Enucleation – Not As Terrible As it Sounds

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.



gus2Here 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.



gus3Here is Gus with the bandage removed. The scar looks angry and red, but there is no discharge.



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 gus6in 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.



gusphotolastToday 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.




40 Responses

  1. Nan Calvert

    Excellent post Holly. One-eyed Gus is kind of a jaunty name for him. Lends a degree of intrigue!!

  2. Robyn Michaels

    Thanks for this post. Very reassuring.

  3. My Dog had his right eye removed and it’s still seeping a lot and it’s 5 days post surgery. I don’t believe this is normal. The swelling hasn’t even gone down a bit. I don’t know what is normal. I’m freaking out over here. His whole right side has thick dried blood on it because it’s constantly seeping. He will not let me keep a warm compress on it. I don’t know what to do anymore. I will be bringing him in to see his vet tomorrow. I’m so worried he botched up the surgery. I look at pics online and there is no dog out there that looks as bad as mine does right now. I just wish the bleeding will stop. Very scared that I made the wrong choice to have his eye removed.

    • Moderator

      I’m sorry to hear about your dog’s issue. My dog, Gus, (the dog in the story) was markedly better by five days. But every dog is different. I would suggest just keeping him quiet and hope for answers from the vet tomorrow. Good luck.

      Holly Harrington

    • How is your puppy’s eye to this day? I’m taking my boy Porter in to have his eye removed this morning and I’m sick to my stomach. I’m questioning my dr idiom n just filled with worry. Was wondering if your pup has fully recovered.

      • Pat

        So sorry to read about your dog.
        Did you go ahead w the surgery?
        My small dog is 14, and was diagnosed with a bacterial ulcer. I’m treating it with 2 antibiotics 24/7 from today, (Sat) until Monday, when the vet will examine my dog, and determine if he will Ned surgery to remove his eye. I certainly don’t want to euthanize him, but at age 14, I’m concerned about recovery, and if I’m making the best decision for him?
        He has very little vision in his other eye, and again I’m thinking about his age.
        He’s being treated for thyroid issues, and is in beginning stage of Kidney issues. My vet is a well known doctor, has been written about in magazines, as being one of the best doctors. He treat our city Police dogs. He has numerous awards. He doesn’t seem concerned about going forward w removing my dogs eye.
        Can you or anyone offer advice?
        Thank you for any help you may contribute.

      • I saw your post from April and was wondering how things went with Porter. We (Cocoa and I) were informed yesterday that her left eye should be removed due to glaucoma. She had cataract surgery in April on both eye and the left one has developed some real problems. I am going through what you expressed in your April post. I don’t know if you will receive this message…or if you can share what your experience was, but I am looking for as much information as possible. I hope you’ve had a happy ending. I’d really appreciate any insight you can give me. Thanks very much!

      • Hi.! My dog will need will need an eye removal surgery.. can you guys help me to know the cost? I want to have an idea. Thank you..

        • Moderator

          I would think the cost would vary considerably by area of country. I did get an estimate from a specialist, but ultimately went with a general surgeon, who did a nice job.

          Holly Harrington

  4. My boston terrier is 13, she is having eye removed because of ulcers and infection. I’m concerned about the surgery because of her age. Anyone have a dog thats had this surgery at a similar age?

  5. My dog has the same thing, a tumor growing behind his iris. We are having his eye and the tumor removed in three days, thank you for this post. It was very reassuring. I know you wrote this years ago so you may never see this, but wanted to say thank you anyway.

    • Moderator

      Thank you for letting me know. I’m glad it was helpful.

      Holly Harrington

  6. Thank you so much for your post my fur baby is supposed to have his eye removed in about a week. I hope he does as well as Gus.

  7. I know this story was posted years ago now, so you may never see this comment but I had to write to you. My 11 1/2 year old Chihuahua had to have her eye removed as an emergency two nights ago. Apparently there was pressure built up behind the eye, and it actually popped out. It was the scariest, most upsetting situation I have ever dealt with. She seems to be doing better (I think we Fur-Parents take it harder), but I still worry for her. Your story made me feel comfort that my sweet girl will be happy and continue her life as she did before the eye removal. So thank you for sharing.

    • Moderator

      You’re welcome. I’m glad it helped.

      Holly Harrington

    • My 11 year old dog was attacked by another dog and his eye popped out 🙁 How much did surgery cost for your dog?

      • Moderator

        I’m afraid I don’t remember. Plus, it was some years ago. I think it was around $1,000.

        Holly Harrington

    • I have a shihtzu that’s 6 month his eye is popping out I will be taking him to the emergency tomorrow I’m sure he would need that eye removed, I am so scared of what they might tell me, I’m hoping is not a tumor can someone tell me if there’s a chance I could lose him . I am so scared I have never been in a situation like this with any of my babies. I dont want to lose him he’s the sweetest and gentle baby doesn’t deserve to go thru this.

    • Thank you this is all very interesting my chihuahua colors in this morning for an eye removal after being in a car accident which left my husband on life support and him swollen brain. Your articles made me feel a little bit better just hoping that all goes well thank you so much he’s in surgery as we speak I can’t wait to see him .!!!

  8. Thank you for posting this. Our golden retriever Duncan will have his eye removed next week and this story made me feel so much better. Thank you again! <3 xoxo

  9. Anyone have to have both of their dog’s eyes removed? My dog Max is a black labradoodle and is twelve years old. He developed diabetes when he was 8 and I have given him insulin injections every twelve hours since then. Then he developed cataracts and now glaucoma. He is already totally blind and doing OK so that isn’t my worry. My concern is that he has healed poorly from other minor surgeries the past 5 years due to his diabetes. I worry with his age and his diabetes that his eye sockets might not heal. Anyone go through this with an older, diabetic dog? Thanks.

    • Did your sweet dog have the surgery? If so, how did it go? My relatively healthy 11-year-old Chow had an eye removed last week due to acute glaucoma. She is doing well. I am concerned that she is at high risk for disease in the other eye I am not sure what will happen if she needs another surgery at 13. Her surgery was about $1000.

  10. I am considering removal surgery for my dog who has glaucoma. It is very pricey with the eye specialist. Thank you for this, maybe I’ll get a second opinion.

    • Moderator

      I received a diagnosis from an eye specialist, but had the surgery done at a very good surgical center with a general surgeon. It was less expensive, and I thought the surgery went just fine.

      Holly Harrington

  11. Pat

    My pug had an ear infection that was poorly treated and he subsequently had a stroke, causing right side paralysis. The paralysis caused his eye not to be able blink causing dry corneal ulcer. Black dog, black eyes not easily detected. I expect when we return Mon. the vet will confirm the worst. Your story has comforted me as I feel guilty for not catching his eye ulcer. So glad Gus is well, I hope Lucas will do as well. Thanks for story!

  12. Hi thank you for everyone comments. My 12yr old shitz just had her eye removed. My shepherd and her were playing and the fag of my shepherd caught and pulled her eye. My shitz had no feeling before surgery was actually trying to play. It’s been two days now and she is adapting quite well. This cost me 2200 Canadian dollars most places ran up as high as 3500. Pets are family, my shepherd has not left her side. Her name is Kia and she is doing much better then her momma. ❤️

  13. I stumbled across this when looking for solutions to my own dog’s eye removal. To answer anyone’s questions who may find this later, he is a 13-year-old Yorkie. His eye was somehow scratched or bitten by my large Great Pyrenees/Lab puppy. I knew right away it was horrible. She ruptured his cornea, and his eye was leaking clear fluid. He screamed for just a bit, and then he was quite calm. I think maybe he just had so much scar tissue in that eye because he had some ulcers on it just a few months ago.

    I think I took the whole thing worse than he did. I was traumatized and in quite a bit of shock.

    We rushed him within the first two minutes to the vet. Since it was the emergency vet, I supposed it was almost double what it would have cost at the regular vet. I paid about $1,400. It was a shock in and of itself, but I knew he needed immediate and urgent care.

    I picked him up this morning, and he has on a cone.He is also on two pain pills and got a shot of an antibiotic at the vet that is supposed to last two weeks. His eye is to look at right now, but I hope that he heals up as well as Gus.

    • Moderator

      Good luck. I hope it goes well for you.

      Holly Harrington

    • I recently adopted a nine yr old chihuahua, Navi. He came to me with some eye trauma. Took him to the vet this morning and his eye is being removed today. I am very concerned because of his age. I am praying that all goes well and he recovers quickly. Seeing Gus’s pics and his mama’s post has helped my nerves, a tiny bit.

  14. My 11 yr old chihuahua,Navi, whom I adopted just two weeks ago just had his eye removed two days ago. He seems to be in pain whenever he is moved or when I take him outside on his leash to go potty. He cries out or yelps. He wouldn’t drink water until today but was eating normally. The vet gave him pain meds and antibiotics. Has anyone else had the same experience as far as the pain goes?

    • Moderator

      My Gus did not have pain after the first few days. I hope your boy is doing better.

      Holly Harrington

  15. Thank you so much for your positivity. My beautiful boy saw the vet on Monday morning, an opthamologist on Monday afternoon and had his eye removed on Tuesday morning. He is such a wee trooper, he’s already up and abiut, and back to his old self. A dog without an eye or a life without Paddy, there really was no choice.
    So pirate bandana ordered, and a pirate party organised for when his recovery is complete.

  16. Today I take my baby Porter in to have his eye removed. What started out as severe dry eye has turned into an acute deep corneal ulcer. The vet recommended taking the eye due to the fact that he was already blind in the eye . Also he said a conjunctival graft is not a guarantee n I’d basically be doing that for aesthetic reasons. I’m soo sick to my stomach over this but I know Porter is in pain.

  17. Liz

    Thank you for taking the time to post this. So helpful seeing the pics of sweet Gus. My Golden “Moose” is having his eye removed today because he also has a tumor growing in his iris. I am just sick about it. I am worried about the test results as they will tell if there is cancer else where in his body. Praying we have a smooth recovery like Gus.

  18. Where to start? I’ve found myself in tears many times today. Tomorrow my Boston, Star( will be 13 year old on 7/4), will have her left eye removed and my VET said that he believes eventually she will need to have the other eye out as well. My heart and stomach are both sinking. I know I have nothing to do with any of this happening but it still makes me feel like a bad companion to her. The thought of the surgery makes me want to get sick. Having said that, I would hate for her eye to rupture etc. Although she cannot see 100% out of either eye….I still feel like I am taking away her sight (even if it’s just shadows). Star is in great health other than her eyes. Happy, playful, eats, sleeps etc. I’m really struggling with this….I appreciate all of you that have been a part of this post…..it makes me feel a bit more optimistic. I pray to God this all goes well and that she will be able to adjust accordingly- which by the stories all of you have shared, I have a little more hope. Thank you all for your support to each other and “new” people joining the club. There isn’t enough support groups out there for things like this. I appreciate you. Thank you <3

    She's had several issues with her eyes the last couple of years.

    • My beautiful c12 yr old chihuahua had both eyes removed because of glaucoma and she seems to be ok. I on the other hand am dying of the guilt. I understand the pain has stopped but i will never do this to another dog again. Be prepared.

      • Pat

        My dog is 14 year old Chihuahua. Just diagnosed with a bacterial ulcer. I’m treating the ulcer with 2 antibiotics 24/7 for the next 48 plus hours. On Monday the vet will advise if the eye needs to be removed. He has little vision in the other eye. I certainly don’t want to euthanize him, however I’m concerned about “pain”, his age and recovery time. This is time to think about what’s best for my sweet boy.
        Can you offer any advice.
        Thank you very much.
        I’m so sorry about your dog. I hope he’s better, and your not feeling guilty for trying to make the best decision for your baby.

  19. It is so helpful to me to read everyone’s stories. I feel for all of you! My 9 year old Boston/Frenchie who ALREADY three legged (due to cancer, he had an amputation last year) had to get his eye removed at the ER today. I am heartbroken about it. He has had 3 corneal ulcers in the past few years and this one was deep and severe. We were treating it medically and he seemed to be doing well (although the ophthalmologist warned it could rupture at any moment so we took extra precautions). Our day was going great when all of sudden, BAM, eye ruptured. We had to rush him to the emergency vet who recommended eye removal. I was so worried because he has so many health issues I wasn’t sure he would be able to survive the surgery/anesthesia. Luckily he made it and is still currently at the hospital overnight. We pick him up tomorrow. He is such a fighter and I am hoping he will recover well, especially after reading all of your stories. I can say that since my little guy is an amputee, he is still just as happy and amazing as he was with 4 legs. I don’t see why it would be any different with a missing eye!

  20. My tiny Tibetan Spaniel Tulie 14 years old had to have her eye removed last Saturday after it ruptured She is a trouper and despite other age issues she is doing great. Keeping her life means so much more to us even without the eye.
    Broke though $3000.00 cd as it was emergency and with an ophthalmologist. Thank you all for your comments it helps with the shock and upset of this experience.

  21. Yesterday my little Bandit (Shitzu 8yrs) was attacked by a coyote his eye popped out. Took him to the emergency vet had to have his eye removed he was really low on blood (15) and had to have a blood transfusion and plasma. The vet called me after surgery and said Bandit is doing good. I am distraught. I feel so bad for him. Thank you so much for writing this it has helped!!!!

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