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Why utilize a veterinary specialist?

Just as in human medicine, veterinary medical specialists are a valuable resource in treating your pet. Your general practice veterinarian has excellent training in veterinary medicine and acts as a family practice physician to your pet. But just as with human medicine, there are occasions when your veterinarian might want assistance or suggest a referral to a specialist to better meet your pet’s needs. Specialists should be board certified by the appropriate national agency and are available in ophthalmology, internal medicine, surgery, pathology, oncology, radiology, cardiology, dermatology, and others. You should not feel shy about asking your general practice veterinarian for a referral to a specialist if you feel one might be helpful. Your veterinarian and the veterinary specialist will work together as a team to treat your pet.

What is a veterinary specialist in Ophthalmology?

A specialist in veterinary ophthalmology has completed all phases of training through an approved American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) residency and passed all written and practical examinations. After obtaining an undergraduate degree, a 4-year doctorate in veterinary medicine is completed. This is followed by a 1-year clinical rotating internship or at least 2 years of general practice work. A 3- or 4-year residency program in veterinary ophthalmology is then followed by a demanding specialty examination including both written and practical portions. Knowledge and skill gained through rigorous advanced training allow a specialist in veterinary ophthalmology to diagnose and treat eye disease in animals. Once training is complete and exams are passed, a specialist is referred to as a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists. A veterinary specialist is required to maintain their skills through annual continuing education. You may find more information about veterinary ophthalmology at

Why are prices different between the providers in the Bay Area? Does it matter to the patient?

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) only recognizes “specialists” as those veterinarians that have gone through an approved residency program and passed rigid testing and guidelines. Board certified ophthalmologists are specially trained and qualified to perform diagnostics, surgeries and treatments for a wide range of eye diseases.

The quality of general anesthesia, anesthesia standards and monitoring vary greatly in veterinary medicine. Pulse oximetry, gas analyzers, electrocardiography, capnography, blood pressure monitoring, peri-operative fluid support, close monitoring and technician training are time consuming and expensive and thus reflected in the price of surgery. You should confirm that your provider is using state-of-the-art equipment, especially with intraocular surgeries.

Post-operative rechecks and drug costs are typically worked into the surgery quote. Drug costs can add up and should be clarified in a quote. Pain medications should also be included for up to 3-5 days after surgery. The surgeon should be involved in your pet’s progress from beginning to end. We value your bond with your primary veterinarian and ensure he or she is informed of your progress each time we see you and your pet.

Check references from your veterinarian, surgeon status with the California Veterinary Medical Board, and never be afraid to get a second opinion. The only good decision is an informed one.

Dr. Gratzek and Dr. Horikawa are board certified specialists in Veterinary Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology for Animals has only state-of-the-art anesthesia and surgical equipment and is committed to quality patient care.

Is my pet too old for anesthesia?

Age is only one factor when evaluating an animal for anesthesia. Quality of anesthesia is a much more important factor to consider than age. However, age-related problems such as renal or heart problems are weighed heavily into the equation. Pre-operative screening should detect these patients. Appropriate drugs, cardiovascular support and very close monitoring with state-of-the-art equipment are necessary for a successful anesthetic event. At Ophthalmology for Animals, many of our patients are geriatric and we are prepared to administer and monitor anesthesia safely to older patients.

Is my pet too old to consider seeing a veterinarian?

We believe from the bottom of our hearts that all animals should be able to discern light and dark even if vision is poor. We also believe that all animals should be free from anxiety and pain. Even if your pet only has six months to live, six months is a long time in a dog’s life and chronic pain is debilitating, especially to old animals. We can help.

Do you offer Equine Ophthalmology services?

Yes! Our doctors are experienced in diagnosing and managing equine ocular diseases. Our office works closely with local equine veterinarians to provide comprehensive ophthalmic services. Because equine cases can be particularly complex, they often require a team effort along with your primary veterinarian. Equine examinations should be scheduled through your veterinarian when possible. To facilitate scheduling an appointment for your horse, please fill out the Equine Exam Request Form.

Are E-Collars necessary?

The use of E-collars (Elizabethan collars) is often necessary to aid in the healing process of your pet’s ophthalmic problem. We understand that they are not always easy for you or your pet, but please remember that the E-collar is safeguarding the eyes and improves the chances of a successful outcome. It often takes a day or two for your pet to adjust to the collar, but they will in time.

If your pet won’t eat or drink you can try elevating the food and water bowls with a phone book, box or large overturned bowl. If your pet’s ears smell or you suspect an ear infection you may need to trim hair around the ears and keep the inside of the collar more dry. If your pet is head-shaking or the signs persist, please bring your pet in to see your veterinarian. Head shaking can be detrimental to any corneal or intraocular surgery.

Animals occasionally will not urinate or defecate while wearing a collar. Just be patient. Give your pet 24-48 hours after surgery as they may be “empty” due to pre-anesthetic fasting or may be constipated due to certain perioperative medications. You can try adding canned pumpkin to the food and take your pet for frequent walks. If constipation persists, please call us.

If your pet won’t walk or move while wearing the E-collar, you can try offering treats to lure them over to you. Keep encouraging them and over time, your pet will get used to the E-collar.

Do I need a referral from my primary veterinarian?

Ophthalmology for Animals is a specialty practice. We work closely with referring veterinarians to help manage ophthalmic cases. We do not require, however, that you see your primary veterinarian prior to scheduling an appointment with us.