Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We Just Participated in the 2011 ACVO/Merial Service Dog Eye Exam

This afternoon, we took the Labs down to see Dr. Bobofchak at Eye Care for Animals in Akron as part of the free eye exams given to service dogs compliments of ACVO (American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) & Merial. In the past, Laurel has seen a different board certified ophthalmologist but the day her office did the exams this year didn't work for us. Dr. Bobofchak offered the exams any day in May.
The past two years, the doctor had seen some discolored spots of pigment in Laurel's eyes that apparently, could be nothing or could turn into something awful. This year, Dr. B didn't see the spots so that was great news! 
He did, however, notice that Hardy has Distichiasis, which is the presence of abnormal hairs growing from the edge of the eyelid. Sometimes, there are no symptoms but, as in Hardy's case, the abnormal eyelashes can cause irritation to the cornea. As a result, he has a gummy discharge so Dr. B recommended that he perform a cryoepilation. While Hardy is under general anesthesia, he will use a fine needle probe with liquid nitrogen to freeze the root and kill the hair. Since it is causing irritation and we don't want to risk a corneal ulcer, we have planned the procedure for the beginning of June.
Unfortunately, that diagnosis was not the bad news ... while looking at Hardy's retinas, Dr. B saw that he has geographic retinal dysplasia, a horseshoe shaped area of retinal folds above the center of vision in one eye. Thankfully, it is not progressive and Dr. B doesn't think it will ever effect his eyesight (although he may have a slightly higher chance of having a detached retina at some point). It is hereditary - caused by recessive genes so even though Hardy's parents are CERF tested and certified, they must both be carriers. Hopefully, the only way it will ever effect Hardy is that he will never be used for breeding - the concern would be for his offspring. We will wait until he is 18 months - 2 years old and then he will either have a vasectomy or be neutered. 
I immediately called Hardy's breeder and she was stunned and understandably upset. We weren't planning to neuter him - since he is such a handsome dog with lovely conformation and such a great temperament, I wanted to have the chance to use him to get my next service dog candidate. However, the more I see of Donna and her dogs, the more impressed I am - I would have asked to use one of her bitches to breed Hardy to anyway so I am confident that I will be able to find another wonderful puppy in 3-4 years when we are looking for my next service dog candidate. Even though, I must admit to being pretty sad when we got the news and I kept thinking that this shouldn't be happening since I did everything right this time! But, as Brent pointed out, nothing is certain in life and Hardy is still the same great dog today as he was yesterday!
A cameraman from our local Fox 8 television station came to our exam and videotaped it so all of us were on the 6:00 News for all of 30 seconds but it was a great piece about the veterinarians who do these complimentary eye exams! And I am very grateful to ACVO, Merial, the sponsors and local veterinarians who donate their time and services to protect the eye health of various types of working dogs (police, search & rescue, therapy as well as service dogs)! It was certainly better to find out about Hardy's eye issues now instead of later - we can treat the one and will watch the other through the annual eye exam. 
There isn't a link for the video so I have included a couple photos I took of the piece playing on our television:
Walking into Dr B's office - the Labs' eyes were dilated

Laurel's exam

Hardy's eye exam

Dr. Bobofchak talking about the free eye exams

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