Seeing a family member in pain is heartbreaking, doesn’t matter if it is a human or animal family member. Having to go through surgery can and is very stressful…having a child/fur baby go through surgery can be even worse. What is something happens? What if something goes wrong? What should I expect after the surgery? What will the healing process be like? Will my loved one be in pain? These were just a few of the questions I asked myself, my husband and our vet prior to Leo’s enucleation surgery. I spent weeks researching online and found a lot of technical information, but didn’t find very many personal experiences, so we decided it would be best to share Leo’s story and daily progress, in hopes that it would help some other families going through the same situation.
Leo is a very happy, healthy and active 10 year old Boston Terrier. Leo has never had any medical issues, well, an ear infection now and then, but nothing major. Leo had only ever had one surgery in his life and that was when he got fixed. On April 2nd I arrived home from work to find that Leo had something very wrong with his right eye. Upon an emergency visit to the vet we learned that Leo had what was called an anterior luxation (to learn more I found this site very helpful: http://www.eyevet.ca/luxlens.html). This anterior luxation caused an acute onset of glaucoma because it blocked the flow of Leo’s eye fluids and was causing pressure. We treated Leo’s eye with 2 different kinds of eye drops (Pred Acetate 1% drops & Dorzolamide 2%…the first was a steroid to help with pain and the second is a glaucoma medication to help with the eye pressure). Our vet explained that the drops would help for a while, but were not a long-term fix, she also explained that they could work for a few months or weeks and that eventually they would not help as his condition progressed. We did a fundraiser to help with Leo’s surgery costs and as soon as we reached out goal Leo’s surgery was scheduled. Leo was diagnosed on April 2nd and had his surgery on May 3rd. During the month between diagnosis and surgery Leo’s eye was stable at first, but then did get much worse. Leo’s right eye was clearly larger than his left, he struggled to keep it open, it was very bloodshot, it was pressure/touch sensitive, he was tearing excessively, and Leo could not see out of the eye at all. Leo loves the sunshine and was not allowed to lay or play in it as it made his eye much worse. Leo wanted to play, but if he got bumped he would yelp and run to mom for comfort. We were very blessed to have such wonderful people help donate to Leo’s surgery so that he could get in to the vet and get the surgery done before being in more pain.
What to expect & risks of surgery:
One very important thing to remember is that every dog is different and heals differently. If you have a dog that is healthy, the healing process with probably be easier, quicker and will more than likely have less complications…BUT as with humans, every surgery and patient is different. Enucleation surgery is a MAJOR surgery. Our vet did Leo’s surgery in the early afternoon and actually kept him overnight to monitor him, they also kept him on an iv with pain medication and antibiotics, which we think was very helpful (stressed me out and made me worry when they said they were keeping him overnight, but it was for the best).
Due to Leo being a Boston Terrier we chose to have the prosthetic eye placed in the socket so that he would not have a large caved in area. Prosthetic eyes can cause more complications, such as infection. Dogs who do not have such large predominate eyes like those of Boston Terriers, will do very well without the prosthetic…it is all your choice. The great thing with Leo getting the prosthetic is that he does not have a caved in area and literally just looks like he is winking, which is a little easier on the humans in his life.
One of the big risks that comes with any surgery is infection, that is why your vet will prescribe you a course of antibiotics for your dog (Leo loved them because every morning and evening he got a “special” treat and he thought that he was getting spoiled). When you go to get your loved one after surgery there WILL be a lot of swelling, this is normal, but is very hard to see (as soon as Leo came into the room I was in tears, not only because I missed him so much and was so worried about him, but the shock of seeing his surgery area and the swelling). Our vet explained that there may be some bloody discharge or seepage from the surgery area and that is normal, but if it becomes an excessive amount to contact them immediately…we were very lucky as Leo experienced no discharge at all. Your loved one will have an Elizabethan collar on (much better than a regular cone of shame) which is nice and soft. This will help protect their eye area from being bumped and from them scratching at it.
If you have other pets at home you may want to keep you loved one that just had surgery away from them in a nice safe area. Leo got to spend a lot of time in our guest bedroom during the first few days after his surgery. Other pets do not understand that your loved one just went through a major surgery and you do not want them bumping them, running into them or anything else along those lines…those first few days after surgery are very important in the healing process and keeping the pet safe from further injury is very important. Leo’s first night home we had him sleep with his Elizabethan collar, he wasn’t completely comfortable, but we felt good knowing his eye was protected.
You may experience some swelling in the check area after surgery, Leo had swelling in his check the day after he got home, but by the next day it was gone.
There WILL be bruising. Hey, it is a major surgery and bruising is to be expected. Being that your loved ones eye area will have been shaved the bruising will be very visible, but thankfully will only last for a few days.
Leo only wore his Elizabethan collar for a couple of nights, and then we had him wear it during the day if we weren’t right there to monitor him, but he did very well with it off. Make sure to keep a close eye on your dog to make sure they are not rubbing or scratching at the area, if they are you will want to make sure they continue to wear the Elizabethan collar. Thankfully, Leo did not rub or scratch at the area at all, so that really helped his healing process.
Typically, if all goes well, the sutures will be removed 11-14 days after surgery. Leo had two sutures that came untied, we just left them alone and we were reassured by the vet that as long as the eyelids were not pulling apart in the areas that came untied Leo would be fine. Remember that your furry loved one also has internal sutures to help.
One of the things that we did not think about ahead of time was eyelid and brow movements. When some dogs get cancer or have to have more of the eye area removed the vet will have to take out many of the muscles so there will not be facial expressions of the eye area on that side. Leo, thankfully did not have cancer, so they only needed to remove his eye, which means that his eyelid and eyebrow both still work. Leo’s right eye area still does the blinking motion at the same time his left eye does and his little eyebrows still move and are very expressive, which is wonderful, but just not one of those things that we had thought about ahead of time. We love that he still is so expressive.
It will take time for your dog to adjust to only having one eye. Their depth perception will be off, it will take them a while to notice things on the side of their surgery. Leo loves to beg for treats and we experienced him grabbing a treat and dropping it, but he could not see it because it landed on the right side so we had to guide him to it. As with any major physical change it will just take some time to adjust. Your loved one may also be a little jumpy and easily startled if they are approached from the side that no longer has an eye. It will also take them a while to do the visual adjustment with the other eye so that they don’t get to close to or run into things on their surgery side. Leo has come very close to running into a couple of corners.
Your loved one will want to be playing and back to their usual selves within a few days of surgery, but you as their human have to be the big meany that does not let them play as rough as they are used to…you are their protector. Leo is highly active and plays very rough, so limiting his play was very hard. Typically within about a month of surgery they area will be completely healed and your loved one can play at their normal rate. We are choosing to keep a very close eye on Leo (no pun intended) and not let him play as rough as he is used to because now he only has one eye and we need to keep that protected.
Remember that your furry loved one will need extra love, tummy rubs and nom noms 🙂
Photos from the day before surgery through 2 weeks after surgery:
A few days ago I went back and was showing a co-worker Leo’s surgery photos and I was amazed at seeing how he healed…how you could see the healing from day to day. I’ve taken a few pictures from each day of his healing process and put them all together in this one blog so you can see how much of a change there is…amazing!