Like a human ophthalmologist, a veterinary ophthalmologist specializes in all things eye-related! Of course, veterinary ophthalmology is a bit different than human medicine – after all, pets can’t outright say if they have blurry vision or if they are experiencing pain, and they certainly can’t read letters off a chart for a lens prescription!
Eye disease can affect our pets at any age, whether they are young or old, so primary care veterinarians always check a pet’s eyes during a wellness exam. While many eye conditions can be treated and managed by a family veterinarian, a referral to a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist may be necessary if a pet is experiencing any changes in vision or comfort. For those who are unfamiliar with veterinary ophthalmology, here is a brief overview of when to visit a board-certified ophthalmologist and what to expect for your pet’s first ophthalmology appointment.
First off, what exactly is a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist?
A board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist is a veterinarian who is extensively trained to diagnose, treat, and manage eye disease. The minimum requirements to become a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist include completing veterinary school, a veterinary internship, and a three-year residency program. After finishing a residency, candidates must pass exams and maintain accreditation to remain in the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO).
How do I know if my pet should see an ophthalmologist?
A family veterinarian often refers a pet to a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam if the pet is experiencing vision loss, squinting, and/or discharge, as well as any need for ocular surgery.
How is a complete eye health assessment done on my pet?
A comprehensive eye exam begins with evaluating your pet’s vision. A specialized hand-held device called a slit lamp biomicroscope is used to evaluate the eye surface and eye structures in microscopic detail. The retina is then evaluated using a head-mounted light and specialized lens to complete the exam. Many common eye problems are diagnosed after a thorough eye exam. However; in some cases, additional testing may be required.
What additional testing may be done to help diagnose my pet?
Veterinary ophthalmologists often use a combination of tests to complete a baseline evaluation of your pet’s eye health. These tests include:
- Schirmer Tear Test
- A paper strip is used to check the pet’s tear production. This test is frequently used to diagnose and monitor dry eye.
- A tonometry measures the amount of pressure within the eye. This test is often used to differentiate and diagnose glaucoma (high intraocular pressure) from uveitis (inflammation within the eye).
- Fluorescein Stain
- Fluorescein dye is applied to the eye surface where it can highlight corneal ulcers, show a poor tear film quality, and allow visualization of tear outflow.
Once a thorough eye exam and additional testing is complete, the Ophthalmology team will discuss the prognosis with the client and develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient.
At Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, Dr. Rogen, our board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist, and our Ophthalmology Service is committed to caring for your pet’s vision and comfort. If you’re concerned about your pet’s eyesight or eye health, ask your family veterinarian about a referral or schedule an appointment with a member of our team!
Written by Andrew Rogen, DVM, DACVO.