Dogs need vision checks, too

FRESNO, Calif.

On four legs, service dogs depend on their two eyes to do some very important jobs. Veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Susan Carastro makes sure the dogs' vision stays sharp.

One and a half year old Nat is training to be an assistance dog.

2-year-old Marley just finished search and rescue training. "Marley is a search dog. He looks for live people in collapsed structures," Lybbi Kienzle, dog owner/trainer, told Ivanhoe.

Zena works as a therapy dog at assisted living centers.

For Brady, it's children's hospitals.

These eye exams are part of a national event. About 200 veterinary ophthalmologists provide free eye exams for all kinds of service dogs that help people and even save lives.

"By evaluating these dogs on a yearly basis, we can sometimes identify eye conditions that could be vision-threatening to them," Dr. Carastro said.

"We want to make sure he can see, and he can do his job well, and he can be healthy and happy," Elin Fischer, Brady's owner, told Ivanhoe.

Jeff Shaffner knows how important these canine professionals can be. He lost the use of his arms and legs in an accident 23 years ago. Now, he depends on Vincent for help and companionship.

"He facilitates things that I cannot do from a wheelchair that he can. He means everything in the world to me," Shaffner told Ivanhoe.

At Dr. Carastro's office, every exam has a happy-ending. A few treats, some kisses, then, it's time to go. These busy professionals have work to do.

Dr. Carastro says, just like humans, some dog eye problems are curable, some are manageable, and some can't be fixed. She recently performed laser surgery on a service dog with a non-cancerous eye melanoma and saved the animal's sight.

Stacee Daniel
Executive Director of the ACVO

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