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Doctors successfully use eye tissue from one canine to save another dog's eye: 'The stars aligned'

During a routine veterinary exam, the dog was diagnosed with a malignant tumor on her eyeball and was in need of surgery to save her eyesight.

Doctors successfully use eye tissue from one canine to save another dog's eye: 'The stars aligned'
Cover Image Source: Virginia-Maryland college of Veterinary Medicine | Andrew Mann

Some stories are bound to tug at your heartstrings. Just like this one, where one dog’s loss of an eyeball helped save another dog’s eye. During a routine veterinary exam at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine's Veterinary Teaching Hospital last month, a pooch named Susie Q learned that she had a malignant tumor on her eyeball. The 2-year-old Morkie Poo's visit came only hours after another dog visited the vet and had their eyeball removed in a twist of fate.

Photo by Andrew Mann for Virginia Tech
Image Source: Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine | Andrew Mann

With consent from the owner, doctors were able to use corneal tissue from an eyeball lost by the other dog to help Susie Q gain eyesight. "The veterinarian said, ‘I don’t like what I’m seeing,' " recalled Susie Q's owner Jim DePierro, while recounting the pooch's first check-up for the university's website. “The veterinarians said Susie Q had a malignant tumor, a melanoma, on her eyeball. They’ll probably end up taking the eyeball. I almost fainted.” However, fortunately for sweet Susie Q, “we got very lucky, we had another dog brought in that had to lose its eye,” DePierro added.

Photo by Andrew Mann for Virginia Tech.
Image Source: Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine | Andrew Mann

The surgical team managed to remove the tumor and use a graft from the other dog's lost eye to replace eye tissue. Susie Q's tumor had not impacted the inside of her eye yet. “It was serendipity that a dog came the night before that lost its eye,” said Ophthalmology resident Daniel Rothschild. “We try to do the same thing with corneal tissue transplant as we do in people, but in dogs, we don’t have donor tissue. The stars aligned in this case,” the resident at the teaching hospital involved in the surgery added.


The hospital's assistant director, Ian Herring M.S, who led the procedure, also said, “I've done this surgery a number of times, but I never before used corneal tissue from another dog to do the repair." Usually, in these types of cases, a patch derived from pigs is normally used rather than live canine eye tissue. The first dog's eye had popped out of its socket and it could not be re-inserted despite many attempts. It would have caused harm to the canine. The animal's corneal tissue was viable to be used for Susie Q’s eye.

Now she is in good health and recovering well. Her lively spirit won the hearts of the students and interns at the hospital. “Susie Q has a very special personality,” DePierro said. “She has to be on someone’s lap at all times. As for her recovery, DePierro is grateful for the medical team's quick thinking and skill. They did an amazing job. Virginia Tech has been fabulous. I never thought that anyone would take the time to save the eye.”

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