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Thursday, June 2, 2016

The ties that bind: giving familial dogs physical and mental space is essential for their emotional health

There's a point during our time together  — usually at the 5-to-7 day mark — when some of my canine charges start getting a little antsy with the change in their normal routine. That means I need to step things up a bit and adjust to keep them content. I'm all-too-happy to do what I can to make a companion animal comfortable while their people are away, and that can mean doing any number of things.In households with multiple dogs, this is something I need to be especially mindful of. 

We need not look much further than examining our own needs when it comes to thinking about how we can cultivate a sense of emotional well-being for our pets. Yes, as a species, dogs thrive on social bonds. But that doesn't mean they need to be immersed in contact with members of their own species constantly. It's all about balance. As someone who admittedly prizes alone time — something I know many of you can relate to — I can see its usefulness amongst the canines in my midst.

Unfortunately, there's so much emphasis on socialization and how familial dogs are buddies who so enjoy each other's company, the importance of their being individuals and having alone time can easily get brushed to the wayside. I find that not honoring that alone time for the pets who require it can create some real challenges for how well they fare and get along no matter if they are in their everyday schedule, if they're tagging along on a trip or if their family is away. 

It can be the similarities in our furry friend's personalities that can create tension — like their energy levels, their neediness, their play styles — that can make them feel a little squeezed mentally and physically when it comes to sharing their time and physical space. Ditto for sharing the humans in their lives. 

The same is true obviously when considering any differences. 

And though it's nothing new, it seems that more families are welcoming as many as 3 and 4 dogs into the fold. For some, especially newcomers who might have a little trouble adjusting to their new life, a little alone time can go a long way. There are few ways to approach it, and it's a matter of finding what fits. 

Don't underestimate the power of focused engagement

Giving dogs some of that valuable space can be as simple as taking a solo walk with them, or for a 10-minute game of fetch so that they have the ball all to themselves (or any favorite activity for that matter). The individual attention a dog gets from one of their humans —  this includes using one's voice, physical touch and eye contact — is vital.  I often take extra time for this with each of my charges, and I can tell you that it makes a huge difference in how they behave: they tend to focus better on listening and their happiness quotient increases dramatically. (I use a stuffed Kong to occupy the pets who aren't the center of my attention and might otherwise feel left out. As a positive distraction, this enhances the way they get to spend this time, too.)

Room to breathe 

There's something to be said for the benefits of dogs having that physical space that all of us crave now and again. I've a client with two dogs that-are very attached to each other. They're close in age, well-matched in athletic ability and activity levels, but in some ways, so very different. One is a little firecracker, with her non-stop desire to have in-your-face engagement and playtime with dogs and humans alike; the other, more reserved, stoic and quite happy to just sit and enjoy life from a quiet spot. Though they play well together, the latter really needs her alone time so that the former doesn't drive her crazy. That means separating them for periods during the day by putting them in different parts of the house. It's a strategy that works well for this and other families that I know. 

Loosening the ties that might bind 

In my experience, there are rare instances when two dogs are so bonded that they find it difficult to be away from each other, but even in this case alone time can be essential and easy to achieve. It's just a matter of perspective. Case in point: two of my canine charges would rather not be separated, but it's obvious that one of them has an appreciation for some alone time, and he plays well independently. He makes up games to entertain himself (I have to say I find it entertaining to watch), so while he's engaged in that, I keep his housemate — who is quite boisterous — occupied with some sort of activity on the other side of the room. This gives both animals a break from each other while not feeling the tension of being separated. 

While all of these strategies are useful all on their own, depending on your tribe's composition and needs, they can be used in conjunction with each other. However you can incorporate that feeling of freedom for your pets from being lumped together 24/7, you can be assured of a few positive benefits long term. 

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dog bite prevention is successful when rooted in facts, understanding canine body language

A frequent conversation that I have with someone who contacts me for the first time to care for their pet involves a lot of dialogue about their dog's behavior, and the better part of it is on the caller's part. 
"My dog has been labeled as 'aggressive' toward members of the staff of the doggie daycare that they attend and has been asked to not come back, but they are fine at home," or, "My pet is uneasy and becomes unmanageable on walks, or around new people or groups of people," are familiar statements. 
Some of these pets have snapped at people or even worse — bitten them.
Can you relate?
Many of my clients have called on me because they need a caregiver while they are away and they've been made to feel that they have a 'problem dog' and they're running out of options. The other arrangements have not worked out well for various reasons, but in most cases it's due to lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of the pet care professionals, caregivers and even the family.   
When I say to that dog's human, "I understand — and it's common — but let's talk more about that so we can unpack why it might be happening. Surely there is a reasonable explanation for the behavior..." they tend to relax a bit after a bit of open and honest discussion about what behaviors that their furry friend is exhibiting, revealing a picture about the pet that they didn't expect. 
The first thing I ask is whether or not the dog has been evaluated by a veterinarian. Undiagnosed illness or pain can affect a pet's ability to interact the way they'd like. 

I'm happy to recommend a couple of reputable and certified training professionals who can help the family, which I do often.
Most of the time it just boils down to the fact that the dog hasn't attained the skills or have been given the space they need to navigate through these type of encounters (with both other pets and humans) and some are actually quite fearful. The dog's clear communication about how uncomfortable they're feeling in a given situation has been missed or ignored, and that can happen with any dog. They all have limits on what they're willing to tolerate. The sad reality is that misunderstanding these concepts or writing a dog off as 'aggressive' and leaving it at that can lead to situations where things escalate to a point when a dog bites someone — and that's never a good thing. 
An unfortunate misconception is that all dogs like each other. Taking your canine friend to a dog park, doggy daycare (or even a walk down a sidewalk that sees lots of foot traffic) is in my opinion a lot like one of us humans attending a cocktail party: there are some of us who can hang and interact with gusto, others can do so for only so long, while a few of us... well, our personalities are such that they're not well suited for that environment. And that's okay!
But, unfavorable interactions aren't limited to these settings. Anytime there is an opportunity for two or more dogs to meet or for a pooch to be close to a human, it can happen. 
But this leads me to address an important topic: May 15-21 is Dog Bite Prevention Week, and to highlight that it only seems fitting to talk about this totally preventable issue that has grown significantly in recent years. Here are a few things to think about. 
  •  4.5 million dog bites occur each year, and out of those, 800,000 seek medical attention.

  • Roughly half of those individuals are children are often, and they sustain the injuries that are the most severe — often bites to the head and neck.

  • The vast majority of victims were bitten by a dog that they knew, not a stray dog roaming the streets, contrary to popular belief.
Those statistics speak to me clearly, and illustrate some of my previous points on why most dog bites occur. These situations are preventable, and it comes down to humans (both kids and adults) understanding what facilitates them and how to best deal with a dog who bites.
Sophia Yin, DVM, MS, has offered some sage insight when it comes to dogs who bite.
One point that stands out is that, quite often, a dog is conveying to the human that he is uncomfortable, but said human is not understanding the message. It's up to us to learn the cues that dogs exhibit by way of body language.
This is especially important for kids, since they are the ones who fall in the demographic of often bitten most often. So, what factors create these dog bite cases? 
Many times, children have not learned how to approach a dog correctly and they don't know how to 'read' what a dog is saying when they communicate that they are not comfortable being approached. Other scenarios include a child approaching a sleeping pet — surprising them — or not understanding how to greet dogs. (Embedded in the text are great video links that you can watch with your children.)
On the other hand, many dogs who bite are fearful.
Yin explains this concept in a blog post.
Generally fearful dogs start off by trying to stay away from the things that scare them. But as they are confronted with scary situations repeatedly, they can learn that offense (barking, snapping, biting) is their best defense because it makes the scary people go away.
Fortunately, there are ways to help dogs learn how to navigate through encounters with humans that they find challenging, by way of desensitization and classical counterconditioning (DS/CC). And with some diligence, finesse and patience on the human's part, their dog can behave more confidently when it comes to being social, regardless of the situation. 
Yin gives more detail on this and other concepts, such as how canines can be taught to carry out proper replacement behaviors that are disparate with the fearful behavior they have become so familiar with exhibiting, in her blog post, 'Help, My Dog Bites! How to Deal with Dogs Who Bite'. 
Excellent resources related to the topic of preventing dog bites are included as well.
All dog bite situations happen because of an oversight on the part of a human. 
Canines need to be empowered to not be pushed to the point that they bite, no matter their size, age or the company they're in. That happens when the humans in their life (and in many respects, those who are unfamiliar to them) see to it that's the case. With diligence, proper education and understanding of canine behavior and body language — as well as ensuring that dogs are not placed in a situation where they will react by biting — we can keep everyone safe. 

Click here for more resources on Dog Bite Prevention Week.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Decorum is key to avoid unwanted interactions with people while walking your dog

Wherever I am walking with one of my canine charges, there are usually a few smiles. It's hard for most people to walk past a dog without grinning and making a favorable comment, right? It goes without saying that for some, it's hard to suppress the urge to want to pet the dog I'm chaperoning or to stop and make small talk — and who can blame them? Dogs are fun! 

I'll admit that I don't allow people — especially those who are unfamiliar and ditto for children — to approach or pet my charges, and that's for several reasons. Some of the dogs are not comfortable with that. Others may be recovering from surgery or are old (and may be experiencing things like cognitive dysfunction). A handful are well, a handful when interacting with others. But let's not forget that some folks, regardless of age, aren't very good at knowing how to get up close and personal to a dog with care and finesse. 

And any of that could be a recipe for trouble, (and that's not even including approaches from other dogs.)

Aside from that, it can be a challenge to keep some dogs on task, especially when the goal is to get them out for a walk to get their business done. 

I often need to speak up and advocate for my charges — and at times, myself for that matter as yes, sometimes I'm just not in the mood to stop and talk  — and forgo any interaction with a well-meaning human. I'm all too aware that doing so, I might seem unfriendly or it might be off-putting to the other person, and that's not something I want. It's just not my way. Depending on the situation, I might be honest and say something like, 'Oh, Bo isn't comfortable interacting with people, so if you don't mind...' or 'Sadie's eyesight isn't that sharp anymore so that makes her wary of being approached, so if you'll excuse us...', and admittedly my preference is to be honest because it does promote a level of awareness. 

I do find that one no-fail response is easy to give, is as simple as dipping into my well of neutrality and keeps my charge and I on track:

'You'll have to pardon us... we're in the middle of a training exercise. Thanks for understanding!' 

I don't think there is a person alive that would assert themselves any further upon hearing that.

The next time you're out with your dog and want to avoid an interaction, you might consider cheerfully exclaiming the same thing. It's kept many a busy day moving along smoothly for me and for many of my charges, happy and in their comfort zone.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Area vet to discuss strategies in caring for older pets at free event in Ann Arbor

Our companion animals are living longer, more full lives, and that's due to a few things: advances in medical care, nutrition, and no doubt a better understanding of their emotional needs. 

Dr. Alexander with a senior patient
But that doesn't mean that because a pet has been lucky enough to make it to their double-digit birthdays that we can slow up our pace of diligence when it comes to their needs. In fact, we need to step it up a bit. 

"It might be easy to dismiss them as old," says Dr. Lyssa Alexander, DVM. 

"But there's much that can be done today to help senior pets live longer, more comfortable lives."

And that's something that Alexander, who, along with Dr. Holly Zechar, DVM strives for at All Creatures Animal Clinic in Ann Arbor. In fact, it's a topic that Alexander will be discussing at a talk at Pet People —  located at 3330 Washtenaw Avenue in Ann Arbor — later this month. The pet supply store expressed interest in hosting some lectures for pet owners to attend. So, that, coupled with the clinic's enthusiasm for being involved in educating the community, was a perfect fit. This is the second talk that Alexander has facilitated at the store. The first addressed inappropriate elimination with cats. 

It can be a challenge for pet owners to understand the changes that invariably occur over time. As Alexander tells it, one of the biggest issues that she sees can be, well, complicated. 

"Pets are often suffering from multiple disease processes, and it's not unusual to see  4-5 major issues. A pet might have something like chronic ear infections, but then arthritis and kidney failure are things that might be going on as well."

The key, as the doctor details, is to pay attention to everything that is going on but view the body and spirit as a whole, keep things in perspective and most importantly understand, 'What can we do for them?'

Other common issues that a companion animal may be be living with are cognitive dysfunction, chronic organ disease (the liver and kidneys are most notable) and cancer.

Alexander fleshed out another hurdle that senior pets face. 

"I see people who don't respect the fact that a pet is old, and have expectations that exceed what the pet is capable of." 

Understanding a pet's limitations — whether they're physical, mental or emotional — is the key in their overall comfort and longevity. Nevertheless, just because a pet isn't as able to get around or their vision or hearing may be somewhat diminished, it doesn't mean that their capacity to enjoy life and be connected to their surroundings needs to be. They just need go about doing so differently. And that's where their humans can help. 

"For cats, it may as simple as finding ways to keep them being able to access a window perch," says Alexander. 

With any species, she notes that "there's really good research that, just as with people, cognitive function can be enhanced with mental stimulation and enrichment."

A big part of that can be something as simple as making an effort to seek out our pets to interact and include them in our day to day activities as much as possible. And that can mean something as simple as inviting them to sit next to us on the couch as we read or watch television. Finding novel ways to interact, like with new games or a new twist on an old favorite can be a boost, too. 

It's not unusual for a senior pets senses to be dulled, and that extends beyond sight and hearing: appetite can be affected by a diminished sense of taste, and that's another facet of aging that will be addressed at the talk. 

Chronic kidney disease is something that many senior cats experience, and Alexander plans to touch on common approaches that can enhance a cat's well-being and are easy to do at home, like subcutaneous fluids. 

Attendees will of course have an opportunity to ask questions — something that's encouraged — with a Q&A session. 

Alexander points out that it's important for pet owners to remember that "'s very individual. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to pets and their senior years."

It's often a long and crooked line from a companion animal's segue into their senior years to end-of-life, and Alexander expressed how despite being mindful of all that happens in between, euthanasia is as important to discuss. 

"People feel so much of a burden when it comes to end-of-life. I talk about euthanasia long before the necessity is there. If it's done right, the process of euthanasia can be peaceful and comfortable."

The event at Pet People titled, How to Care for Older Pets is scheduled for Wednesday May 18, 2016 at 7:00PM. Admission is free, but space is limited so those interested in attending are asked to please RSVP by calling 734-677-6922.

Click here for more information.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Aquarist veterinarian's mission to educate people on proper care of aquarium fish goes beyond optimal diet

Fish are commonly kept as pets, though they don't seem to get the same amount of visibility when it comes to their care and overall needs. It doesn't seem fair that they need be inured by that notion. 

I was doing research for another piece on aquatic animals when I had the realization that perhaps I should focus on one core facet of their care that seems to be ignored: what they eat (or should be eating). Pet food is something that comes up often when I'm chatting with those that share life with dogs, cats and birds, but with fish, never. 

In my research, I discovered that there's a lot of information out there — pet stores, books and yes, the internet — and too much of it seemed questionable, so I decided to dig a bit deeper by seeking a reliable source.

Aquarist veterinarian Dr. Charlie Gregory has always been fascinated by the ocean and what goes on beneath the surface. And in a conversation with him, his enthusiasm about the creatures that inhabit a world that can seem quite foreign to us humans was quite clear.

Gregory, who is owner of Boynton Beach, Florida-based Healthy Aquatics notes that commercially-available pelleted and flake foods besides being easy to find are great for lots of reasons. They do, however, require care in how and where they're stored, and as I learned, you can go further in optimizing your aquatic animal's diet by incorporating variety with other foods — and it's easier to do than you might think.

Flakes and pellets

When comparing brands, Gregory notes that "it all comes down to ingredients." 

The first ingredients should include things like salmon, krill, plankton, protein sources such as that. Ideally, a protein content of 45-55% should be listed and good brands include Ocean Nutrition, New Life Spectrum Thera and Tetra. (That said, herbivorous fish, like tangs and blennies, don't require that percentage of protein and benefit from something like Ocean Nutrition 2 diet.)

Pellets have the advantage when it comes to ready-to-feed diets because less food is wasted — which not only saves money and product, but results in a cleaner tank. Don't neglect a detail like the size of pellet that you're offering: large pellets for large fish, medium for the medium-sized creatures and of course, small for the littlest members of the tank. Pellets need to be able to be swallowed whole in one bite.
flickr photo by FromSandToGlass

Flakes are especially helpful where small ones are concerned, as they are manageable for the fishes' smaller size. But in this case, Gregory clarifies, use the big flakes. 

The integrity of these two types of food is crucial. To keep the food fresh, appealing and safe to eat, the suggestion is to keep only what you'll need for a week's supply in a resealable container that's airtight, and the rest in the freezer or refrigerator. 

Changes in temperature and humidity can adversely affect the quality of the product, and spoilage can result over time. 

"Things like the Omega-3 fatty acids break down easily, and aside from that, fungus can grow — and that's not something you want in your tank," Gregory says.

And as he points out, forgoing the super-size containers of fish food is a big help. Purchase smaller containers, and do so more often.

Other healthy choices 

Nori isn't just for making sushi — this variety of seaweed is another healthful option. So long as as the nori is plain (no seasonings of any kind, please), you're in good shape. Simply attach a piece to the side of the tank with a suction cup clip made for this purpose. 

Skip the store-bought frozen food that you can buy from pet stores and make your own. Because you'll be using human-grade ingredients, the quality is optimal. Gregory encourages people to head to the supermarket for fresh seafood or grab a bag of frozen mix. Shrimp, scallops, squid, clams are perfect choices. A few pulses in a blender or food processor — again, taking into consideration the size of fish in your tank — and adding a little plain gelatin, which acts as a binder and protects the integrity of the food while in the freezer, is all it takes. Spoon the mixture into ice cube trays (think regular size for large tanks, mini cube trays for small aquariums) freeze and store in sealed freezer bags for up to a year. 

More food for thought 

Live food, like feeder fish should be avoided and for good reason: they are often cultivated poorly and can introduce disease into your otherwise healthy tank. 

"Over feeding is a common problem," adds Gregory, who says that not only does wasted food contribute to algae growth in the tank, but unhealthy weight in the fish. 

"You would be surprised at how little food fish really need to be healthy."

His rule: in an average-sized tank (5-20 fish) introduce only enough food that the fish can eat in about 10 seconds. To help them — goldfish and triggerfish, most notably — avoid swallowing air as they eat, dip your finger into the water to tap the food and let it tumble down instead of allowing it to float on top. 

It seemed important to ask about how to handle having your fish fed while you're on vacation. 

"Fish won't starve in 2-3 days," and erring on frugality when it comes to feeding while you're away can help avoid an algae problem, something that seems to happen if someone else is at the helm. For long periods of time, be very specific with your directives on amounts and frequency, and you could always pre-portion and label rations.

Educating the public-at-large

Though helping people understand proper care of their aquatic species is an ongoing passion in Gregory's work — part of his time is spent with residential clients with an average tank to organizations with large public aquariums — he also has his sights set on doing the same with the next generation. 

"We're working to ramp up the education side now — working with the schools, including those in Palm Beach." 

Aside from the marine biology presentations at local schools, the professional team at Healthy Aquatics also offers hands-on event experiences on marine biology at their facility in Boynton Beach. Educational excursions to local ecological sites and more are also available. 

As Gregory emphasizes, these unique creatures are not 'pets'.

"They are living things, and deserve to be treated as such."

Click here for more information on Healthy Aquatics and the services and programs they offer. 

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Keeping a dog's injured limb protected from the elements + other life hacks for pets

No matter if an injury to your dog's paw results in a few stitches, or something more serious, keeping the area dry and protected from the elements is crucial in healing. Doing so can seem daunting, but you need only look to your kitchen to help make muddling through this aspect of the recovery more manageable. 

Simply wrap the bandaged area with plastic cling film to make for a temporary, quick water and dirt-repellent shield when they go out to do their business. For a better adhesion, use the press-and-seal type. 

Here are more of my life hacks to make your everyday easier:

  • Exotic birds love fresh food. Some are fussier than others, and keeping their fruits and vegetables appetizing in hot weather can be a challenge. To extend the freshness of their grub, freeze several bowls that have been filled a quarter of the way full with water, then stack one under each food bowl. 
  • Use an office chair mat under a rabbit hutch or exotic bird enclosure to make tidying up around them easier, and you'll protect your floors. 
  • Arthritic bunnies benefit from the having a litter pan that is accessible. Instead of using a traditional pan, consider the Marchioro Kiosk tray. Designed as a feeding or grooming tray, it's perfect to accommodate special needs rabbits as well as being easy to clean. 
  • Before you know it, the dog days of summer will be here and keeping cool can be delicious and engaging. Dogs can delight in the backyard with a yummy treat -- a giant homemade pupsicle -- but backyard chickens can enjoy a cool nosh, too. Chopped veggie/fruit scraps (ditto for leftovers) can be converted into a birdsicles. You'll need a can (or two) of creamed corn, the scraps and a muffin tin. Pop a small handful of the scraps into each muffin tin, fill each halfway with the creamed corn and freeze. Pop them out and toss out for the flock. As they are pecked at and thaw, the chickens will enjoy a cool treat and be rewarded with tasty bits of food.
Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Annual event offers free vision screenings for certified service animals in Michigan

There are plenty of animals in our community that have jobs: service dogs, certified therapy dogs, those that specialize in search and rescue (including horses) — and those that work in law enforcement and military.
Each have gone through extensive training, and although they use all of their senses to do their jobs, one in particular is essential — their sight. Even if smell is the predominant sense that is used, as in bomb or drug sniffing, these animals couldn't manage without good vision.
An annual event will help the handlers and families of these animals stay on top of things where their animal's ocular health is concerned. Board certified Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and their staff have for the past several years, generously donated their time and services to provide free screening ocular exams to qualified service animals who are currently active.
Rue, a black Labrador trained as a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD), is a testament to how vital vision is to a service animal. She's been with 16 year-old Katie Krampitz — who suffers from Type 1 Diabetes — for almost two years. Rue's most important job is to monitor Katie’s blood sugar level and alert her when it is too low or high. Optimal vision is key: the dog accompanies the teen wherever she goes, and responds to verbal and non-verbal cues. If her human's blood sugar level is not within normal limits, Rue will locate her testing kit and bring it to her. If Katie's blood sugar level drops too low, the dog can fetch a juice box for her.
“Amazingly, within eight months of receiving Rue, Katie’s A1C was the lowest it has ever been,” said Ed Krampitz, Katie’s father. 
(An A1C is the calculation of what numbers a diabetic is averaging for their blood sugar.)
"That’s just one of the reasons we were so pleased to hear that Rue’s eyes looked perfectly normal and healthy at her exam last year. Service animals require a significant investment, so having access to a free eye exam screening is a huge blessing. The screening itself was quick and stress-free. Thanks to ACVO and Stokes Pharmacy for making this service available!”
Rue is also being trained to call 911, if Katie becomes unresponsive. 
The ACVO/Merial National Service Animal Eye Exam Event takes place across the North America and includes Ann Arbor and other cities in Michigan.
The eye exams will be provided — free of charge — by ophthalmologists from Michigan Veterinary Specialists and BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Ann Arbor, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids, Southfield as well as The Animal Opthalmology Center in Williamston.

I had the chance to catch up with Dr. Gwen Sila, DVM DACVO, veterinary ophthalmologist with BluePearl Veterinary Partners here in Michigan, about their 6 years participating in the event.

"This year, we have 3 board-certified ophthalmologists participating and are able to offer free exams for service dogs in our Ann Arbor, Southfield and Auburn Hills locations. All of us ophthalmologists look forward to the event and love the opportunity to make sure these incredible service dogs stay visual and can keep doing the jobs they love."
To qualify, service animals must be actively working and be certified by a formal training program or organization or are currently enrolled in a formal training program. The certifying organization can be national, regional or local (such as Pet Partners, Therapy Dogs, Inc. or International Association of Assistance Dog Partners).
Owners or handlers of the animal must register via an online form. (Available by clicking here.)
Once registration is completed, a registration number will be assigned, giving access to a list of participating doctors in the area. At that point, the owner/handler can reach out to a participating ophthalmologist to schedule an appointment.
All event appointments will take place during the month of May, and registration for the event ends April 30.
To date, more than 45,000 service animals have had these free screenings – over 7,000 took place in 2015.

Sila added, "I am really excited to be able to participate in this event again this year. I am so astounded by the tasks that these dogs so eagerly perform and very impressed by the incredible bond that develops between these dogs and their owners over the years of working together and relying on each other. Anything that we can contribute to keep these dogs able to do their job for as long as possible feels very rewarding."

Click here to go to the event website, and watch the video below for more on the annual event.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.