Athens veterinarians to participate in 2016 national service animal eye exam event

By Cindy H. Rice, 706.542.3079,

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital will once again offer free eye exam screenings to service animals this May as part of the annual American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and Stokes Pharmacy National Service Animal Eye Exam Event. The Animal Eye Care Clinic, located in Five Points, will also participate in the program.

“Service animals play a vital role in their owners' lives, and we want to be sure they can continue to carry out their jobs,” said Dr. Kate Myrna, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at UGA. “We gladly take part in this event to care for the animals and owners alike.”

Eligible service animals include certified guide, handicapped assistance, detection, military, search and rescue, and therapy animals. Pre-registration with the ACVO is required and is open through April 30 at The appointments will take place during May.

During the exams, veterinary ophthalmologists will use specialized equipment and their expertise to look for problems such as cataracts, corneal problems and eyelid and retinal diseases.

“Early detection of these potential problems is important because good eyesight is essential for many of these animals to perform their daily tasks,” Myrna said.

The goal of the National Service Animal Eye Exam Event is to provide as many free screening exams as possible to eligible service animals across the U.S. and Canada. Since the program's launch in 2008, more than 45,000 service animals have had their eyes examined, with more than 7,000 of those taking place in 2015 alone.

To register for the 2016 event: To qualify, service animals must be “active working animals” certified by a formal training program or organization or currently enrolled in a formal training program. At the appointment, owners/agents must present current certification paperwork as well as a copy of the program's confirmation email.

Owners/agents for the animal(s) must first register the animal via an online registration form by the end of April at Once registered online, the owner/agent will receive a registration number and will be allowed access to a list of participating ophthalmologists in his/her area. Then, the owner/agent may contact a specialist to schedule an appointment, which will take place during the month of May. Dates and times may vary depending on the facility and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Photo Caption: Dr. Kathryn Diehl, a veterinary ophthalmologist at the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital, examines the eyes of Nellie Grace, a therapy and reading education assistance dog, during the 2015 Service Animal Eye Exam Event. (Credit: Sue Myers Smith/University of Georgia)

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