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Service dogs earn free eye exams at WCVM

WCVM ophthalmologists will offer free eye exams to certified service animals in May. Photo: Christina Weese.

WCVM ophthalmologists will offer free eye exams to certified service animals during the month of May. Photo: Christina Weese.

Veterinary ophthalmologists at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) are participating in an annual North American program that offers free eye examinations for service animals during the month of May.

The program, which is operated by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO), honours service animals that are used as guides, handicapped assistance, detection, military, search and rescue and registered therapy animals.

Since its launch in 2008, more than 250 board-certified ophthalmologists throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico have donated their time and resources to provide free eye exam screenings for nearly 22,000 service animals. While the majority of service animals are dogs, ophthalmologists have also examined the eyes of horses.

Dr. Lynne Sandmeyer, one of the three board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, says she and her colleagues have participated in the ACVO National Service Eye Exam program for several years.

During a typical exam, Sandmeyer evaluates the surface of the eye as well as the structures within the organ. She looks for problems including redness, squinting, cloudy corneas and other serious abnormalities.

“These free wellness eye exams are the ideal way to screen for potential issues such as retinal disease or early cataracts,” says Sandmeyer. “Early detection and treatment are vital to these working animals.”

To qualify for the program, patients must be “active working animals” that were certified by a formal training program or organization. They can also be animals that are currently enrolled in a formal training program. Any national, regional or local certifying organization is eligible.

Registration for the ACVO eye exam program runs from April 1-30. Owners or handlers must register their animals by completing the online registration form at www.acvoeyeexam.org.

Once registered, the owner or handler will receive a registration number and access to a list of participating ophthalmologists in their area. They may then contact a specialist to schedule an appointment that will take place during the month of May.

ACVO National Service Eye Exam event is sponsored by ACVO and industry sponsors. Other non-profit supporters include the American Veterinary Medical Association, provincial and state veterinary medical associations in the U.S. and Canada, and the American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives.

For more information and resources for animal owners, visit www.acvoeyeexam.org.

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