Cataract surgery not affordable by any means. On average, the surgery costs between $1,500 and $5,000 for each eye. Most of the time, cataracts are only removed from one eye, since the cost is so high and pets can see, if imperfectly, with one functional eye. For dogs, it averages about $3,500; for cats, this cost ranges from about $1,700 to $2,100, but it may cost more if your cat is diabetic.
Coverage for cataract surgery depends on the pet insurance company. Additionally, the vast majority of pet insurance providers state that they do not cover pre-existing conditions or any conditions that began before your pet’s enrollment in their insurance plan. Here are a few examples of various companies’ coverage policies:
Nationwide Pet Insurance states that they do not cover “cataracts of dogs under 7 yrs of age, unless secondary to injury or diabetes mellitus.” Meanwhile, Veterinary Pet Insurance (a Nationwide Insurance company) lists “cataracts of dogs 6 years of age and younger” as a condition ineligible for treatment. Although this caveat would seem to suggest that they do, it is unclear whether they cover cataracts in cats, or in older dogs.
Healthy Paws has a fairly straightforward policy on cataracts—they state that they cover “hereditary conditions, including cataracts, as long as symptoms are not present before or at time of enrollment.” Whether surgery is included in this coverage is not made entirely clear.
Embrace Pet Insurance appears to cover cataract surgery, as they list a case of the surgery for a dog with juvenile cataracts being covered by their insurance on their website.
PetFirst has a Senior Pet Insurance plan that covers cataracts, although again, whether the surgery specifically is covered is not stated outright.
You may have particular concerns about coverage for cataracts in your pet’s case. Perhaps they have strong risk factors for it—they might be diabetic, or be a breed that is frequently prone to cataracts. In this case, make sure to research whichever pet insurance company you’re considering before making a final choice.
What Are Cataracts, And Why Might Cataract Surgery Be Needed?
With cataracts, the lens of your pet’s eye becomes cloudy. Lenses are used to focus vision, so when they aren’t clear, it seriously limits your pet’s ability to see. With more severe cataracts, your pet can experience blindness. Pets can also experience other issues resulting from the cataracts, such as inflammation, lens displacement (known technically as lens luxation), and glaucoma (which involves damage to the optic nerve).
Cataracts have numerous potential causes, including (but not limited to) trauma, age, inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, and genetic predisposition. If your dog becomes diabetic, they have an 80% chance of developing cataracts within a year. Among dogs, certain breeds are also more prone to cataracts—in one study, almost 12% of Fox Terriers experienced cataracts, while fewer than 2% of Border Collies had the condition.
Cataracts can be treated with cataract surgery. This surgery is usually very effective. However, it has some risks, as do all surgeries. Here are some of the potential complications:
- Infection (this is uncommon, thankfully)
- Post-surgery trauma
- Retinal detachment (also uncommon)
- Intraocular scar tissue
- Death due to general anesthesia (anesthesia can be dangerous)