessed.



THE DIAGNOSIS

A day later, Logan walked happily into the vet's like he always does, with an excessively wagging tail and full of excitement (and I guess a little bit of nervousness thrown in too). The vet took a good look at both eyes and confirmed the presence of cataracts, worse in one eye, some minor changes in the other and we were referred on to a local ophthalmologist for a specialist examination and assessment of his eyes. This all came as a major shock to me. At 5 years old, I didn't expect anything like this to happen! Cataracts are normally associated with old age, aren't they. Unfortunately though it is an issue in American Cockers, and given that Logan came via rescue (2 rescue organisations actually), chances are that his breeder wasn't an ethical and responsible breeder that did the recommended eye tests on the parent dogs.


Logan was amazing during the whole examination which took almost an hour with instruments and paper strips poking into his eyes and fluid squirted into them, the vets face and more big instruments just millimetres away from his head and just standing still for long periods of time. Logan was a superstar and took it all in his stride... though I guess the copious amount of treats along the way helped too (and the handling training I did with him). The examination revealed that it was indeed an inherited type of cataract (congenital cataract) and that my dog would one day be blind, one eye was more affected than the other at that point.



THE SOLUTION AND A HEARTBREAKING RESULT

After a lengthy discussion of the findings, the procedure and the pros and cons, I decided to go ahead with cataract surgery which meant replacing the damaged lens with a new artificial one. The success rate was 85% with a risk of 15%. That's a sizeable risk, but I deemed it acceptable given the benefits for Logan of having his full sight back.


The day came in late January 2022, the surgery went well and all looked fine. The only slight hiccups was that he developed glaucoma right after the surgery. The eye pressure however could be alleviated with an additional procedure and Logan was able to come home the next day. He needed several eye drops which meant he needed drops in his eye about 20 times a day. He wasn't a fan of it, but got on with it like he does with most things in life.


The recovery was pretty stressful for both Logan and me and it was a very long recovery period. Logan had to be kept calm, with all those eye drops throughout the day, and regular vet checks.

Unfortunately he continued to have issues with his eye pressure and went back to the vet a couple of times more to relieve the pressure. After the third time when it became clear that this problem wasn't going away and that his eye obviously could not cope with the trauma from the surgery (and the glaucoma actually caused a new loss of sight) his vet and I took the heart-breaking decision to have the eye removed. At the beginning of March he lost his eye and now relied purely on his remaining eye which although showed some minor changes already, was still well functioning... the question was for how long... weeks, years?


Check back for part 2 to find out how he got on with one eye and what happened next.


Black American Cocker Spaniel laying on the sofa
Logan, the blind American Cocker Spaniel





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