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Service animals can receive free eye, heart exams at UF on May 25

Published: March 9th, 2012

Category: News Releases, Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Small Animal Hospital

Dr. Maisenbacher checks a dog on National Service Dog Day in May 2011.The University of Florida’s Small Animal Hospital will offer free screening eye and heart examinations to service animals May 25 as a part of the fourth annual ACVO National Service Dog Eye Exam event.

Service dog groups include guide dogs, handicapped assistance dogs, detection dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs and formally trained and certified therapy dogs.

Only active working dogs that have been certified by a formal training program or organization, or that are currently enrolled in a formal training program, qualify to receive the exam.

Dr. Caryn Plummer, an assistant professor and board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist at UF, will provide the eye examinations. Dr. Amara Estrada, an associate professor and board-certified veterinary cardiologist, and Dr. Herb Maisenbacher, a clinical assistant professor and board-certified veterinary cardiologist, will provide the cardiac examinations.

“Healthy eyes and vision are critical for a service dog to be able to perform to the best of its ability,” Plummer said. “Regular screening may help detect problems early that are potentially sight or comfort threatening so that intervention may be possible.”

Estrada said members of the UF cardiology service were pleased to be able to volunteer their time to provide free heart examinations to service dogs.

“It’s wonderful to be able to partner with Dr. Plummer as we reach out to these important members of our canine community,” Estrada said.

The heart examinations will consist of a brief physical examination concentrating on the cardiovascular system, which will include auscultation, or listening to the heart. UF cardiologists can fill out OFA paperwork if certification is desired.

If, based on the animals’ examinations, veterinarians determine that further diagnostics are needed, owners will have to schedule future appointments.

For the eye examinations, owners or their representatives must first fill out a registration form online at www.acvoeyeexam.org. Then owners or their representatives must contact UF’s small animal hospital at 352-392-2235 to schedule an appointment for either the eye or the heart evaluations.

Callers seeking information about the eye examinations should ask to speak to ophthalmology technician Holly Kitchen, or leave a message requesting a callback for scheduling. Callers seeking information about the cardiac examinations should ask to speak with either Melanie Powell or Bonnie Heatwole.

“We are very pleased to be able to offer these screening for this incredibly important group of canine heroes,” Plummer said.