Ophthalmology Success Stories

Piper's Success
Golden Retriever

Piper's family first noticed a small white spot on her eye and brought Piper to her family veterinarian's office to have the spot evaluated. The family veterinarian was also concerned about the spot and suggested a referral to the PVSEC Ophthalmology department. Dr. Rachel Keller immediately diagnosed Piper with pigmentary uveitis in both eyes, a condition common to golden retrievers, in which an inflammation develops and may block the normal drainage of fluids from the eye, resulting in higher than normal pressure within the eye, or glaucoma. The condition can be treated with medication and sometimes surgery.

In Piper's case, medication did not prevent the condition from developing into glaucoma. Piper's owners brought her to the PVSEC Emergency department when her condition became painful. She was kept overnight due to the increased pressures in her eye. When Dr. Keller called Piper's family in the morning, she discussed several more aggressive treatment options, including the removal of the affected eye. Her family was concerned about how Piper would be affected by the loss of her eye. With Dr. Keller's assurance that this was the best option to give Piper the best quality of life in the future, and a candid discussion of surgical risks, Piper's family made the decision to have the painful eye removed. Following the surgery, Piper made a full recovery and adjusted well.

Six months later, Piper's family noticed that she had trouble seeing temporarily on occasion, but at other times could see perfectly well. These episodes of temporary blindness were the result of pressure spikes in her remaining eye. After being examined by the neurologist at PVSEC to confirm that her blindness was not neurologically based, Piper underwent surgery to place a shunt to aid in draining the fluid built up in her eye, laser surgery to reduce the capacity of fluid-producing cells and emergency surgery to remove a blood clot.

After her surgeries, Piper was only able to distinguish between light and dark. However, once she returned home, her vision increased every day. Today Piper's family is thankful that her vision was saved and to have their loving and joyful companion with them. Piper's family is touched by the care she received before, during and after her surgeries.


Phoebe's owner was amazed the morning of January 20, 2009 when Phoebe stared into her face from the passenger seat of her car. It was an inquisitive, observational attention that the owner had not seen from Phoebe in four months, since she had become completely blind. Phoebe and her "mom" were on the road home from PVSEC after Phoebe's bilateral cataract surgery with PVSEC--Ophthalmology.

It was certainly an interesting road they both traveled on the way to restoring Phoebe's vision. Before her "mom" adopted her from a shelter in Maryland in June 2008, Phoebe had been surrendered to the shelter not once, but twice. Phoebe had developed diabetes mellitus, which required monitoring of her blood sugar levels and injection of insulin to help with its regulation. Phoebe's previous owners were not able to attend to her special needs. Phoebe had the good fortune of being discovered by her owner, who had maintained a Maltese shelter and also had experience caring for a diabetic Maltese.

As diabetic dogs often do, Phoebe developed cataracts, which quickly impaired her vision in both eyes. Phoebe's new owner decided to investigate the options for helping this otherwise healthy and spunky six-year-old dog, and brought her to PVSEC for an initial ophthalmic evaluation and non-invasive tests to determine whether her retinas still responded to light. The ERG (Electroretinograph) test showed that Phoebe's retinas showed good responsiveness and that cataract removal would likely help to restore vision. The ophthalmologist suggested that Phoebe return to her family veterinarian for a routine dental cleaning to safeguard against problems with oral bacteria complicating her upcoming cataract surgery. Phoebe was started on pre-surgical medication that same day (to slow the development of inflammation associated with cataracts). Her primary care veterinarian took care of her teeth and performed the pre-surgical blood work for her cataract surgery

The morning of Phoebe's surgery included an adjustment to Phoebe's feeding and insulin routine based on instructions given to her owner by the ophthalmologist. It also included a dicey, wintry drive from New Castle to Pittsburgh, but the worst part for Phoebe's owner was leaving her at the hospital, and the worry that Phoebe would think that she was being sent back to the shelter. The receptionists and technicians were kind and reassuring and told the nervous "mom" that the doctor would call with an update after surgery. Sure enough, at 3:45 PM, "mom" got the news that Phoebe made it through surgery with "flying colors" and she even received lens implants in both eyes. Normally the vision of post-cataract surgery patients without the lens implants is farsighted. Based on anatomical differences observed in the pre-operative exam, lens implants may be an option for correcting the farsighted vision of 70 - 90% of cataract surgery patients.

After returning home, Phoebe's mom coped with the complicated medication regimen by being very organized: charts were formulated and medications were color-coded with reminders to wait 10 minutes between each topical medication. After weeks without jumping up and sleeping on the bed and contending with the Elizabethan collar lampshade around her neck, Phoebe was given a clean bill of health on February 5, 2009. Almost everyone is ecstatic about Phoebe's return to the world of the sighted. Prior to Phoebe's cataract surgery, the world was a blur, including all of Phoebe's roommates. Previously, Phoebe did not know that Rosie was a fluffy, feline roommate. Unfortunately for Rosie, she has become an unwitting playmate on this side of Phoebe's road to vision.