Veterinary ophthalmologists restore vision to aging pets

Medical breakthroughs change pet care

ORLANDO, Fla. – We all know our pets can be like members of our family, and when they need medical care we want the best.

Now there's top notch care for one of the most common yet debilitating diseases facing older dogs, cataract disease.

When Laura Landerman noticed her 9-year old dog Samantha was losing her vision to cataracts her first thought was of her childhood. She remembered family pets with the disease who were forced to live out there final days in darkness. It was a fate she didn't want for "Sam."

"I noticed it go from cloudy to this white, it took about 6 to 8 months," she said as  Samantha, or Sam as she calls her, sat on her lap. "She was walking into furniture. I would turn around and we'd bump into each other because she didn't see that I was there."

Landerman says she could tell it was taking a toll on Sam.

"She went from being a fun loving happy family dog to a depressed dog. That broke our hearts to see how much losing her vision affected her," she said.

Research led her to Dr. Matthew Fife of the Veterinary Ophthalmologist Center in East Orange County.

Specialists like Fife are part of a growing trend in veterinary medicine. He is one of only 25 veterinary ophthalmologists in Florida.

Fife says there are more options now for pets than ever before.

"Some people think well, he's been blind for a while and there's probably nothing I can do and often times that's not the case. You know we'll see dogs that have had cataracts for years," he said.

It's all because the medical technology first developed for humans is now being used on our pets as well.

"The machine that we use to do cataract surgery, it's a refurbished unit that came from a human hospital." Fife says. "Now they have the newer stuff with all the bells and whistles."

Samantha had the surgery on her right eye, her left had other complications that made the procedure less likely to be a success.

The results we nearly immediate.

"It was such a quick turnaround." Landerman says. "From being almost 90-percent blind to now being back to her normal fun happy not depressed dog. She's even a little bit mischievous now."

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