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How To Prioritize Animal Eye Health All Year: ACVO/Epicur National Service Animal Eye Exam Event Wrap Up

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When asked why they chose their profession, most veterinarians will give a similar answer: they love animals and want to ensure they get the best care possible. We feel the same way and share the compassion of the veterinary community. That’s why we love supporting organizations and events that create a difference for both vet professionals and animals.

The ACVO/Epicur National Service Animal Eye Exam Event is one of those events that exemplifies the heart of the veterinary field. This month-long philanthropic event was just held for its 14th year, successfully providing free, ocular screening eye exams to hundreds of service and working animals. As the namesake sponsor of this event, Epicur sees firsthand how these free check-ups have as deep of an impact on the veterinary professionals and pet owners as they do on the animals.

2022 Event Stats:

202 ACVO members provided complimentary screening eye exams to over 4,440 animals! (~2,900 All Service Animals, ~1,548 All Active Registered Therapy Animals)

courtesy of ACVO

We asked veterinary professionals why this event means so much, and here’s what they said:

See even more testimonials at the end of the post!

"Getting to witness the dedication of these dogs and the trust the owners have in them is really special. The owners are so grateful for this service. It is a small act of kindness with such a big impact."

Susan Nelms, DVM, DACVO | BluePearl Birmingham, AL

We look forward to the ACVO National Service Animal Eye Exam Event every year. It gives us another opportunity to give back to all of those animals who provide such a valuable service to the partners they serve.

Joseph Gerding, DACVO, Jay Harrington, DACVO,  Bradley Graham, DACVO | Animal Eye Clinic in Charlotte, NC

Using our skills to help those most in need, like providing service animal eye exams, is how we show our gratitude for the gift of what we do.

Noelle La Croix, DACVO, Head of Ophthalmology | Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island

These annual exams allow us to monitor for changes and detect potential vision problems. I have gotten to know many of these clients, one of whom is an amazing blind woman who we have grown to consider a dear friend. She is always so appreciative of the free ophthalmology exams, as are so many service animal owners.

Emily Richey, LVT | BluePearl Birmingham, AL

Everyone in our hospital loves service animal month. It truly is an honor and a pleasure to help these helpers! The owners/handlers are incredibly grateful for the exams, and we are happy to help support this event.

Stacy Andrew, DVM, DACVO | BluePearl Georgia

What types of service animals have veterinary ophthalmologists seen during the event?

  • Search & Rescue Dogs
  • Search & Rescue Horses
  • Therapy Cats
  • Seizure Alert Dogs
  • Therapy Alpacas
  • Service Turkey
  • Seeing Eye Dogs
  • Diabetic Alert Dogs
  • Autism Service Dogs
  • Hearing Dogs
  • Cadaver Dogs

One participating practice has seen over 800 service dogs!

Veterinary ophthalmology gets a lot of attention during May because of the ACVO eye exams, but it doesn’t take perfect vision to see that pets’ eye health should always be top of mind for vets and pet owners. Healthy vision directly impacts a pet’s quality of life and it’s even more essential for service animals that perform critical and life-saving work.

“Monitoring ocular health is vital to the working dogs who provide essential services to their families and communities. I love being able to use my skills as a veterinary ophthalmologist to strengthen the human-animal bond.” Jill MacLeese, DVM, DACVO | Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island

Even for non-service animals, there are a number of common eye conditions that can be debilitating or a symptom of an underlying condition. Because of the sensitivity of animals’ eyes, ensure better eye health for every patient by educating your clients about symptoms, prevention tips, and when to see an ophthalmology specialist.

Helping Pet Owners Prioritize Eye Health

The best ways to support healthy eyes are to remind pet owners to schedule regular eye exams and use the highest-quality medications for ophthalmology care. Educate them on what to expect during basic routine exams, including:

  • Checking the tear production
  • Measuring eye pressure
  • Examining the front of the eye including the eyelids, cornea, iris, and lens
  • Looking at the structures of the back of the eye – retina and optic nerve

Encourage pet owners to stay involved in the eye health of their animal(s) and share tips for protecting the eyes at home:

  • Regularly cleaning pets’ eyes with a warm, clean washcloth or ocular wipe
  • Looking at pets’ eyes, specifically to check that the eyes are clear and bright
  • Keeping pets’ eye areas well-groomed of any hair that could be blocking their vision so that they can clearly see any changes to the eyes
  • Not letting dogs hang their head out the window of a moving vehicle – debris that gets kicked up can severely damage their eyes

“Monitoring ocular health is vital to the Eye screening exams are important for early detection of eye disease to ensure that service & working dogs can maintain their eyesight and continue to perform their duties.”  Whitney Young, DVM, DACVO | Veterinary Ophthalmologist, Asheville, NC

To help your practice and pet owners stay on top of eye health, check out our animal eye health page and our new handout with common symptoms and preventative tips for strong and healthy eyes. 

Download our printable eye health handout to hang in your practice and share with pet owners!

More from Veterinary Professionals 

Hear from more volunteers on what a special event like the ACVO/Epicur National Service Animal Eye Exam Event means to the veterinary profession and the impact it leaves:

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