Living With A Blind Dog - One Year On

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Oh Lord has this dog had his fair share of issues over the past 12 months.

I've sat down to write this post the day after getting back from the Lake District after Rhody's one year post-op check up and I cannot believe that it's been almost a year to the day that Rhody had corrective eye surgery in the hopes of restoring his lost vision. It's a bit of a long-winded story as to how he lost his sight, so I'll try and keep it short which ***probably*** won't happen. But in order to do that, we need to start with the April of 2018, with a then 7 month old Rhody.

After noticing a small (and I mean s-m-a-l-l) white dot on his right eye, I initially dismissed it because it was so minute I wasn't sure if it was actually even a white dot or just the reflection of a light in the background. I noticed it again a couple of days later, and after quickly snapping a photo and uploading it to one of the pug forums I'm part of, it was clear that I needed to get it seen to and checked out, as the responses came in thick and fast; it's an ulcer, get it seen to immediately. 

After an initial panic of thinking I was the worst dog owner EVER for initially dismissing it, I got him booked into an out-of-hours vets the same night, and it became clear that it wasn't an ulcer, but in fact something much, much more serious. The vet we saw immediately called her friend, who happened to be a veterinary surgeon at an eye specialist practise. He wanted to see Rhody the very next day and booked him in straight away. It's at this point that I remember thinking shit, something definitely isn't right here because what vet calls their vet-friend at half past midnight on a Sunday night? The said vet-friend was based about 80 miles from where we lived, but we managed to make it down there the next morning.

Because the practice we were at specialised only in vision, they had all the fancy tech to do all the necessary checks and tests. It came back that he had a cataract. But cataracts don't just happen for no reason and they certainly don't just suddenly appear in 7 month old dogs with no explanation. There is always a cause. The cause in this case, was because of a persistent hyaloid artery. A hyaloid artery is an artery that a pup develops when they are in the womb (one hyaloid artery for each eye). It provides nourishment to the eyeballs, and then detaches within 21 days of the pup being born. His right eye's hyaloid artery never detached. Not only did it not detach, but there was active blood flow passing through it.

We had 3 options.

1. Perform no surgery and treat the cataract with drops and monitor it frequently in the hopes of it not getting worse.

2. Perform just the cataract surgery and leave the hyaloid artery alone in the hopes that it doesn't cause any further problems. Again, it would need consistent monitoring.

3. Clamp and cut the artery and let it fall to the back of the eye. Perform the cataract surgery at the same time to restore his vision. This would require less monitoring in the long term, but it's a tricky surgery to perform.

For me, there really wasn't any other option than option number 3. If the artery had caused this many problems in as little as 7 months, who knew what problems would crop up in 2, 5 10 years time? Despite the complications that came with this surgery (not to mention the expense), we knew that going down the surgery route was what was best for Rhody in the long run. We didn't want him constantly being prodded and poked at by vets his entire life. We didn't want to live with the fear that one day, it was going to come and and cause him yet more problems.

We got him booked in for the surgery on the 8th August 2018 and we stayed overnight. We dropped him off at 8am and his surgery was booked for 9am, and would take approximately 4 hours. 2pm came and we heard nothing. 2:30pm came and we heard nothing. 3pm came and we heard nothing. I gave the surgery a call, and was told he was still in the operating theatre and his surgeon would give me a call as soon as he was out.

3:30pm came (a whole 6.5 hours after the operation started) and so did the phone call; the surgery was far more complex than anyone could have ever imagined.

What the tests had failed to pick up on, was that the artery had attached itself to his retina and was on the verge of causing retinal detachment. The vet said that if he had gone untreated for another month, the retina would have detached, his eyeball filled with fluid, and would probably have burst within a matter of hours.

He had to perform laser eye surgery on the retina to attach it back in place. But the problem was that the retina was in such a poor condition because it had thousands of tiny holes and blemishes in it that he had to laser around them. Then he had to clamp and cut the artery. Then he had to do the cataract surgery. That's three pretty major eye surgeries in one go. But the vet was confident that his eye was now in a much better state, and there was no reason why his vision wouldn't be restored. He predicted that he should have around 80% vision restoration.

But there's always a but, isn't there?

What no one could have predicted before this surgery, was that Rhody also has abnormally thin blood vessels in this eye. Now, when you're talking about a now 10 month old pug puppy, who has just had extensive eye surgery, has one of those medical collars around his neck to stop him scratching at it, and has to have drops administrated to his eye every 60 minutes, he's not going to cooperate and hes not going to stay still - he's going to shake his head constantly, likes dogs do when they're trying to dry off. Doing so caused those abnormally thin blood vessels to burst over and over again and each time it would cover his eye in a layer of blood, which prevented the cataract surgery from healing, which meant his vision was never restored.

It's unfortunate, but he's coping incredibly well. But the sad news is, is that this is the end of the road for him ever getting his vision back in that eye.

But that was a year ago, so where are we at now?

We have just got back from his one year post-op check up, and the right eye has shrunk and gone dormant. He has absolutely no vision in that eye, and removing it as this point would literally only be for cosmetic reasons, which honestly doesn't bother me in the slightest. He isn't in any pain and is completely comfortable, which of course is the main thing.

The bad news is that his left eye now needs surgery. Absolutely bloody fantastic. There is a layer of pigmentation covering his eyeball due to his eye being so exposed to the environment, which isn't totally uncommon in pugs. He is booked in for surgery next month to have laser eye surgery to remove as much of the pigmentation as possible, and then have the inner corner of his eye sewn shut to help prevent the problem reoccurring. As surgeries go, this is a fairly straight forward one and should give him some vision back in that eye.

It's been a rough ride these past 12 months with him, but he has handled life like an absolute champ. He doesn't act blind, like, you wouldn't necessarily guess he was blind if you met him for the first time - perhaps it's because he's lived longer being blind now than not, but all in all he is a happy and content little pup but it's heartbreaking knowing how much crap has been thrown his way in such a short period of time.

He might bump into things every now and again and he might have misjudged the lakes one too many times yesterday and fallen in, but other than that he is an absolute little bundle of sweetness and I'm hoping one day we can enjoy a life of no further surgeries and no more 80 mile trips to the vet!

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