Free Eye Exams for Service Dogs

Plus, five simple eye-care tips for all pups
By Lisa Wogan, March 2012, Updated February 2015

One of my favorite types of dog stories to read or write are those that feature working dogs. From guide and assistance dogs to search-and-rescue and arson-detection dogs, I am always inspired by their ability and willingness to do what we ask and in the process transform our lives. So I was thrilled to hear about the 5th Annual ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event.

Channeling the spirit of service, more than 200 board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists throughout the U.S., as well as Canada and Puerto Rico, provide free eye exams to thousands of service dogs. Last year, a record 4,000 service animals received exams.

During the complete ocular exam, the veterinary specialists look for problems including redness, squinting, cloudy corneas, retinal disease, early cataracts and other serious abnormalities. Early detection and treatment are vital. Just think about how critical good vision is to these dogs with jobs and all of those who depend on them.

To qualify, dogs must be active “working animals” that were certified by a formal training program or organization or currently enrolled in a formal training program. Additional registration details can be found at


Sign up and get the answers to your questions.

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Owners/agents for the dog(s) must first register the animal online from April 1–30, 2012. Once registered online, the owner/agent will receive a registration number and can then contact a participating veterinary ophthalmologist directly to schedule an appointment, during the month of May. Appointment dates and times are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Eye care basics
Meanwhile, good eye care is important for all dogs, and the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists has provided these five simple steps for protecting all our dogs’ precious vision.

  1. Clean ocular discharge with a warm, wet washcloth.
  2. Do not use eye medications prescribed for a previous eye problem for a new eye problem.
  3. When buying a pure bred dog ask if the parents have had their eyes certified by an ophthalmologist.
  4. If you suspect vision loss or eye discharge persists for more than a day, see your veterinarian.
  5. Don’t let your dog hang his or her head out of the window when you are driving.

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of several books including Dog Park Wisdom.