The role of veterinary ophthalmologists in pharmaceutical and toxicological testing

The ACVO® is an organization made up of Members who are Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (DACVO®). The residency, credentialing and board certification processes of the ACVO are overseen by the American Board of Veterinary Ophthalmology (ABVO). A Diplomate, in addition to being a licensed veterinarian, has also successfully completed a minimum of 3-5 years of post-graduate specialty training in veterinary ophthalmology. This training encompasses the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions in a variety of animal species, including those commonly used in toxicology studies and studies of drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK). Residents must then pass a series of examinations in order to attain board certification; since 2015, maintenance of certification is required of all new Diplomates and suggested for all current Diplomates. The ABVO is the only credentialing body in the United States that supervises the training and certification of those deemed qualified to perform ophthalmic diagnoses in animals. 

In 2013, the ACVO created the Pharma-Tox Committee to specifically address issues related to ophthalmic examination standards in industry. The mission of the ACVO Pharm-Tox committee is to increase awareness of the pharmaceutical industry and contact research organizations (CROs) about the specialty of veterinary ophthalmology, to protect the public by encouraging participation of trained veterinary ophthalmologists in studies of investigational drugs and devices, and to establish standards for ophthalmic examinations in pharmaceutical and toxicological studies.  

The ACVO Pharma-Tox Committee has established standards for ophthalmic examination in industry. The components of an ophthalmic examination may vary depending on the species involved and the specific objective of the study. However, if the purpose of such a study is to screen for adverse effects on any ocular tissue to include, at a minimum, the adnexal structures (lids and conjunctiva) anterior segment (cornea, anterior chamber, iris and lens) and posterior segment (vitreous and fundus), the following must be included: 

  1. pharmacologic pupillary dilation
  2. darkened ambient light conditions
  3. slit lamp biomicroscopy
  4. indirect and/or direct ophthalmoscopy
  5. Additional procedures may be included depending on the objective of the examination. These may include, but are not limited to: corneal staining, corneal aesthesiometry, pachymetry, tonometry, fundus photography, fluorescein angiography, optical coherence tomography, and electrophysiological assessment of the visual system (e.g. electroretinography, multifocal electroretinography, visual evoked potentials).


For questions or queries regarding obtaining leads for expertise in this field, contact the ACVO.