The BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme is a joint scheme between the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the Kennel Club (KC) and the International Sheepdog Society (ISDS). It was first set-up to help eradicate progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and Collie eye anomaly (CEA) but now covers 11 inherited eye diseases in 59 breeds of dog.
The BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme is the most popular inherited eye screening scheme in the UK and Ireland. Schemes in use in other parts of the world include those run by the ECVO (European College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) and the OFA Eye Certification Registry.
The scheme was introduced to try to reduce the numbers of pedigree dogs affected by inherited eye diseases. Although the scheme was developed to test for inherited eye disease in pedigree dogs any dog may be tested.
Many of the conditions covered by the eye scheme can lead to painful and/or blinding eye conditions. Generally, dogs with hereditary eye diseases should not be used for breeding.
The scheme is updated on January 1st each year so it is important to check regularly whether new breeds or conditions have been added.
The routine eye test can be performed on any dog over the age of 12 weeks. It is important that the eye test is carried out prior to breeding and, because many of the eye conditions do not develop until later in life, it is recommended that actively breeding dogs are tested annually.
An additional test called gonioscopy is performed in those breeds at risk of primary glaucoma (high pressure within the eye). Gonioscopy can be performed from 6 months of age. Traditionally, the test was only performed once in a dog’s lifetime. However, because the condition can be progressive in the Flatcoated Retriever, it is now recommended every 3 years in this breed. It is likely that the advice for other breeds will change in time as more information comes to light about this disease.
Litter screening of puppies is also available under the scheme. This is best performed when the puppies are between 5-8 weeks of age. The litter screening looks for evidence of congenital hereditary eye disease.
The Panellists appointed by the BVA are vets with postgraduate qualifications who specialise in eye examinations (ophthalmologists). They are accredited on a regular basis to ensure they have the necessary experience and skills to perform the examination. Since they examine so many dogs’ eyes on a regular basis they are very familiar with all the possible appearances of eyes (whether normal or abnormal) and thus are best placed to perform the Eye Test.
The BVA provides a list of contact details for vets (Panellists) who are qualified to do eye testing in the UK and Eire. This list can be found on the BVA and the Kennel Club websites. You can make an appointment to see a panellists yourself – you do not need a referral from your vet. Alternatively, many breed societies organise eye testing sessions at dog shows. The cost of testing is fixed by the BVA and price lists can be found on their website.
As from January 1st 2010 permanent identification (usually microchipping, although permanent tattooing is acceptable) has been required for all dogs, other than Border Collies registered with the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS), before they can be examined and certified under the eye scheme.
If your dog does not have permanent identification then it cannot undergo eye testing under the eye scheme. It is worth checking that your dog’s microchip is readable on a regular basis because, if it cannot be read by the Panellist, the eye test cannot be completed.
You will need to show your original KC or ISDS owner registration documents so make sure you take these with you. The Panellist cannot issue an Eye Test Certificate without checking and stamping these.You should also take along any previous eye certificates issued to your dog.
For the routine examination, drops need to be applied to dilate the pupils so that the back of the eye can be examined. The drops can take up to 30 minutes to take effect and you will need to wait until the eye test can be performed. The Panellist will examine your dog’s eyes with a range of ophthalmic equipment that allows them to examine in detail the structures within the eye.
In some breeds of dog that are at risk of developing glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye) the vet will do an additional test before the routine examination and dilation of the pupil. This is called gonioscopy and involves placing a specialised lens onto the surface of the eye, following application of local anaesthetic eye drops.
The Panellist will tell you the results of the examination at the time of the test and you will receive a certificate of eye examination for each dog examined. The certificate consists of three sections. The first section records the details of the dog and owner, and requires an owner signature. The second section describes any eye abnormalities noted during the examination. The third section is a list of inherited eye diseases which will be ticked as either affected or unaffected for those known to affect the breed under examination. This section is only completed for dogs registered with the KC or ISDS and only for those with conditions currently certified under the Eye Scheme.
Your dog’s registration document will be stamped and signed by the Panellist. You will receive a copy of the certificate and additional copies will be sent to the Kennel Club, to your own vet and a copy kept by the ophthalmologist.
You are entitled to lodge an appeal against the results of an eye examination. This must be done in writing to the BVA within 30 days of the examination. You may then take your dog, along with the certificate in question, for examination by another Panellist (who will charge the normal fee for the eye test).
If the second Panellist agrees with the first, the appeal is deemed to have failed. In such a case, no further appeal is allowed. If the second Panellist disagrees with the first Panellist, the dog is referred to the Chief Panellist for further examination without an additional fee to the owner. The decision of the Chief Panellist is deemed final.
There are a growing number of inherited eye conditions for which DNA tests are available. An up to date list is included on the KC website (https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/14688/dnatestsworldwide.pdf). Many of these tests can be performed on material collected on a swab from the dog’s mouth, although others require a blood sample to be taken.
These tests are very helpful in breeding schemes, especially in the case of recessively inherited diseases as they are able to identify carrier dogs (i.e. those which do not develop the disease in question but can pass the underlying gene mutation to their offspring).
However, although these DNA tests are very accurate for detecting abnormal genes they are very specific. Each DNA test can only look for one condition whereas the eye examination covers all possible eye diseases and is critical in the detection of emerging inherited eye diseases. Thus, DNA tests will never replace the need for the eye examination.