What is veterinary ophthalmology?

Veterinary ophthalmology is a branch of veterinary medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and disorders in pets. Today, our Edgewater vets will discuss more about this specialized field, including the unique skills and expertise these vets have.

What is a veterinary ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmology is a specialized field of veterinary medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions in animals. Ophthalmologists in this field are trained to perform intricate surgeries, prescribe medications, and provide comprehensive care for a wide range of eye diseases and injuries in pets.

Specialized eye care for pets is crucial for maintaining their overall health and quality of life. Just like humans, cats and dogs can suffer from various eye conditions that require prompt diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian with expertise in ophthalmology. Regular eye exams can help detect issues early on and prevent potential complications that could impact your pet's vision and well-being.

Education & Training

To become a veterinary ophthalmologist, a person must first complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from an accredited veterinary school. Following graduation, aspiring veterinary ophthalmologists typically complete a one-year internship in small animal medicine and surgery, followed by a three-year residency program in veterinary ophthalmology.

During their residency training, veterinary ophthalmologists-in-training gain hands-on experience diagnosing and treating a wide range of eye conditions. They also receive extensive training in ocular surgery.

After completing their residency program, they must pass a board certification exam administered by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) to become board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists. 

Board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists have demonstrated expertise in the field through their education, training, and successful completion of the certification exam. They are equipped to provide specialized eye care for animals with complex or challenging ocular conditions.

Common Conditions Veterinary Ophthalmologists Can Treat

While there are numerous conditions that can afflict your pet's eye, some of the most common, and the ones a veterinary ophthalmologist will likely treat most often, include cataracts, glaucoma, and corneal ulcers.


Cataracts are a common condition in pets, particularly in older cats and dogs, where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and obstructs vision. This can lead to symptoms such as decreased sight, increased light sensitivity, and even blindness if left untreated. Veterinary ophthalmologists can perform surgery to remove cataracts and restore vision in affected animals, improving their quality of life significantly.


Glaucoma is a condition in which there is increased pressure within the eye, leading to damage of the optic nerve and potential vision loss. Veterinary ophthalmologists can diagnose glaucoma through measuring intraocular pressure and offer treatment options such as medications, surgery, or laser therapy to manage the condition and preserve vision in affected cats and dogs.

Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers can arise from trauma, infection, or underlying systemic diseases. These ulcers can cause pain, redness, and discharge in the affected eye. If left untreated, they can lead to complications such as corneal perforation and vision loss. Treatment from veterinarians typically involves topical medications, antibiotics, and sometimes surgical intervention to promote healing and prevent further damage to the eye.

Diagnostic Tools & Procedures

In addition to providing specialized care for specific eye conditions, veterinary ophthalmologists can also provide specialized ophthalmic exams and specialized diagnostic tests, such as tonometry and fluorescein staining.

Ophthalmic Exams

The ophthalmic exam involves a thorough evaluation of the eye, including assessment of sight, intraocular pressure, tear production, and examination of the anterior and posterior segments of the eye. Specialized tools such as slit lamps, tonometers, and indirect ophthalmoscopes are used to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of various ocular conditions in animals.


Tonometry is a crucial tool in veterinary ophthalmology for measuring intraocular pressure, which is essential in diagnosing conditions such as glaucoma. Providing accurate and reliable measurements of intraocular pressure guides treatment decisions for optimal eye health in animals.

Fluorescein Staining

Fluorescein staining is a valuable diagnostic tool for detecting corneal ulcers, which can be painful and potentially sight-threatening for animals. By applying a small amount of fluorescein dye to the eye, veterinarians can easily identify areas of corneal damage or erosion that may require immediate treatment to prevent further complications. This quick and non-invasive procedure allows for prompt intervention to ensure the best possible outcome for animals with corneal ulcers.

The Importance of Regular Eye Exams

Regular eye exams for pets are crucial in detecting any potential issues early on, such as those listed above. These exams can help prevent further damage to the pet's vision and overall eye health. Additionally, regular check-ups can also uncover underlying health conditions that may be affecting the pet's eyes, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

By catching any eye problems early through regular exams, veterinary ophthalmologists ensure that your pet receives timely treatment and management to maintain their quality of life. Regular eye exams can also help prevent unnecessary pain and discomfort for pets, as many eye conditions can be painful if left untreated. Overall, investing in regular eye exams is a proactive way to protect a cat or dog’s well-being and ensure they have the best possible vision for years to come.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog is suffering from an eye condition? Contact Animal General today to book your pooch an examination. If necessary, we can refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist in the Edgewater area.