In This Issue
Life Is Looking Better for Styx
OVC ophthalmologist implants silicon eyes that allow blind dog to live a normal life
BY DEIRDRE HEALEY
|Liseanne McDonald and her dog, Styx, travelled from their home in Timmins recently to thank the Ontario Veterinary College for the eye surgery that allows Styx to live a normal life despite losing her sight. Photo by Grant Martin|
Styx looks like any other dog. She's a basset hound/Labrador mix that loves to play with other dogs, walks obediently beside her owner and welcomes strangers wanting to pet her. She even has those characteristic basset-hound eyes that melt your heart.
It's only after taking a closer look that you might notice how she leans against her owner's leg for direction, has to be warned when approaching any steps and occasionally bumps into things.
That's because Styx is blind and her big lovable eyes are prosthetics.
The three-year-old dog is one of the success stories to come out of the Ontario Veterinary College. And it's a story that recently garnered national media attention when Styx and her owner, Liseanne McDonald, travelled from their home in Timmins to visit OVC's small-animal clinic and show their appreciation.
Styx began losing her sight last year from glaucoma — first in one eye and then in the other. When the pain of her condition could no longer be treated with eye drops, her veterinarian referred her to OVC ophthalmologist Prof. Chantale Pinard, Clinical Studies.
After examining Styx, Pinard knew she couldn't restore the dog's sight. But she could help relieve the pain caused by the pressure building inside the animal's eyes and improve her quality of life.
Pinard presented McDonald with some options. She could have her dog's eyes removed and the eyelids sutured shut or have the eyes replaced with prosthetics.
“When they told me I had the option of prosthetics, I thought that was fantastic because that meant she would still look the same,” said McDonald.
Pinard, who performs about half a dozen of these surgeries at the small-animal clinic each year, says this procedure helps maintain the bond between pet and owner.
“This surgery is a good alternative to sewing the eyes shut because it can be traumatic for pet owners to have their animal's eyes removed. It can affect the human-animal bond because the owner can't make eye contact with the pet. With this procedure, animals can still have a great life. It relieves their pain and allows their eyes to look natural.”
The surgery takes about an hour and involves removing the inside of the eyes while keeping the outer tissue intact. The inside of the eye is replaced with a silicon ball implant, and the outer layer of eye tissue is then sutured over the implant. This procedure leaves the pet with an eye that has no vision but still blinks and moves.
This type of surgery has been around for many years but is becoming more common, especially with animals like Styx that suffer from glaucoma, says Pinard.
The surgery was done in January, and since taking the dog home, McDonald and her husband have outfitted their house to accommodate their pet. They've put strips of carpet in certain spots on the hardwood floors to help Styx navigate her way to the various rooms in the house.
They've also placed pieces of carpet by the dog's food bowl and at the top of the stairs to help Styx orient herself.
In addition, they've put padding along the coffee table in case the dog bumps into it and are careful not to move any furniture around because Styx has managed to memorize the layout of the house.
When she goes outside, the dog sometimes wears a tube-like halo around her neck that helps her avoid walking into objects. She also has a pair of goggles to protect her eyes from getting poked.
These are little adjustments that allow Styx to live a normal life despite losing her sight, says McDonald.
“She is almost exactly the way she was before she lost her sight. She can still play outside with other dogs. Instead of sight, she uses her senses of smell and hearing.”
In fact, McDonald says she sometimes forgets that her dog can't see.
“I look at her eyes, and it seems like she is looking back at me.”