(Free!) Eye Exams for Service Animals

Dog with eye chart.Service animals do many different things, from the classic “seeing eye dog” to hearing assistance animals, to police and military dogs, to therapy pets and much more. To effectively do their jobs, those animals need to be in good health, and that includes having good eye health. This month (May 2015) is the 8th Annual ACVO National Service Animal Eye Exam Event. This event provides free eye exams to qualifying service animals. During its first seven years, more than 31,000 animals benefitted from this event, and another 7,000+ are on track to take advantage of it this year.

Dr. Meredith Mouney, of Metairie Veterinary Ophthalmology Specialists (MVOS), is happy to offer these exams for service animals in the greater New Orleans area again this year, and MSAH is delighted to recommend her for them. A Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology, Dr. Mouney has done this event for two years with MVOS and at Purdue prior. She says that the majority of dogs she sees are very healthy, but sometimes she’s found early signs of cataracts or retinal degeneration that need to be monitored and treated before they cause problems for the dog and its owners or handlers.

The vast majority of the animals that are seen for this event are dogs, but sometimes horses, cats and exotics can also benefit. To qualify for the eye exam, pets must be active working animals and certified by a formal training program or organization (or enrolled in one). If a pet meets the criteria, the owners have to register on the ACVO website during the month of April and then make their appointment with a local participating veterinarian. Dr. Mouney will be providing the exams on May 14th and May 18th to registered service pets.

There are lots of great reasons to make sure your dog has good eye health. For service dogs, Dr. Mouney says it’s especially important to identify any problems early so they can continue to work and to make sure that any dogs in breeding programs don’t pass on eye problems to future generations. In the last couple of years with MVOS, most of the pets Dr. Mouney has seen are therapy dogs, but while she was at Purdue the majority of the pets were fire, police or search and rescue dogs. One of the more memorable ones, she said, was an allergy alert dog that specialized in paprika sniffing!

One of the goals of the eye exam event is to provide as many free eye exams as possible to qualified service animals, and Dr. Mouney says she enjoys meeting “the people who have the dogs for themselves or who provide services for others.” She says it’s a lot of fun to hear their stories, plus the dogs are usually very well behaved! During exams, Dr. Mouney will evaluate each dog’s eye health – from redness and squinting to serious abnormalities like early cataracts and retinal disease. Detecting abnormalities early gives the best prognosis for future health and the dog’s ability to continue its important work.