The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists in coordination with StokesRX International hosted their annual National Service Animal Eye Exam month last month.
The free, ocular screening eye exams are done to ensure that service animals’ eyes are checked for health on a regular basis, said Dr. Heather Brookshire, veterinary ophthalmologist.
But it’s not just service dogs that need regular eye exams, she said.
All animals should have their eye health monitored on a regular basis to catch routine eye issues such as cataracts, glaucoma and certain kinds of cancers that can manifest in the eyes, Brookshire noted.
Normally animals are sent her way via referral by the owner’s primary veterinarian.
While pets may not be concerned with having 20/20 vision — and she isn’t fitting dogs with eyeglasses — keeping an animal’s eyes healthy can give them a better quality of life.
“Some of these issues can be painful for the animals,” she said.
How to tell
For the average pet owner there are a few ways to keep a close watch on the health of their pet’s eyes, Brookshire said.
She said to look for squinting, redness, discharge, cloudiness, pawing at the eye and catching them rubbing it on surfaces to relieve discomfort.
Older animals are more likely to develop eye-related issues so making regular visits to a veterinarian and keeping an eye on the pet’s overall health make it easier for veterinary ophthalmologists like Brookshire to treat them.
In addition to seeing animals in the office, Brookshire treks out to horse stables, the Virginia Zoo, and sees animals from all over to treat various ocular issues.
She’s treated eye cancer in horses, worked with bison, tapirs, wallabies, owls, red tailed hawks and even assisted a flying squirrel in rehabilitation.