TAMPA — Dr. E. Dan Wolf has been helping animals see the light for almost 40 years. The director of the Southern Eye Clinic for Animals is one of only four animal eye doctors in the Tampa Bay area and he's the only one who concentrates solely on animals.
At his practice on Hoover Boulevard, he is participating in the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (AVCO) program that is currently providing free screening eye exams for service animals, including guide dogs, dogs with disabilities, and dogs that work with the police force.
The police dogs are highly trained and, of course, their sight is one of the things that is most important. The main goal of the program is to screen certified service animals. AVCO is not a publicly funded organization, but Wolf said he enjoys the work and the numbers show that he has been quite successful.
“We don't have any other things to take care of here except eyes,” Wolf said. “There are no broken legs or broken bones. We take care of eyes and we have a 90 percent success rate.”
While Wolf decided he wanted to be a veterinarian at an early age, it took a while to start his practice. He has worked on humans as well as animals, but after growing up on a farm and working with animals since he was a kid, and being fascinated by the human and animal eye, he settled on animal ophthalmology.
As for understanding the vision of an animal that can't express an opinion verbally, Wolf said it isn't a problem. His clinic has a play room in the back that allows Wolf to put the dogs through a series of tests that, with his experience and background, allows him to determine the level of the animal's vision.
Many of the situations Wolf deals with involve cataracts. He specializes in a technique that he says is simple and mostly painless to the animal. Basically, he places a lens inside the eye of the animal. It's a basic procedure, little more than a human putting in a contact lens only, with an animal, it's permanent. Wolf said he has a 90 percent success rate.
It doesn't matter what type of animal he is working with, Wolf said. They might be different in size, but the eyes are basically all the same. Elephant's eyes, Wolf said, are only twice the size of a small dog's.