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Odd Jobs: Veterinary Ophthalmologist - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Odd Jobs: Veterinary Ophthalmologist

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WILLISTON, Vt. -

Harlem is a nervous patient. Repeated eye exams reveal the 8-year-old Boston terrier has inherited cataracts. The eye condition has clouded his lens. Now, he's nearly blind.

"You're so brave. Oh sir," said Dr. Sarah Hoy.

Hoy is confident she can help. She's doing one last exam before Harlem's big surgery.

"So instead of the dog looking left, looking right, I usually end up moving my body," said Hoy.

Hoy is a veterinary ophthalmologist working at Vermont Veterinary Eye Care in Williston. She's the only full-time animal eye surgeon in the state.

"I get everything from: what, there's an eye doctor for animals? Or, what do they do, read an eye chart so you can fit them for glasses?" said Hoy.

As an ophthalmologist, she does about 3,000 eye exams per year. She treats dry eye, cataracts, corneal ulcers, traumatic eye injuries, glaucoma, inflammation, retinal detachments and ocular tumors. She says although our animals can't tell us what hurts, their eyes give clues like squinting, tearing, redness, cloudiness, discharge and weeping. Many of these eye issues are completely correctable.

"There's really a lot we of things we can offer to help keep animals comfortable and sighted with their eyes," said Hoy.

Hoy is a native Vermonter, but her career has taken her around the country, from college in Virginia to vet school in Minnesota to Colorado for a yearlong internship and a three-year ophthalmology residency in Ohio.

"During our residency we learn the anatomy of as many different species as possible," said Hoy.

Hoy is back home putting all that schooling to work. She says ophthalmology gives her a chance to practice medicine as well as intricate surgery. Her patients range from cats and dogs to less common critters like snakes, deer, donkeys, owls, hedgehogs and camels.

"I even did surgery on a shark. So if it has an eye, then we can treat it," said Hoy.

Harlem's procedure is fairly routine. Hoy and her team perform about 80 cataract surgeries a year. But unlike humans with health insurance, this medical process will cost pet owners $2,700 to $4,200.

"We have the patient covered with a sterile drape and now we have our eye with cataract exposed," said Hoy.

Hoy uses an emulsifier with ultrasonic energy to break up the cataract. A small incision is made in the cornea, and then a medication is injected into the eye.

"Patty, can you have a capsular tension ring on standby," said Hoy.

You can hear the sound of Hoy vacuuming the cataract from Harlem's eye. She'll inject a brand new clear lens, then close the cornea with a small suture.

"That's a big eye my friend," said Hoy.

The surgery is done one eye at a time. Removing a cataract takes 13 to 20 minutes.

"There you go little baby. So as soon as he wakes up he'll be able to see," said Hoy.

The wait wasn't long. The pint-sized patient bounced back in less than 5 minutes.

Harlem will fully recover in two weeks, but for now he's slowly taking in the world he can once again see.

"It's very exciting to take an animal who comes in blind and we're able to bring their vision back," said Hoy.

Salaries for veterinary ophthalmologists vary by geographic location. On average, these surgeons make between $125,000 to $350,000 a year.

Jennifer is always looking for new odd jobs. So if you have one or know someone who does send us an email to news@wcax.com.

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