Treating eyes of seeing-eye dogs

June 24, 2011
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(Courtesy Photo by Chris Evans/Boston Herald) Dr. Dan Biros and Alicia Posell examine service dog Vandyke, owned by Sharon Tiner.

What good would a blind seeing-eye dog do?

Veterinary ophthalmologists—eye doctors—at the Angell Animal Medical Center examined 22 dogs, free of charge, during the month of May as part of a nationwide effort to treat service animals.

“Service dogs are pivotal in assisting people throughout the world,” said Dr. Daniel Biros, one of the two ophthalmologists at Angell, located at 350 S. Huntington Ave., who donated their time. “The free eye exam program has been a rewarding opportunity for Angell Animal Medical Center to give back to these extraordinary animals who do so much for us.”

The program was responsible for over 200 veterinary ophthalmologists screening over 4,000 dogs all over the country.

“For people who have seeing-eye dogs, those dogs’ eyes are the person’s eyes,” said Dr. Martin Coster, Angell’s other participating ophthalmologist. “If those eyes go, it’s the person who suffers.”

To test a dog’s vision, veterinary ophthalmologists can place the dog in “unfamiliar surroundings”—like an obstacle course or a maze—and watch how the dog navigates the challenge, Coster told the Gazette. The doctors also inspect the eyes for general health and talk to the owners.

“People will often know” if their dog’s vision is failing, Coster said. He added that doctors also check for cataracts. Like its human variation, cataracts can blind a dog and can also be fully cured.

“Restoring a blind pet’s vision means a lot to the owners,” Coster said.

This was Coster’s second year participating in the program, which has been occurring since 2008.

Any person with a service animal—including seeing-eye dogs or guide dogs; therapy or handicap assistance dogs; and public service, search-and-rescue or explosives detection dogs—can sign up for the free screening, which takes place every May.

More information on the screening program is available at acvoeyeexam.org.

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