Hats off to the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) and Merial® for conducting the 3rd annual National Service Dog Eye Exam Event throughout the month of May 2010. Through this event, more than 170 board certified veterinary ophthalmologists in the U.S. and Canada will provide free sight-saving eye exams to thousands of service dogs including guide dogs, assistance dogs, detection dogs and search and rescue dogs who selflessly serve the public.
The ACVO website indicates that to qualify, dogs must be active “working dogs” that were certified by a formal training program or organization or currently enrolled in a formal training program. The certifying organization could be national, regional or local in nature. Specific service groups are listed on the website at www.ACVOeyeexam.org.
Owners/agents for the dog(s) must FIRST register the animal via an online registration form beginning April 1, at www.ACVOeyeexam.org. Registration ends May 16th. Once registered online, the owner/agent can locate a participating ophthalmologist in their area and contact that doctor to schedule an appointment, during the month of May. Appointment dates and times may vary depending on the facility and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. To learn more about and to register for the ACVO®/Merial® National Service Dog Eye Exam Event, visit www.ACVOeyeexam.org.
This event has a special place in my heart because it directly impacted my, now retired service dog, Morgan. About three years ago, Morgan developed severe problems with his eyes. I took him to see Dr. Kennard with Eye Care for Animals in Albuquerque, NM. Dr. Kennard quickly diagnosed Morgan’s degenerative condition and literally saved his eye sight.
Without Dr. Kennard’s rapid response, Morgan would have completely lost his eye sight. If that wasn’t enough, when I checked out of the clinic, I was presented with information about Morgan’s condition and medication to treat his eyes. What I did not receive was a bill for their services.
When I asked about the bill, the staff proudly told me about the National Service Dog Eye Exam Event. I can never thank Dr. Kennard enough for what he did and continues to do for Morgan and for the work he and so many other ophthalmologists are doing every day to protect and save the eyes of our devoted canine partners. I am forever grateful and I am now acutely aware of the importance of regular eye exams.
We woke up this past Sunday as usual and followed our morning routine. Morgan and Whistle went out in the back yard for their usual bathroom time. However when they returned, Franz noticed Morgan looked a little odd. He was holding his body in an unusual way that seemed to tell us he was in pain.
We tried to assess Morgan’s condition and decided this was strange enough behavior that warranted a trip to the emergency vet. After arriving at the emergency vet, the receptionist greeted us and immediately began to triage Morgan. He was whisked back into the back for further assessment while we completed the necessary paperwork.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we have been to this emergency vet clinic several times and they had all of our information and they knew Morgan from previous visits. After a quick triage, they determined that Morgan was not in any immediate danger and they placed us in an examination room to await the vet.
The vet came in and examined Morgan. Morgan is almost 12 and he has a host of medical issues including chronic intestinal disease. As the vet examined Morgan’s body, he turned Morgan’s head from side to side. Morgan winced and then let out a cry.
The vet recommended getting some x-rays of Morgan’s neck and abdomen based on his medical history. After these tests were completed, Morgan was returned to us with some medication to help ease his neck pain. The vet recommended having a radiologist to review the x-rays just to be safe and we were able to return home.
Thank goodness this emergency clinic is open on nights and weekends. We were so appreciative of the excellent and immediate care that Morgan was able to receive. This care was more costly that our regular vet but for us, it was worth every cent to know that nothing more serious was happening to Morgan.
After returning home and breathing a sigh of relief that Morgan’s episode wasn’t more serious. I started thinking about what could I have done differently that would have helped me in this time of crisis?
- I keep a file folder prepared and readily available that houses Morgan and Whistle’s most recent medical information including bloodwork, shots, list of medications and their regular vet’s contact information.
- Knowing where the emergency vet is located and paying them a visit when your service dog isn’t in crisis and in need of their services is a good idea. Fortunately, I was very familiar with the emergency vet clinic and they are familiar with me. I also keep their business card posted on my refrigerator where I can easily find it.
- Having advanced knowledge of how you can pay for such medical services in advance is helpful or having a back-up plan of who you could call for financial assistance. Emergency vet care can be costly. And for me, I keep one credit card available that I know I can use for such emergency situations.
- As a person with a disability, it can be hard for me to get dressed quickly in such an emergency situation. I identify a couple of outfits that are easy for me to put on in case I am dressing in the middle of the night or early in the morning which includes a hat so that I don’t worry about my hair. I also try to make sure that I keep my van with enough gas to get me to my vet or the emergency vet. Likewise, I try to make sure my cell phone is charged in case I need to let the emergency vet know I am on my way and require assistance. I used that when Morgan’s stomach turned a couple of years ago and it meant the difference between life and death when we arrived at the emergency vet clinic.
- I also keep an extra leash and blanket in my van just in case I am in a hurry and forget their leash or need a blanket for someone to carry my dog into the clinic.
When we are in a crisis situation, it can be difficult to think clearly and function normally. These are a few tips that I rely on and will continue to practice. I hope these tips will help you if you ever find yourself in need of an emergency vet.