Professor, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Department of Companion Animal Clinical Sciences, Oslo, Norway
The EU Convention for the protection of pet animals states in Article 5: "Any person who selects a pet animal for breeding shall be responsible for having regard to the anatomical, physiological and behavioural characteristics which are likely to put at risk the health and welfare of either the offspring or the female parent". This convention has been ratified by some EU countries, but not all. Almost the same text is included in the WSAVA Convention for the protection of Companion Animals.
What is an Inherited Eye Disease?
This might be a difficult question to answer, and yet the most important when it comes to control programs for hereditary eye diseases. Some diseases do not represent a problem in this regard, as the gene has been identified and the mode of inheritance established. For the majority of diseases, however, the mode of inheritance has not been established, but there is "substantial evidence" that the disease in question is inherited. If a disease has been thoroughly described in the literature, this may give support to considering a disease hereditary. It can, however, take a long time before a disease in a specific breed is written up in the literature, and some conditions are never reported other than in annual reports from eye panels.
The National Eye Panels
A survey carried out by FECAVA a few years ago showed that a large number of European countries had established national eye panels. Veterinarians issuing certificates with regard to hereditary eye diseases had received additional training in ophthalmology, however, the level of qualifications showed great diversity. In order to issue certificates that can be accepted all over Europe, a minimum level of qualifications is needed. This includes training of veterinarians (including a qualifying exam), the examination procedures must be followed, and the animal examined must be identifiable by microchip or readable tattoo.
Control programs are common as part of breeding programs in many countries, However, the FECAVA survey also showed great variation in the way the results were handled and whether they were published or not. The procedure varies between the following alternatives:
All results are published and free to read
The owner is free to decide if the results should be made public or not
Only results from normal ("free") dogs are published
No results are published, the results being the owner's property
Before examination, the owner should be asked to sign the certificate confirming the dog's identity. Examination procedure should be standardized to give the most reliable examination results and include at least:
Examination under darkened conditions.
A general examination of the eye and adnexa.
The minimum equipment is a binocular indirect ophthalmoscope and a slit lamp biomicroscope (at least 10x magnification). The use of other equipment (gonioscopy lens, tonometry, ERG, etc.) is optional.
A mydriatic should be instilled for maximal pupil dilatation before examination of deeper structures.
Details of all lesions and conditions found at the time of examination should be noted. This refers to both presumed hereditary diseases as well as conditions considered not inherited.
The dog should be identified either by tattoo or microchip.
Education of Panelists
As mentioned, there is wide variation within Europe regarding the level of qualifications of panel members, and even so throughout the world. In USA, only Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists are allowed to issue eye certificates that are to be nationally registered, while in Europe both Diplomats and specially trained members of some national panels are allowed to issue the ECVO approved certificates. In Japan, College members can issue international certificates, while other ophthalmologists can only issue certificates for national use.
In 2004 the ECVO adopted the following rules for ECVO licenses panelists (see www.ecvo.org):
Panelists licensed by the ECVO to perform the eye examinations under the Scheme are:
1. Practising Diplomates of the ECVO.
2. In countries where this has been decided: Eye Scheme Examiners (non-Diplomate of the ECVO, further to be called ESE), being veterinarians, examined and accepted for a restricted period of 5 years. This contract may be extended ad infinitum by the ECVO.
Before ESE-candidates can qualify to sit the ESE examination for the scheme the candidate must document to have examined at least 500 dogs under supervision of two different panel members recognised by the ECVO. At least 50 of the dogs should be under supervision of a practicing ECVO Diplomate. Up to 200 dogs can be examined under supervision of an ACVO Diplomate. A record should be kept for all animals examined.
The ESE candidate should have examined at least 100 cats of which 10 should be examined under supervision of a practicing ECVO Diplomate and 10 under supervision of a panel member. All cases should be recorded.
The ESE candidate must document to have seen specific breeds and diseases in a defined number (a specific list has been worked out).
The ESE candidate should document to have participated in at least 3 ECVO recognized continuing education courses in ophthalmology, of duration of 3 days, including diseases of the anterior and posterior segments, and basic genetic principles.
The ESE candidate should be trained in direct and indirect ophthalmoscopy, slit-lamp examination and gonioscopy.
Examination Procedure for Authorisation
Practical exam with evaluation of 10 cases, normal or abnormal. For the practical test a list of "lethal errors" have been defined, the candidate failing despite having evaluated the other cases correctly.
Quality Control of the Panel--Appeals
The owner is free to seek a second opinion from another panelist
If the diagnoses differ, the animal is examined either by an ECVO Diplomat or by a group of panelists at the annual meetings. The decision taken by either of these two bodies is considered final
The panelist should examine at least 100 cases a year to maintain authorization.