Veterinary Eye Doctors Rally to Aid Assistance Dogs

More than 7,000 service animals received free eye exams in May.

By | Posted: June 23, 2014, 3 p.m. PST

Toby - Therapy DogPhoto by Leonard Ortiz of The Orange County Register. Toby, a therapy dog, who got screened this year and was found to have a tumor that was removed, restoring his sight to normal.
Free eye exams were given in May as part of an American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists campaign designed to honor their public work. Nearly 29,000 service animals have been examined over the seven years of the National Service Animal Eye Exam Event, the ACVO reports.

Nearly all the patients examined this year were dogs employed as guide, handicapped assistance, detection, military, search and rescue, or registered therapy animals, but horses and a donkey were checked as well. Over 250 board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists participated in the event in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, looking for everything from eye redness, squinting and cloudy corneas to retinal disease, early cataracts and other abnormalities.

"Early detection and treatment are vital to these working animals,” says Stacee Daniel, executive director of the Meridian, Idaho-based ACVO. "Our hope is that by checking their vision early and often, we will be able to help a large number of service animals better assist their human friends.”

Success was measured not only by what the ophthalmologists did or didn’t find but also by the response of the animals’ owners. "Special thanks go out to the service animal owners who posted notes of gratitude on our Facebook page,” Daniel says. "Those kind words help our ophthalmologists and sponsors know that they made a positive impact, thus making them more likely to continue to participate in the future.”

Sponsors included Mount Laurel, N.J., drug compounder Stokes Pharmacy, medical device maker Welch Allyn Inc. of Skaneateles Falls, N.Y., and other industry partners. Exams are provided to active working animals certified by a formal training program or organization and those enrolled in a program.

Registration takes place each April at www.acvoeyeexam.org.

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