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NC State Veterinary Hospital Participates in National Service Animal Eye Exam Program

Owners of service animals are invited to register for the National Service Animal Eye Exam Program and have their animal receive a free screening-wellness eye exam by specialists with the North Carolina State University Veterinary Hospital.

Registration for all service animals, including horses, will take place during April with exams scheduled at the Veterinary Hospital’s Ophthalmology Service in May.

To be eligible, animals must be formally trained, certified, and currently working or formally trained therapy animals with proof of active registration. These animals could provide the following services: guide, hearing assistance, drug detection, police/military, search and rescue, therapy, and those animals assisting people with other disabilities.

“Early detection is vital and this program is an opportunity to ensure the animal’s eye health by allowing us to diagnose an ocular concern before it becomes a major issue,” says Brian Gilger, a professor of ophthalmology in the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine.

During the examination, the ophthalmologist will check the eyes to determine if there are any abnormalities. Some abnormalities might need to be treated to prevent or delay progression of an eye disease such as retinal disease, cataracts, or glaucoma. The exam requires no sedation, minimal restraint, is not painful or stressful, and usually takes 10-25 minutes.

Dr. Brian Gilger does an equine eye exam.

Dr. Brian Gilger does an equine eye exam.

“What we’re looking for in these exams is anything that might cause vision concerns,” says Dr. Gilger. “These concerns may vary from formation of cataracts or anything that might be wrong with the cornea or with the retina. Among the conditions being checked are redness, squinting, cloudy corneas, retinal disease, early cataracts, and other abnormalities.

“It’s important to be alert owners if there is any current problem they should know about, or if the animal may have possible vision impairment in the future,” continues Gilger. “We can diagnose and treat these conditions with appropriate medication or therapy.”

The national program, now in its eighth year, is sponsored by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) and Stokes Pharmacy with volunteer participation by more than 250 ophthalmologists in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. More than 30,000 service animals have received free eye exams since 2008.

Register animals to be examined at NC State at For more information on the program, please call 919.513.6659.

Further reading

NC State Veterinary Hospital Offers Advanced Technology for Removing Cataracts from Pets

NC State Researchers Advance New Glaucoma Treatments

Surgeons Remove Cataract from Eye of a Sunfish

Video of 2014 National Service Animal Eye Exam