NorthStar VETS ACVO Service Dog Eye Exams 2016

eye-exams1Peggy Breuninger and her Great Dane, Alma, sat in the waiting room of NorthStar VETS in Maple Shade awaiting their eye appointment with Dr. Vygantas. Alma is a service and therapy dog and works with autistic children, and also visits hospices and hospitals. But on this day, they were at NorthStar VETS for the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology (ACVO) National Service Animal Eye Exams event. Dr. Vygantas explained, “The ACVO has put together a service event that’s nationwide where the diplomates of the college donate their time and services to examine pets and animals that are working in a service capacity to help people who are disadvantaged, or disabled in other capacities. We do an eye exam to ensure that the eyes are healthy and that they are able to perform their duty in the best way possible.”

Dozens of service animals visit NorthStar VETS each year for a free exam. Dr. Vygantas explained further. “The service dogs will be getting an exam just like any of our clinical patients. There is a lot observation, both looking with the microscope and with special lenses to see deep into the eye. We check ocular surface health by checking with a fluorescein stain to see if there are any abrasions, we check lubrication of the eye with a test called the Schirmer tear test, we check the pressure of the inside of the eye with an instrument that we actually touch to the surface of the eye called the Tono-pen or the Tonovet to make sure these pets don’t have Glaucoma. It’s a general exam much like what you would get when you go to your eye doctor, just to make sure that their eyes are healthy.”

Stacy Milazzo of Stokes Pharmacy, the main sponsor of this national event, told us what the event is all about. “Stokes Pharmacy is a proud sponsor of the ACVO Service Animal Eye Exams which happen in the month of May. They’re free exams given by Veterinary Ophthalmologists to screen service animals and catch any problems before they happen so they can make sure these animals will be ready to serve for the rest of the year.”

eye-exams2These service animals have a wide variety of jobs. Ruth Osman and her dog, Kelsey, were also there to see the Ophthalmologist. Ruth gave us her volunteer story about her work with Kelsey and the Tri-State Canine Response Team. “Kelsey and I are a therapy dog team with some extra training. We’re trained to respond in case of a disaster or crisis and give comfort and stress relief to first responders, family members of victims and even visiting shelters after disasters. Other times we visit libraries, schools and nursing homes.” Sue Keenan and Xena were another team doing search and rescue. “Xena will be seven in December,” said Sue. “She was found as a stray and I adopted her from the Associated Humane Society in Newark. She had no obedience training or related work done with her, so we started first with obedience training and we got into trailing and finally scent detection. Xena is a trained search and rescue dog. She is certified through two organizations, NASAR search and rescue and the North Carolina Police Dog Association. She is certified to search for human remains and we do searches for missing people around the country, but mostly down south.” And Xena gives back in other ways as well. “We’ve also been participating for the last several years with the NorthStar VETS Canine and Feline Blood Bank. She donates blood there to dogs that are injured or sick and need blood.”

Thanks to ACVO and Stokes Pharmacy, these dogs are seeing great and ready to get back to work. Sue Keenan concluded, “These eye exams are great because the ACVO does this every year and allows us to visit Dr. Vygantas at NorthStar VETS to have her eyes examined.” And Stacy from Stokes Pharmacy added, “It’s been a wonderful experience for us. We’ve been able to go out and see some of the clients and see how vital these animals are to the people that they serve. It’s been a really nice thing for our organization to be able to sponsor that.”

To learn more about the event, visit the ACVO Service Dog Eye Exam website.

James Clinton, VMD, DACVOJames Clinton, VMD, DACVO
Dr. James M. Clinton received his veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He then completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at the prestigious Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston prior to undertaking a residency in ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Clinton has been a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology since 1972.

Dr. Clinton opened the Animal Eye Clinic of New Jersey in 1971, which was one of the first independent ophthalmology referral practices in the country and the first one on the East coast.

Kristina R. Vygantas, DVM, DACVOKristina R. Vygantas, DVM, DACVO
Dr. Vygantas is a graduate of the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University. She completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery as well as her residency in ophthalmology at Auburn University. Dr. Vygantas became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists in 2001. She was in private practice in Birmingham, Alabama, for four years prior to joining NorthStar VETS in 2005. She also served on the board of the exam committee of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists. Her special interests include corneal surgery and wound healing as well as equine ophthalmology.

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