An Eye for Assistance

Tufts Now All Stories

They can’t tell the veterinarian which way the “E” is facing or if they can read the bottom line of an eye chart, but animals still benefit from eye exams—particularly guide dogs, military and search-and-rescue dogs, and others with a job to do.“Sight is important to all dogs, though certainly many dogs lose their vision and still enjoy good quality of life,” said Stephanie Pumphrey, a veterinary ophthalmologist at the Henry and Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals in North Grafton. “But for service dogs, being able to see and navigate their world properly is critical to them being able to perform at their best while supporting their humans.”
That’s why Cummings Veterinary Medical Center in May joined the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists for the ACVO/StokesRx National Service Animal Eye Exam. Through the program, now in its eleventh year, Tufts board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists offer free sight-saving exams for qualified service animals at the Foster Hospital and Tufts Veterinary Emergency Treatment & Specialties in Walpole.
Janet Martin of Rochdale, Massachusetts, took advantage of the program to have her hearing dog, Della, screened at the Foster Hospital. Since 2013, the 6-year-old black Labrador retriever has helped Martin navigate her daily routine, nudging her awake when the alarm clock goes off in the morning, telling her when the microwave is done heating lunch, and alerting her to the doorbell ringing or someone calling her name—not to mention being Martin’s ears in case of emergency situations such as a nighttime fire alarm.
Eye problems are common in pets, but they tend to be different from the issues seen in humans. “Most people with glasses have what’s called refractive errors, meaning they can’t see sharply because light isn’t focusing correctly on the back of the eye. We don’t see a lot of that in animals, …

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