Screening Program Provides Free Eye Exams to Service Dogs

“I’m happiest in the month of May,”
says Nancy Bromberg, a veterinary ophthalmologist in Fairfax, Virginia.
It’s not the spring flowers or nicer weather that warms Dr. Bromberg’s heart, though.

It’s the ACVO/StokesRx National Service Animal Eye Exam Event that has taken place every May for the past eight years. The program provides screening eye exams at no cost to qualified service dogs across the U.S. and Canada.

The program began when Dr. Bill Miller of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) realized that, like him, many ACVO members were already providing free exams across the country on their own. Miller had a vision to combine and expand these individual events into something with a greater impact.

As a result, over 45,000 service animals have received these important screening exams free of charge.

Nancy Bromberg, VMD, MS, DACVO, is co-chair of the ACVO’s Public Relations committee and conducts her exams at the VCA SouthPaws Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Center in Fairfax.

The AKC asked Dr. Bromberg why she participates.

“These dogs do so much for us, so I feel like I’m giving back to them and to the community. It’s instant gratification,” says Nancy. “The owners of service dogs are very grateful, which is not something I always see in my day-to-day practice. It reminds me why I became a veterinarian.”

This year, over 260 certified veterinary ophthalmologists like Nancy volunteered their services, staff, and facilities to exam more than 7,200 dogs. The screening process can help these amazing animals and their owners manage or overcome a previously undiagnosed ophthalmic condition.

Dog eye exam

Nancy Lagasse and her service dog, Writer Dr. Bromberg has participated in the program since its inception, and her enthusiasm for helping the animals who help us has not dimmed in the slightest. “I look forward to the event every year,” she says.

And if the dogs can’t come to her, she goes to the dogs. For past three years, Dr. Bromberg has gone to the breeding and training facility of the Warrior Canine Connectionan organization that enlists recovering military veterans in a therapeutic mission of learning to train service dogs for their fellow veterans. “With so many dogs, it’s easier for me to get to them,” she says.

Conducting eye exams for the dogs at WCC is particularly satisfying. At graduation (when the dog has completed his training), the recovering veteran who acted as puppy-raiser presents the dog to the person whose life is about to get a whole lot easier. “It’s very emotional,” says Nancy.

“When you talk to some of these PTSD vets, they say that until they had that dog next to them, they hadn’t slept a night since they’ve been back from deployment. So if I can do anything to help, I’ll do it.”

Dr. Bromberg generosity isn’t limited to dogs, however. She has examined the eyes of Peter, the horse who led the funeral procession of President Reagan.

eye exam horse

About the program, the organization, and the sponsor:

To qualify, service animals must be “active working animals” that have been certified by a formal training program or organization, or are currently enrolled in a formal training program. For more information about the program visit www.ACVOeyeexam.org

Service animals include: guide, handicapped-assistance, detection, military, search and rescue, and certified-current, registered therapy animals. (Initially the program was only open to service dogs. Later, therapy dogs became eligible.)

The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) is an approved veterinary specialty organization of the American Board of Veterinary Specialties, and is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Its mission is “to advance the quality of veterinary medicine through certification of veterinarians who demonstrate excellence as specialists in veterinary ophthalmology.”

To become board certified, a candidate must successfully complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, a one-year internship, a three-year ACVO® approved residency and pass a series of credentials and examinations.

About Stokes Pharmacy

Stokes Pharmacy is a national, full-service compounding pharmacy specializing in the art and science of the custom formulation of prescription medicines for humans and animals.

Related:

Do you know a special dog who goes above and beyond when helping their people?
The AKC is currently accepting nominations for its ACE Awards. Learn more.

For a powerful story of redemption for a blind dog, read the about Harry.