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Bentley & Friends: Keeping an eye out for your dog's vision

Bentley went to visit a veterinary ophthalmologist, and we learned what to look for to keep their eyes healthy.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — As we continue on our series of maintaining a healthy and happy pup, today I want to talk to you about how important it is to pay attention to your dog’s eyes. 

It’s how they see the world, and far too often, they go overlooked. This can allow preventable conditions to become debilitating, and hinder your dog's overall health. 

We sought out an expert in the area. Dr. Melanie Church is a veterinary ophthalmologist at Animal Eye Care Associates in Virginia Beach. 

We started out with a basic question: what kind of issues should we be on the lookout for, when considering whether or not we need to make an appointment?

“The biggest thing to look for in our pets at home is any changes to the appearance of the eye," Church said. "You want to look for redness, discharge, squinting, welting of the eyes, cloudiness or definitely vision changes.”

These changes in vision will be very noticeable to the owners, she said. They could lead to pets running into things, or not recognizing normally familiar people.

If your dog is anxious or nervous and doesn’t do well at appointments, there’s good news! 

“The eye exam is so quick and pain free, that its so rare that we ever have to sedate a patient for it," Church said. "Even aggressive cats let us do what we need to do, 99% of patients will.”

The exam starts with a visual check of how your pet responds. The ophthalmologist will use various scopes to look well into the eye, and evaluate the eye as a whole. This includes inspecting the cornea, the iris and the lens. 

This is especially crucial to determining if there are cataracts present. 

“The majority of the ocular structure is very similar to people, which is why they get similar ocular diseases like people that can include everything from eyelid problems, to tear issues, to cornea problems, to issues in the lens, things in the back of the eye too like retinal detachment, glaucoma or inflammation.” Dr. Church says.

Dr. Church also uses a device that checks the eye pressure, which can help determine glaucoma.  

“This is called a tear test. What we’re going to do is stick these pieces of paper in Bentley’s eyes. it doesn’t hurt, it looks funny," she explained. "I am actually watching to see his tears run down the strip. Based on the number of tears and the period of time, it helps to indicate the overall health of the tear film.” 

This test determines if Bentley has dry eye. Church said dry eye is very common in Virginia Beach, due to our climate. 

The eyes can also give us an indication of what may be going on internally, on a larger scale.  

“The eyes are also the windows to overall health. Sometimes we can find internal issues that manifest in the eyes,” Church explained.

Things such as diabetes can become apparent with the development of glaucoma. 

During our visit, Bentley was actually diagnosed with golden retriever uveitis. It's very common in purebred golden retrievers of his age. 

Church found the evidence when she noticed deposits of pigment in Bentley's iris. He’ll need eye drop medication and check-ups every couple of months. 

It’s well worth paying a visit to the veterinary eye doctors to keep your dog on a happy and healthy path forward.