Service dogs who spend their days visiting patients at hospitals giving hope and help became patients themselves Wednesday at Hollywood Animal Hospital.
Doctor Rob Swinger is giving free eye exams to registered service and working dogs as part of a national, monthlong program run by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, now in its sixth year.
"A dog that's leading a blind person around needs to have darn good vision so that's what we're looking for today," Swinger said. "So what we're doing is making sure these dogs don't have a problem that would limit them in doing their service."
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During the exam, doctors look for problems including redness, squinting and retinal disease. Swinger quickly discovered something wrong during a checkup for one dog, Gracie.
"I just found out that Gracie has some cataracts and I had noticed some clouding around her eye, so now we can do something to prevent it from getting worse," owner Michelle Fishkin said.
The 35 dogs screened on Wednesday included a group of golden retrievers from Memorial Regional Hospital.
"The dogs are actually incorporated into the patient's therapy, so they're maneuvering down hallways and there's other patients with walkers, stretchers," said Memorial's director of nursing, Tracy Meltzer. "The hallways are very crowded, people are coming and going, so it's very important that the dogs have good eyesight."
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After the 15-minute exam, comfort could be found at both ends of the leash.
"It's amazing, just seeing the smiles on these people's faces and the pictures of their dogs, helping other people, it's been a great day," Swinger said.
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