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What is an Ophthalmology Veterinarian?

Our veterinary ophthalmologists provide comprehensive eye care to cats, dogs, horses, and exotic animals. In this post, we answer the question, 'What is an ophthalmology veterinary specialist, and how can they help my pet?'

The health of our pet's eyes is closely linked to their overall health and well-being. While most primary veterinarians will check your pet's eyes during your four-legged friend's routine exam, you may be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist if your primary veterinarian suspects your pet has a complex eye condition, such as an infection or disease. 

What is a Veterinary Ophthalmologist? 

A board-certified specialist in veterinary ophthalmology has graduated from a residency training program approved by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) and passed all written and practical examinations. 

After these professionals obtain an undergraduate degree, they complete a four-year doctorate in veterinary medicine. They must then do a one-year clinical rotating internship or at least one year of general practice work before applying to a three or four-year residency program in veterinary ophthalmology.

Finally, they must pass a demanding specialty examination, including both written and practical components. There are two phases to every residency program: the first certifies students and the second gives them their diploma to practice. 

Veterinary ophthalmologists take rigorous advanced training to develop enough skill and knowledge to become board-certified in veterinary ophthalmology. They can then diagnose and treat eye conditions and diseases in animals.

Our team of specialty vets at Northwest Animal Eye Specialists offer comprehensive eye care for animals of all kinds (cats, dogs, horses, and exotic animals) in Renton, Kirland, and the surrounding areas.  

Once they've completed training and passed their exams, these specialists are referred to as Diplomates of the ACVO, which was founded by the American Society of Veterinary Ophthalmology in 1957. 

To maintain their skills, veterinary specialists also need to take annual continuing education courses. 

What expertise and unique skills does a veterinary ophthalmologist have? 

Board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists have many additional years of advanced training and are qualified to perform examinations, diagnostics, surgeries, and treatments for a range of eye conditions.

During a comprehensive eye exam, the vet ophthalmologist will test your pet's vision and discuss the current condition of your pet's eyes. They will then make therapeutic and/or additional diagnostic recommendations.

These exams are critical to early detection and diagnosis of eye diseases and disorders. Early detection may help save or restore your pet's vision, and prevent pain due to eye problems. 

A veterinary ophthalmologist is trained to use specialized diagnostic equipment to examine specific parts of the eye and determine if an eye disorder or other condition is affecting your pet's eye health. This equipment includes, but is not limited to: 

  • Gonioscopic Lenses - To evaluate the eye's internal drainage system (the anterior chamber angle), where the cornea and the iris meet. A special contact lens prism is placed on the surface of the eye to allow the veterinary ophthalmologist to see the angle and drainage system, which cannot be seen without this equipment. 
  • Ocular Ultrasound Machine - This tool uses high-frequency sound waves to measure and produce detailed images of your pet's eye and eye orbit (the socket in the skull that holds the eye. This test provides a much more detailed view of the inside of a cat or dog's eye than a routine eye exam. 
  • Slit Lamps - A microscope attached to a bright light used to examine a cat or dog's eye during an exam. This allows for closer observation of the structures at the front of your pet's eye and inside the eye. This tool allows us to accurately assess your pet's eye health and detect eye diseases. 

This is a short list of some of the diagnostic methods a veterinary ophthalmologist may use to diagnose eye issues in cats, dogs, or other pets. These specialists can diagnose eye issues that have developed on their own, or are potentially caused by another diseases such as cancer or diabetes. Making an appointment with a veterinary ophthalmologist is the wisest course of action if you and your vet suspect your pet has a serious eye issue. 

Veterinary ophthalmologists can also help test canines for possible eye issues prior to breeding. It is up to breeders to check these issues so that puppies are born healthy and do not develop these issues in the future. 

What types of eye conditions do veterinary ophthalmologists treat?

Specialists in veterinary ophthalmology are trained to treat common eye conditions such as:

  • Cataracts
  • Cherry eye
  • Dry eye 
  • Feline Herpes virus
  • Glaucoma
  • Horner's Syndrome
  • Entropion  

Treatment may be as simple as antibiotics or eye drops depending on your pet's specific eye condition and circumstances. For more advanced or severe eye issues, your pet may require surgery. 

How to Check Your Veterinary Ophthalmologists Qualifications 

Pet ophthalmology specialists must attend continuous veterinary training, courses, and seminars to maintain their practicing license. Without it, their skills and knowledge become outdated an inaccurate. 

You can check the legitimacy of a specialist on the ACVO website, which has an extensive list of specialists who hold a license, inactive members, retired members, and specialists who no longer practice. this is a good way to find a specialist and determine how long they have been practicing. 

Before your first consultation with a veterinary ophthalmologist, you may want to prepare a list of questions about your pet's eye condition. Some of the questions you might ask include:

  • Is there a cure for this condition, or can it be managed?
  • Will this specific condition make my pet's vision worse?
  • Is this a secondary condition (caused by another health issue)?
  • What treatment options are available?
  • If I breed my pet, will they pass this condition on?
  • If this condition is treatable, what is the success rate? Is there a risk of the condition reoccurring?  

Our veterinary ophthalmologists work closely with your primary veterinarian to diagnose and treat any eye condition, disease, or disorder your pet may experience. If your pet develops a complex eye condition, never hesitate to contact us for diagnostics and specialized treatment. 

Note: Northwest Animal Eye Specialists specializes in treating eye conditions and illnesses. The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical or behavioral advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Do you suspect your pet may be suffering from a complex eye condition, disease, or disorder? Contact our Renton vets to book a consultation with a veterinary ophthalmologist.

New Patients Welcome By Referral

Northwest Animal Eye Specialists is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the eye health of animals. Talk to your vet today about getting a referral to our clinics serving patients from Renton, Kirkland, and the surrounding areas.

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