How Does My Pet’s Eye Exam Differ From My Own?

Many elements of an animal eye exam are very similar to those you experience when you visit your own Ophthalmologist. A new patient eye exam at Animal Eye Care typically lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, beginning with a conversation with one of our registered veterinary technicians. They will obtain a thorough medical history – asking questions regarding medications, travel outside Northern California, other pets living in the household, etc.

Following the medical history intake, the technician will perform 3 different diagnostic tests:

  1. The first is the STT, or Schirmer Tear Test, which checks tear production and ensures that your pet is producing an adequate amount of tears.
  2. Next is IOP, or Intra-Ocular Pressure, during which the technician will numb the eyes with proparacaine drops and gently take the pressure of each eye. This step is in order to rule out glaucoma and any inflammation.
  3. Lastly, the technician will put fluorescein stain in each eye to check for any abnormalities or abrasions on the surface of the cornea. This will illuminate any ulcerations or abrasions when a black light is shined on the eyes.

After the 3 diagnostic tests are completed, the veterinary Ophthalmologist will conduct a thorough front-to-back eye exam. They use special equipment, sort of like a microscope, that magnifies all internal structures of the eye and allows the Ophthalmologist to examine the back of the eye  for any abnormalities.

When handling energetic or nervous pets, we utilize different techniques that are unique to the pet’s needs. Sometimes wrapping the pet in a blanket or allowing the client to restrain the pet is helpful and allows the pet to feel more at ease. In some cases, we offer either oral or injectable sedatives to provide a more comfortable experience for the pet. Our staff go through comprehensive training to understand these methods and how they work to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets.


Fluorescein Stain

Fluorescein dye is used to detect defects of the cornea as well as tear quality. It is also used to evaluate the flow of the tears through the nasolacrimal duct to the nostrils.


A hand-held microscope (slit lamp) allows precise localization of lesions within the eyelids, cornea, anterior chamber, lens, anterior vitreous and using an interposed biconvex lens, the posterior segment including the retina. The magnification permits the ophthalmologist to find small foreign bodies, misplaced eyelashes and microscopic signs of ocular disease.

Direct Ophthalmoscopy

The direct ophthalmoscope gives a largely magnified view of the ocular features. Performing distant direct ophthalmoscopy is an excellent tool to evaluate even the slightest differences in pupil size.

Indirect Ophthalmoscopy

Using a headset and hand lens allows the ophthalmologist to examine the structures in the back of the eye including the vitreous humor, retina, and optic nerve. Magnification and field of view can be altered by selection of lenses of different strength.


After instillation of an anesthetic drop, a digital tonometer (TonoPen) is gently touched to the patient’s cornea to determine the intraocular pressure. High pressure is indicative of glaucoma, while low pressure may be the result of inflammation in the eye.

Schirmer Tear Test

Paper tear test strips are placed inside the patients eyelids for 1 minute. The tears produced by the patient can be measured and evaluated. Detection of low tear production allows early diagnosis of dry eye.