The vet made a face when looking at Gus’ left eye during his annual check-up. He made weird clucking noises. He looked at it from different angles and kept shining his very bright light at it for a very long time. This doesn’t look good, he said, and pointed out to Gus' owner what looked like a small marble inside her dog's eye, pushing against the iris.
A trip to a doggie ophthalmologist followed. It was, in turn, followed by an estimate for $1,300 . . . and the news that Gussie's eye needed to be removed. Enucleation, or the removal of an eye, is often necessary after an injury or, in this case, when a tumor is detected. The black marble in Gus' eye was a melanocytic tumor formed by abnormal melanocytes -- cells that produce a pigment called melanin. After a clear chest x-ray to rule out cancer, Gus went for a second opinion from a general veterinary surgeon with great skill and experience. Her estimate was half the cost of the specialist's.
Gus is a nine-year-old Golden retriever who lives with two ex-racing greyhounds and a parade of SHUG foster dogs. He is a good-natured and an all-around great guy! Here he is, happily checking into the vet hospital. It was very difficult to see him wagging his tail and cheerful, when his owner knew the disfiguring surgery that was ahead.
So this is why we’re writing this blog post – as horrible as it sounds to have a dog’s eye removed, they generally heal very well and adjust quickly. If you’re facing a similar prospect – whether the eye removal is for glaucoma, cancer, injury or other reasons – you can take heart from Gus’ experience.
Here he is just hours after his surgery. The bandage with the heavy packing in the empty space of the eye is very important to keep swelling down and to absorb seeping blood. Gus HATED his bandage. The cone was mostly to keep him away from the bandage. He was a pretty miserable guy for the first day. He was on two different pain medicines (tramadol and rimadyl, as well as an antibiotic.) He was kept quiet and given small meals. The vet wanted the bandage to stay on for 24 to 48 hours. Gus tolerated it for 36 and then demanded it come off.
Within just a few more days, the redness was fading quickly.
In a few more days it was looking significantly better, and Gus seemed to feel himself again. After this picture was taken (right), Gus got to jettison the cone as he never did show any inclination to fuss with his incision.
Below, here he is at just shy of two weeks post-op. He was completely back to his normal activities. He got his stitches removed shortly after. Gus did not get an “orbital implant” to fill in the void left by the eye removal. It’s only done for cosmetic reasons and the surgeon didn’t recommend it.
Here is Gus, lower right – stitches out and hair growing back. He has no worries about his loss of peripheral vision, doesn’t have obvious issues with depth perception, and does not startle if you come from his left. The pathology report did come back malignant, but the surgeon is confident she got all of the tumor.
Today one-eyed Gus is doing just fine – and tolerating the pirate jokes with good cheer. The moral of the story – an enucleation is much more disturbing to you than your dog. If you need to have it done, rest easy that it won’t be as bad as it sounds.