Free vision screenings for service dogs

May 21, 2013 3:44:40 AM PDT
If you're a pet owner, you care about your animal's well-being. Imagine how important that is for a service dog, an animal who assists someone with a physical handicap, or a police dog.

Part of a growing nationwide program, the University of Pennsylvania's acclaimed veterinary hospital is doing free vision screenings for service dogs this week.

Penn's Dr. Gustavo Aguirre is one of about 400 certified veterinary ophthalmologists nationwide. Most take part in this screening program each May.

While your eye care professional can ask how you're doing and have you read a standard chart, a veterinarian can only examine a patient's eyes and infer what might be wrong.

The owner can answer some behavioral questions but the doctor is still relying mainly on technology for answers.

Fortunately, great advances just in the last few years make that better than ever.

The newest devices enable a doctor, for animals or humans to find evidence of eye disease long before symptoms appear.

Except for macular degeneration, a dog can get any eye disease a human being can, and these tend to become more common and more severe with age.

Service dog owners and caregivers may contact the University of Pennsylvania about this week's screening program, either by phone at 215-898-4680 or online at Penn Veterinary Medicine.

Eye diseases, of course, are not limited to service dogs, and if you own a pet, you might wonder whether the animal you love has eye issues.

Chances are excellent that your general-care veterinarian includes some form of eye exam as part of a routine checkup, but you're always able to ask questions if you have a concern. That veterinarian is probably your best starting point rather than going straight to one of the specialists at Penn. But if a visit to your vet doesn't resolve your concerns, it's appropriate during that visit to ask for a referral.