Service Dogs Receive Free Screenings by VTH Ophthalmology Team during Special Eye Exam Event
Falcon’s eyesight is vital to his job as a service demonstration dog, which is why he received a free eye exam as part of a special event conducted for service dogs on May 7 by the Ophthalmology service at Purdue Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH).
Each year, the ophthalmologists at the VTH donate their time and expertise as part of the annual National Service Animal Eye Exam Day, organized by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) and Stokes Rx. Dr. Wendy Townsend, PVM associate professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, conducted the free exam, screening for cataracts, glaucoma, and other ocular problems that could interfere with Falcon’s mission, and gave Falcon a clean bill of eye health.
“The goal is to ensure excellent ocular health for the service dogs,” Dr. Townsend said. “I love participating in this event because we are able to celebrate the wonderful bond between the dogs and their handlers. The services these dogs provide are amazing.”
Falcon works with his owner, Andrea Schaffer, as part of an organization called Paws with a Cause. This organization helps train and place service dogs with people in need of services, and engages in training and advocacy for the service animal industry. Schaffer is a field representative for the organization, and Falcon works with her to help her assess service dog clients and acclimate new clients to dog ownership. Some service dog clients have never owned dogs before, so Schaffer and Falcon train them on how to work as a team.
“These dogs are athletes. They must have good vision to perform their job functions,” Schaffer said. “Especially when the dog is helping you with mobility and balance, you are putting your safety in the dog.”
Nearly 8,000 service animals are examined for free every year nationwide as part of the National Service Animal Eye Exam Day. “This event gives us a chance to raise awareness of veterinary ophthalmology so that more owners know about the services we provide for their dogs and any other animals in their households,” Dr. Townsend said. “The dogs and their owners are wonderful.”
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