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Eye care goes to the dogs in May

Do you have or know someone with a diabetic alert dog? Or maybe a dog who sniffs out seizures? Or someone who is blind who has a guide dog?

There are also military and police dogs who help with search and rescue when someone is missing, or police dogs who sniff out bombs and drugs.

Every May those service animals who protect us are given a bit of protection with a free eye exam.

Since the American College of Veterinary Ophtalmologists held the first national service animal eye exam event in 2008, more than 45,000 animals have been screened. More than 7,000 were screened last year alone as word has gotten out about this program.

As eye doctors have told us for articles in The EAGLE, often the eyes are a first look into the health of an individual. Eye doctors can spot diabetes and much more with just a simple look into the eye. The same can be true for our dogs.

The free screening will be offered in three places in our general region, even though it will require a bit of a drive. Clinics in Flowood, Starkville and Cordova, Tennessee, are participating. It was actually a Memphis veterinarian, Ben Miller, who founded the event nine years ago. It turned out that most veterinarians were offering free eye exams to service animals, but by giving it a month and promoting awareness, it has turned into a larger service and more animals are helped.

You can see if your service dog qualifies by registering at www.acvoeyeexam.org. Service Animals that may qualify include guide, handicapped assistance, detection, military, search and rescue, and certified-current, registered therapy animals — all whom selflessly serve the public.

I have two therapy dogs who are getting older. While they get their annual checkup at the vet, this is an extra checkup where their eyes can really get some attention and I plan to check it out.

If you know of someone you think might qualify, please urge them to visit the website. Often eyes are forgot about until someone starts having trouble seeing, and even then, most of us don’t really want to go to the eye doctor. We won’t know if our animal is having trouble seeing until it’s very pronounced, so being proactive will only be beneficial.

Stephanie Rebman is editor of The Oxford EAGLE. Contact her at stephanie.rebman@oxfordeagle.com.