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Eye Certification Examinations

 

What does a CERF exam entail? What is tested for, how is it done and which dogs should have it done?

An eye certification examination is done by a veterinarian specialized in Ophthalmology. The pupils of the dog are dilated with eye drops called tropicamide, or tropicamide & phenylephrine combinations, and once the pupil is well dilated the examiner will usually illuminate the eye with a penlight or transilluminator looking for major anomalies.

Then the eye is examined in detail with a slit lamp biomicroscope. This detects even minute abnormalities in the cornea, anterior chamber, lens and vitreous. The types of abnormalities that may be noticed during this part of the exam include distichia, imperforate puncta, corneal dystrophy, persistent pupillary membranes, cataract, persistent hyaloid remnants and vitreal degenerations.

Finally the retina or fundus is examined with an ophthalmoscope - usually a indirect ophthalmoscope - which provides the examiner with a clear view of all parts of the retina. The indirect ophthalmoscope is a device which sits on the examiners head providing optics and a light source, and a focusing lens is held in the examiners hand to visualize the retina. This part of the examination may reveal such problems as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Retinal Dysplasia, colobomas, choroidal hypoplasia, optic nerve hypoplasia, retinal detachment, and certain vascular abnormalities.

A CERF examination is a typical eye screening examination as described above but is only done by veterinary ophthalmologists who are board certified by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists who then records his or her observations on a CERF (Canine Eye Registry Foundation) form. In other countries, veterinary ophthalmologists who are board certified in their own country will examine the eyes for breeding soundness, and will issue a certificate following the examination but this will not be a CERF form.

The dogs which should have eye certification examinations include all dogs in an active breeding program if any recognized heritable eye disorder is known to be present in the breed. Puppies should be examined before being sold if the breed is known to have any heritable eye disorder which is early onset and may be recognized at an early age.

Will there every be a truly international eye certification scheme?

Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely. CERF operates a closed registry, and will provide general statistics on eye diseases within a particular breed. Information on a particular animal or family is not available, as certain breeders would view release of such data as a violation of confidential information, and in the Litigious States of America, the lawsuits would quickly ensue. European veterinary ophthalmologists support an open registry concept, and should an international open registry ever be created, it would not have the support of American ophthalmologists. In addition, CERF will only accept data from American board certified ophthalmologists (ACVO diplomates), and this will never change, the reasons dating back to a particularly grievous lawsuit back in the '70's. The unfortunate spin-off of this is the fact that the data CERF collects is predominately American based, and does not reflect international variation in the patterns of genetic eye diseases.

At the recent meeting of the International Society of Veterinary Ophthalmology, a genetics committee was established. Hopefully, this committee will augment the data produced by CERF by adding an international perspective to the various conditions seen around the globe.

Breed clubs, particularly in the United States and Canada, should be aware that there are many talented veterinary ophthalmologists around the world who do not submit forms to CERF since their credential are not American. It is admirable if a breed club specifies that animals must have had an eye screening examination in order to register with the breed club. However, given the dramatic rise in international transport of breeding animals and frozen semen, a breed club that specifies that a CERF number is required for registry, is lacking international perspective and foresight on the issue.