Board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico are preparing to provide free eye exams in May to thousands of service animals.
Advance registration is available through April 30 at www.ACVOeyeexam.org. Owners will receive a registration number that may be used when scheduling an appointment with a participating ophthalmologist.
To qualify, patients must be working service animals certified by or enrolled in a formal training program.
The sixth annual National Service Dog Eye Exam event is sponsored by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) and the animal health company Merial Ltd. of Duluth, Ga.
“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,” says Stacee Daniel, executive director of the ACVO.
Among the groups supporting the effort are the American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
“Service animals are one of the best examples of the benefits that the human-animal bond brings to people, and they need excellent vision to continue their important work,” said Douglas Aspros, DVM, president of the AVMA.
Nearly 16,000 service animals, ranging from guide dogs and detection dogs to horses and even a donkey, have been examined since the program launched in 2008.
“The ACVO has had the privilege of working with military working dogs, animals that help secure our airports, an organization providing psychiatric service dogs to soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, local fire, rescue and police agencies, and also individual service animals that help people with disabilities,” said the organization's Bill Miller, DVM, Dipl. ACVO. “Early detection and treatment are vital to these working animals and the important work they do.”
Ophthalmologists from Tampa, Fla.-based BluePearl Veterinary Partners and from Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine are among the professionals taking part in the annual charity work.
“I have been participating in this event since the beginning and I love it,” said Jennifer Welser, DVM, Dipl. ACVO, the medical director at a BluePearl hospital in New York City. “It is such a great opportunity to provide care to our dedicated and invaluable service animals.”
Mississippi State assistant professor Caroline Betbeze, DVM, Dipl. ACVO, will donate her time.
“These exams give us the opportunity to catch ocular problems early, before they move to advanced stages and cause serious problems,” Dr. Betbeze said. “They say the eye is the window to the soul, but it is also a window into the overall health of the animal.”