Veterinary ophthalmology

Veterinary ophthalmology is the specialized branch of veterinary medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions in animals. This includes inherited eye diseases, eye cancers, and gene abnormalities of the eye that can lead to blindness. It is one of the highest paying sub-specialties in the veterinary field. Veterinary ophthalmologists, or eye doctors, are the experts in charge of vision care and surgical procedures performed on the eye. Their high degree of experience, training, and learning allows them to be very efficient and precise in their field of work.

Are you interested in becoming a vet ophthalmologist? Read on to find out how you can become one!


What is veterinary ophthalmology?

veterinary ophthalmology

Vet ophthalmologists are veterinarians with advanced training in ocular medicine responsible for providing diagnosis and therapeutic options for medical conditions of the eye in animals.

Some of the diseases that are dealt with in the field of veterinary ophthalmology include, but are not limited to:

• Cataract
• Corneal ulcers
• Conjunctivitis
• Glaucoma
• Other intraocular abnormalities

Routine duties include performing diagnostic tests, pre-surgical exams and surgical procedures, compiling detailed case reports, supervising veterinary technicians and/or veterinary staff, and providing consultations on cases referred to them by general practitioners.

Furthermore, eye doctors can also provide state-of-the-art laser therapy and surgery for traumatic eye injuries, especially in emergency situations.


How do I become a veterinary ophthalmologist?

To become a certified vet ophthalmologist, you must first be accepted into a veterinary school accredited by the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) and complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. After completing this four-year degree, you will be required to sit through an exam to qualify and practice professionally. Only after passing this exam and acquiring your license as a vet can you pursue a residency in veterinary ophthalmology. After residency, you will then be required to sit another set of exams in which you must meet several significant educational requirements:

1. The candidate is required to complete a one (1) year internship.
2. After successfully completing the internship, the candidate must then undertake a three (3) year residency in the field, either at a veterinary teaching hospital or at a clinic under the supervision of a board-certified ophthalmology diplomate.

This final exam is administered by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO). It consists of written, practical, and surgical elements which are tested over a 4-day period.

After completing and having passed the exam, a veterinarian is now granted diplomate status in the veterinary specialty of ophthalmology.

It is worth noting though that passers must complete continuing education credits each year to maintain their board certified status, and to be constantly updated with regards to new techniques in the field.
These credits can usually be earned by attending lectures, participating in wet labs, or attending veterinary ophthalmology-related seminars.


How much does a veterinary ophthalmologist make in a year?

veterinary ophthalmologistAccording to their 2010 survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual wage of $82,900 for all veterinarians.  The lowest ten percent of these veterinarians are reported to have earned a salary of less than $50,480 per year, while the highest ten percent of all veterinarians earned a salary of over $141,680 per year. The BLS does not separate specific salary data for each of the individual veterinary specialties, but board-certified specialists like vet ophthalmologists can earn top salaries due to their extensive experience and advanced qualifications.

In fact, in their 2009 salary survey, the DVM 360 magazine reported that vet ophthalmologists earned a mean salary of $215,120. This ranked veterinary ophthalmology as the highest paying veterinary specialty in the survey that year.

It is also worth noting that eye doctors do earn a salary while completing their residencies, though the level of compensation is not nearly as much as a veterinarian can expect to earn in clinical private practice. Residency salaries generally range in the ballpark of around $25,000 to $35,000 per year.


Final Considerations

eye veterinarian“That light shall prevail over darkness”; that is the motto of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology, and rightly so. Eye doctors can catch medical problems—like diabetes—even before a pet shows any symptoms. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, in animals, the eyes are the windows that can provide clues to the underlying health condition. A commitment to learning and continuous skill development can also prove beneficial in the field of veterinary ophthalmology. It is definitely a rewarding career for those who are passionate in providing precious eyesight for animals to continue witnessing the beauty of this world that we live in.

Becoming a veterinary ophthalmologist requires a keen eye for detail, along with good manual dexterity and depth of perception in order to perform delicate surgeries. One must also be well coordinated, quick to think on their feet, and able to pay a great deal of attention to detail.




<– Back to Veterinary Careers page