It started in Memphis, Tenn. An American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) diplomate received sponsorship to examine the eyes of 87 service dogs. One of those lucky pooches, a seeing-eye dog named Quest, was diagnosed with a potentially blinding tumor. His owner, Ron McKenney, was relieved that Quest's tumor was found so early. "I love him. I don't want to lose him," he says. "He's my life."
That small event went so well, the ACVO is going nationwide with the idea. McKenney hopes the first-ever National Service Dog Eye Exam Day helps other service dogs the way the Memphis event helped Quest.
The ACVO, Merial, and Pet Health Systems (a Web-based company that works with veterinarians to sell client products online) are launching the nationwide event the week of May 12. More than 140 board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists and 1,300 general veterinarians will participate. The eye exams, sponsored by Merial, will be conducted by participating ophthalmologists. After that, service dogs and their owners will visit their regular veterinarians between June 1 and June 30. These doctors will examine the dogs and provide their owners with a Pet Wellness Report from Pet Health Systems, along with diagnostic testing at no cost, thanks to the sponsorships.
Qualified service dogs include guide dogs, handicapped assistance dogs, detection dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs. The canines must be actively working as well certified by a formal training program or organization or currently enrolled in a formal training program. A future event may include a wider group of owner assistance dogs who don't fall into those categories. More information is available at acvoeyeexam.org.