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Seeing Eye is First With High-Tech Retina Scans for Dogs

The up-to-date scoop on The Seeing Eye.

This is the latest installment of our column, "This Week at The Seeing Eye." The oldest existing guide dog school in the world provides us with up-to-date news, legislative activities, volunteer stories and, of course, cute dog pictures. 

1. Sneak Peek at Auction Items: The Seeing Eye's third annual online auction  is coming up and you can get a sneak peek at a few of the items here. Bidding will be open from 9 a.m. on April 29 to 10 p.m. on May 12. As always, all items in the auction catalog are donated by generous individuals and organizations, and all proceeds from the final sale price of each item go directly back into our programs.

2. Harper's Tale: Seeing Eye graduate and author, Beth Finke, writes in The Bark about "Harper," her newest Seeing Eye dog, and her thankfulness for our selfless puppy raisers.

3. In the News: Seeing Eye graduate Trisha Ebel was featured in a Hudson Reporter article.

4. Seeing Eye Day at Six Flags Great Adventure: Enjoy the company of Seeing Eye puppies and dog ambassadors throughout the park! Stop by the Showcase Theater from 1 - 4 p.m. to participate in special activities and watch Seeing Eye dogs at work. Seeing Eye Day is scheduled for Saturday, May 21 from 10:30 a.m. - 9:00 p.m., Includes Great Adventure and Wild Safari admission. Tickets: are $30* (regular price is over $70!) and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Seeing Eye. Tickets are valid any operating day through October 16, 2011, but you can only experience the Seeing Eye demonstrations on May 21. If you can't make it on May 21, you can still support The Seeing Eye by purchasing your tickets using our promo code, "GUIDEDOG" in the box on the top right that reads "enter promo code." Then click "go."  *Lost tickets cannot be replaced. All sales final.

5. Canine Visual Health: A Seeing Eye dog becomes the eyes of its owner. To ensure those eyes are healthy, The Seeing Eye has become the first guide dog school in the nation to employ a new generation digital electroretinograph that has been custom-designed to check the retinas of all dogs in the school’s breeding program.

The electroretinograph (ERG) measures the retina’s response to light. In 1992, The Seeing Eye became the first guide dog school to employ electroretinography as a means of screening for retinal disease. From then until recently, responses appeared on an older model analog oscilloscope on which was hung a specialized instant film camera which recorded the ERG tracings. Measurements were painstakingly made by placing an acetate grid over the photos and measuring via magnifying glass to the nearest 0.3 mm.

A laptop and customized software, purchased through a grant from the Bernice Barbour Foundation and designed and assembled with the assistance of a University of Pennsylvania team, is the 21st century answer to the oscilloscope. “The old equipment was becoming outdated, but the final straw was the discontinuation of instant film. The grant couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Seeing Eye Attending Veterinarian and Director of Canine Medicine & Surgery, Dr. Dolores Holle. “We are proud to continue our role as innovators and leaders in the guide dog movement through the use of new and improved diagnostic equipment that will help keep our dogs by their handlers’ sides for as long as possible.”

The information gained in early ERG screenings also assisted Gustavo Aguirre, V.M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in his research into Progressive Retinal Atrophy, a genetic disease which leads to blindness in dogs and his eventual identification of the actual gene that caused the defect. Dr. Aguirre, who served 12 years on The Seeing Eye’s Board of Trustees and headed its Canine Committee, continues to volunteer his expertise to The Seeing Eye by evaluating every ERG that is performed.

“The new equipment was much needed,” said Dr. Aguirre. “The new software, with its zoom, point and click capabilities allows for much more precise measurement. The whole process has been streamlined.”

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