Toodles the goat regains sight after eye surgery

By on December 7, 2016

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To see Toodles, the goat, romping in the meadow, it’s hard to imagine that this happy little kid was once blind.

But she was.

The sweet white and black goat was born with cataracts that made it impossible for her to see. Her owners, Don and Marti Nissley, knew something was wrong right away.

“She stood by the fence and walked into things,” says Don Nissley. “Her eyes were cloudy.”

Her mother, Spot, rejected the blind goat and would push her baby away when she tried to nurse. The Nissleys had to give little Toodles a bottle with goat milk replacement formula, feeding her every six hours around the clock. They got pretty attached to her.

As Toodles improved, the Nissleys took her to a veterinarian when she was three months old. The vet suspected that Toodles was indeed blind. That’s when Toodles was referred the New Bolton Center in Kennett Square to see an ophthalmologist.

That’s how the little goat made history, in what may be the first-ever procedure to perform cataract surgery on a goat. The surgery was done in October when she was six months old. A month later, Toodles was back in her pasture, running freely and getting reacquainted with her mother.

“We are so grateful that Toodles can see. She seems so happy and has confidence now,” says Marti Nissley.

The Nissleys credit the little goat’s ophthalmologists at the New Bolton Center for giving Toodles a new lease on life. They performed cataract surgery on both eyes and implanted artificial lenses, making it possible for Toodles to see.

As ophthalmologist Dr. Catherine Nunnery of the New Bolton Center notes, such a procedure is common for dogs, and is also done on horses. A goat was definitely something new. Since there were no lenses available for a goat, custom-made lenses had to be ordered from Germany.

For the Nissleys, restoring Toodles sight was worth the price. It was not always easy for them or for little Toodles. As Nunnery explained, the initial consult in July confirmed that Toodles had bilateral congenital cataracts that inhibited her vision. In August, ultrasound tests of her eyeballs were done to make sure the structures were normal and the retina was in place. Electroretinograms were needed to make sure electrical pulses of the retina were normal.

“The tests confirmed that if we did the cataract surgery, the eye should be able to see light and send the message to the brain,” says Dr. Nunnery, adding that since Toodles had never been able to see before, they were not sure the brain would be able to process the information properly. Once the foggy cataracts were removed, artificial lenses were implanted.

“I had cataract surgery myself a few years ago, so I knew what Toodles was going through,” says Don Nissley.

In October, Toodles had her surgery, with Dr. Nunnery assisted by Dr. Braidee Foote, ophthalmology fellow, and Dr. Simone Iwabe, ophthalmology resident. The surgery took an hour, but recovery would take much longer. Toodles had tiny tubes placed to allow medication to be administered. She rubbed her left eye and caused an abrasion on the cornea, requiring her to be hospitalized until it healed. She came home in early November.

“I knew right away that she could see,” says Don Nissley. “As soon as we put her in her pasture, she ran and jumped like a happy little kid.”

Even her mother, Spot, seemed pleased. She started to bond with her kid, and now the two goats stay close together in their pasture along the walking trail. People walking their dogs and strolling with their children stop to say hello. The kids especially love the little kid.

“She is a very special little goat and we have fallen in love with her,” says Marti Nissley, who named Toodles. “It was worth it to see if we could help her see. She was depending on us for her survival. Now she’s happy and so are we.”

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