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Southfield — Service dogs provide help and companionship, and their owners find their keen sense of smell and hearing, and ability to do tasks indispensable to their daily lives.

That's why one veterinary practice wants to make sure the dogs remain in top shape. The service dogs will receive free eye exams on Saturday so they can continue aiding their owners in day-to-day life, members of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists say.

Registered service dogs will receive the exams from a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist at BluePearl Pet Hospital in Southfield.

The program is funded through the ACVO/StokesRx National Service Animal Eye Exam, a philanthropic event that provides the free eye exam screening each May.

Members of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists volunteer their time and resources. Officials say about 8,000 eye exams are provided across America, Canada and Puerto Rico each May.

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Michael West, one of two ophthalmologists at BluePearl in Southfield, said the profession has few members, with only about 10 certified veterinary ophthalmologists in Michigan. West examines animals at the Detroit Zoo and recently performed cataract surgery on three penguins.

"The eye exams are a great opportunity for us to use our training to give back to our community," he said. "We are licensed to examine and treat any animal, but we primarily see dogs, cats and the occasional rabbit."

Each exam takes a few minutes using a device that lets the doctor look through thefront half of the eyes with magnification. They also look at the retinas.

The exam can turn up a variety of issues such as corneal disease, cataracts and retinal degeneration, West said.

"Most of the time we are seeing patients when they have been referred with an eye issue from a primary veterinarian, but for the service dog exams, we are looking for early signs of conditions with potential to affect a dog’s vision or comfort," he said.

"Many people do not think of it this way, but squinting and rubbing at the eyes are common signs of eye-related pain," he said. "Generally speaking, if your pet has any squinting, rubbing, discharge, redness, cloudiness or changes in vision, we recommend consulting a veterinarian."

The exams will be offered  9 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday at the BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital located at 29080 Inkster Road in Southfield. 

srahal@detroitnews.com
Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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