Since kindergarten, Dr. Rachel Allbaugh wanted to be a veterinarian or a jockey. Tough decision. But in middle school, her career choice became clearer when she outgrew the size limits to be a jockey.

Although Allbaugh had her sights set on a career in veterinary medicine at an early age, her decision to become a veterinary ophthalmologist wasn’t made until much later.

“It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year as an undergraduate when my cat had an eye condition that I decided to become an ophthalmologist,” said Allbaugh, board-certified ophthalmologist at Iowa State’s Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center.

For the past 15 years, Allbaugh has remained passionate about her career choice, but this time of the year is very special to her.

Every May, veterinary ophthalmologists across the country volunteer their time and resources to provide free eye exams for service animals. The event organized by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and Stokes Pharmacy has provided more than 68,000 free eye exams since its inception in 2008.

For Allbaugh, the event is an opportunity to help service and working animals that provide an important service to humans. 

During the complete eye exam, the veterinary ophthalmologists utilize specialized equipment to look for problems including: redness, squinting, cloudy corneas, retinal disease, early cataracts and other serious abnormalities. Early detection and treatment are vital to these working animals.

“We hope to find normal healthy eyes, but if abnormalities are noted we can then discuss their significance and other considerations in light of the individual animal’s situation,” Allbaugh added.

“Although May is the month for service animal eye exams, all pet owners should regularly check their pets’ eyes, and seek veterinary care if they are concerned,” says Allbaugh.

Service and working animal owners must register prior to April 30, for exams held in the Month of May.

Click here for information about the free service animal eye exams, and how to register.