Clear Vision, Wet Noses

  • Published
  • By Airman Gavin Hameed
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

A team of ophthalmologists from Kansas State University's Veterinary Health Center visited McConnell Air Force Base, where they provided free eye exams for military working dogs.

Dr. Jessica Meekins, an associate professor of ophthalmology at KSU Veterinary Health Center, Manhattan, Kan., explained that the exams involve dilating the dogs’ eyes and screening for abnormalities on the surface of the eye, cataracts, retina problems and issues with optic nerves deep within the eye.

“We really emphasize eye health,” said Meekins. “Not only because vision is important to the jobs that service animals perform, but because some of the diseases that we screen for could potentially be impactful from a quality-of-life standpoint.”

Each year, board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists across the U.S. and other countries and collectively provide more than 7,500 free eye exams as part of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists/Epicur Pharma’s National Service Animal Eye Exam campaign. Since its establishment in 2008, the event has provided over 76,000 eye exams to service and working animals. The Veterinary Health Center at KSU has been participating in the event since 2013.

“The working dogs at McConnell responded remarkably well to these exams,” said Meekins. “They all were extremely cooperative and that’s all thanks to their handlers who work with them on a daily basis, there’s a lot of trust in that relationship.”

In addition to McConnell, the KSU team is conducting eye exams at other locations, including Kansas Specialty Dog Service (KSDS) Assistance Dogs Inc., a nonprofit organization providing guide dogs for the visually impaired, service dogs and police dogs.

“It’s really an honor to be able to care for these dogs for all that they do for our country,” said Meekins. “It’s just been an amazing experience to get to work with them and get to know them, just do a little bit to help with their health care.”