Ophthalmology

What Is A Veterinary Ophthalmologist?

A veterinary ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in diseases that can affect your pet's eye and vision. A veterinary ophthalmologist is also equipped to diagnose and treat diseases that affect the structures surrounding the eye, such as the eyelids, conjunctiva, and some of the bones of the skull that comprise the eye socket. A veterinary ophthalmologist will combine medical and surgical treatments in order to most effectively treat your pet's eye problem.

While your general practitioner veterinarian can diagnose and treat many routine eye conditions, certain diseases and injuries require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive training in veterinary ophthalmology in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet.

Pet eye diseases that you may be familiar with as a result of your own visits to a human ophthalmologist include cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachments, and corneal ulcers.

Why Does My Pet Need A Veterinary Ophthalmologist?

While your general practitioner veterinarian can handle many aspects of your pet's care, just as in human medicine, sometimes there is a need for the attention of a specialist. If your pet has a complicated or difficult problem, your pet may need the care of a veterinary ophthalmologist. You can be assured that a veterinarian who knows when to refer you and your pet for more specialized diagnostic work or
treatment is one that is caring and committed to ensuring your pet receives the highest standard of medical care for his or her problem.

While in some cases, your veterinarian may be able to simply consult with a specialist about your pet's care, in other cases it is necessary to actually refer you and your pet to the specialist for more advanced diagnostics and treatment, including surgery.

What Special Problems Does A Veterinary Ophthalmologist Treat?

Routine eye matters can frequently be handled by your general practitioner veterinarian. The conditions listed below, however, frequently require the attention of a specialist.

€¢ Cataracts
€¢ Corneal ulcer
€¢ Entropion
€¢ Glaucoma
€¢ Prolapsed gland of the nictitans (cherry eye)
€¢ Uveitis

Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?

Your veterinary ophthalmologist will work together with your veterinarian as part of your pet's total veterinary health care team. Your general practitioner veterinarian will still oversee all aspects of your pet's care, but with the added, specialized input of a veterinary ophthalmologist. For example, if a veterinary ophthalmologist ultimately diagnoses diabetes in your pet as a result of an eye examination for cataracts, that information will be relayed back to your general practitioner veterinarian, who will treat your pet's diabetes. The additional input of the veterinary ophthalmologist will be called upon as needed as your veterinarian manages your pet's illness.

Did You Know?

Do you know why your pet's eyes seem to glow when caught in the light at night? It's because of a specialized structure called a tapetum. Most animals that are active at night have this special, additional layer underneath their retina. This reflective structure acts like a mirror, and reflects light back through your pet's retina to enhance night vision.

Do dogs see only in black and white? While we can't ask them, most veterinary ophthalmologists now believe that dogs see colors similarly to how a color blind human would perceive them: Not only in black and white, but with a limited scale of colors.

Does your cat or dog need a veterinary ophthalmologist? Talk to your VCA vet, or find a VCA board certified veterinary ophthalmologist near you.

Our Ophthalmology Team

Frequently Asked Questions

Just like a human ophthalmologist, veterinarians interested in ophthalmology must seek additional, intensive training to become a specialist and earn this prestigious credentialing. In veterinary medicine, specialty status is granted by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO). A veterinarian that has received this specialty status will list the initials, 'DACVO,' after his or her DVM degree. Or, the veterinarian may indicate that he or she is a 'Diplomate' of the ACVO. The word 'Diplomate' typically means the specialist has achieved the following:
 

Obtained a traditional 8 year veterinary degree (four years of college plus four years of veterinary school).

Usually has completed a one year internship in small animal medicine and surgery.

Completed an additional three year residency in ophthalmology at a veterinary teaching hospital.

Completed the credentialing application process established by the ACVO, which includes publishing credits, case reports, and a resume.

Passed a rigorous, multi-day examination consisting of written, practical, and surgical sections.
Veterinary Ophtalmologists are Veterinarian Specialists in Cat and Dog Eye Problems
Need an Eye Vet? Learn more about VCA's board certified Veterinary Ophthalmologists and how they can help treat your cat or dog's eye problems.

After completing and passing all of the above, the veterinarian is recognized by his or her peers as a board certified specialist in veterinary ophthalmology. As you can see, when your pet needs the specialized care of a veterinary ophthalmologist, all of the intensive training and additional education outlined above is focused on helping him or her to recover from or enjoy the highest quality of life while living with the condition.

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