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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2012 / 04 

Veterinary college offers free eye exams to service dogs

April 9, 2012

Dr. Pickett performs ophthalmology examination on service dog.
Dr. Pickett performs ophthalmology examination on service dog.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Virginia Maryland-Regional College of Veterinary Medicine will join with the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) and Merial Inc. to participate in the Service Dog Eye Exam Event.

The veterinary college will hold a free eye clinic for service dogs on the afternoons of Monday, May 14; Wednesday, May 16; and Friday, May 18 at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital located on the Blacksburg campus. The event will be held to preserve the sight of the dogs serving our community, benefit those who depend on service dogs, strengthen relationships with practicing veterinarians, and gather information to help the future performance of working dogs.

“Because service dogs allow those with disabilities the freedom to live independently, it is important that these dogs be kept in optimal health,” said Dr. Phillip Pickett, professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. “In some cases, the good vision of the service dog is the ‘vision’ of the owner.”

Service dogs include guide dogs, handicapped assistance dogs, detection dogs, military and police dogs, search and rescue dogs, and formally trained and certified therapy dogs. Dogs must be active working dogs that were previously certified or are currently enrolled in a formal training program or organization to qualify.

The veterinary college has offered free screening examinations and consultations for service dogs for more than 20 years, according to Pickett. “As with any other disease process in the body, early diagnosis based on routine yearly screening can lead to early intervention that may be able to save vision and keep the dog in the working force,” he said.

Traditionally, more than 180 board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists provide sight-saving eye exams to thousands of service dogs throughout the United States and Canada at no cost during Service Dog Eye Exam Month.

To receive a free service dog eye examination, dog owners or service agencies must register on the ACVO website by April 30. Appointments are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

A full list of event sponsors is also available on the AVCO website.