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Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF)

By: Dr. Noelle McNabb

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Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) was established by concerned breeders and owners of purebred dogs with the objective of eliminating heritable eye diseases in purebred dogs. Striving to achieve this goal, CERF accumulates research data from examinations performed by veterinary ophthalmologists, provides eye clearance certificates for breeding animals, and facilitates the education of purebred dog owners, breeders and the public.

Who Is Qualified to Examine the Eyes of Purebred Dogs?

The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) works together with CERF to sustain an official registry of purebred dogs that have been examined by ACVO members (diplomates). An ACVO diplomate is board certified in the field of veterinary ophthalmology following four years of veterinary medical school education, one year of internship, two to three years of residency training, and an extensive examination process.

CERF and other breed registry groups have requested that the ACVO provide a scientific advisory panel to provide guidelines about inherited ocular disorders of significant concern to purebred dogs. The ACVO Genetics Committee serves in this capacity and is dedicated to updating information continuously on ocular disorders proven (or highly suspected) to be hereditary in purebred dogs. Based upon current research and standards, the ACVO Genetics Committee establishes specific breeding advice for dogs with certain eye problems.

Why Registration With CERF Is Important

Obtaining a registered clearance from inherited eye problems is especially important to interested buyers and conscientious dog breeders. Dogs with normal eye exams are given a registration number from CERF, and this CERF number can be used to advertise the dog's normal status. Many dog breeders now expect or demand this form of registration prior to purchasing dogs or prior to breeding dogs. When dog breeders utilize CERF information, it represents tangible proof of their commitment to maintaining the highest quality bloodlines, and their dedication to the goal of eliminating heritable eye disease in dogs.

Dog breeders who register their breeding animals with CERF demonstrate support of the American Kennel Club's (AKC) goal to promote responsible breeding and ownership of purebred dogs. In the near future, AKC-certified pedigrees and registration slips will include CERF registration numbers. Local and national breed clubs frequently support CERF registration, and often require CERF registration for members to remain in good standing.

How Can a Purebred Dog Be Registered?

Ophthalmic examinations are performed by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist (ACVO diplomate). A routine eye screening examination includes slit-lamp biomicroscopy (magnified view of the eyelids and front chamber of the eye) and indirect ophthalmoscopy (magnified viewing of the back segment of the eye). This is performed after the pupils are dilated with topical medications (usually tropicamide and phenylephrine solutions). Any abnormal findings are recorded on the examination form. The examination primarily identifies clinically affected animals. Unfortunately, routine eye examination is not capable of identifying dogs that carry genetically certain heritable eye diseases but are not clinically affected.

Only those dogs determined to be clinically unaffected by heritable eye disease can be registered with CERF. Once the form has been filled out and signed by the ACVO diplomate, the owner or breeder must complete the reverse side of the owner copy of the CERF examination form and mail it, with the designated fee, to CERF's main office.

How Frequently Should a Purebred Dog Be Examined By an ACVO Diplomate?

CERF registration is valid for 12 months from the date of examination. To maintain a valid registration number, individuals must be re-examined on an annual basis by an ACVO diplomate, then re-registered with CERF. There is no minimum age for CERF certification. Puppies as young as six weeks of age may be examined for inherited eye diseases.

It is very common for breeders to have their entire litter of puppies examined between six to eight weeks of age, before they are placed in their new home. These early exams ensure the eyes of these puppies are healthy. The exams also help determine whether the puppies are of high enough quality for show training and potential future use as breeding dogs.

Where Is the Research Data Collected and How Is It Disseminated?

The original copies (research copy) of all examination findings are sent by the ACVO diplomate to CERF's main office at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. All research copies are computer processed and scanned upon arrival. The new data is then combined with data collected from other dogs of the same breed. This results in compilation of a current and comprehensive research report detailing the specific types of eye disorders recognized for that particular breed. Information included in research reports is confined to general information only such as age, sex, breed and details regarding eye health.

Current research reports can be obtained by contacting CERF headquarters directly. Reports can be purchased for a particular breed, or a summary can be purchased for all dog breeds. CERF memberships are available that include semi-annual newsletters about general ophthalmology topics, in addition to featuring current eye disease trends noted in specific breeds. Registration lists are also available that include all dogs in a particular breed registered over the prior year. For further information, visit the CERF web site at www.vmdb.org (click on the CERF icon).

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