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What is a CERF Exam and Why You Will Benefit from it!

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the face of a yellow lab that is looking to the left of the camera, with the text What is a CERF Exam and how will I benefit is displayed to the left of the dog

Following years of selective breeding for various phenotypic traits, a diverse assortment of dog breeds have been generated. However, this selective mating has also greatly affected the genetic diversity within each breed leading to breeds with low biological fitness.

To help eradicate and decrease the prevalence of certain heritable diseases in future generations, a group of owners and breeders concerned about the loss of quality in the lives of their dogs owing to heritable eye diseases founded the Canine Eye Registration Foundation commonly known by the acronym CERF.

The CERF Exam

A CERF test is a distinctive eye screening exam that is carried out by Veterinary Ophthalmologists. These individuals are board certified by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (AVCO).

The procedure, which is conducted yearly, involves a careful and comprehensive examination of the eye. To start with, the dog’s pupils are dilated with eye drops. The examiner then illuminates the eye with a penlight to look for any key abnormality.

The eye is then examined in detail using a slit lamp bio-microscope to identify any diminutive anomalies in the lens, cornea, and in the anterior chamber. During this part of the exam anomalies such as distichia, cataracts, vitreal degenerations, and corneal dystrophy may be noticed.

Lastly, the retina is examined using an ophthalmoscope (usually an indirect ophthalmoscope). This exam provides the examiner a lucid view of all the parts of the retina. The indirect ophthalmoscope device offers the veterinarian with proper optics and a light source. Problems such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Retinal Dysplasia, optic nerve hypoplasia, choroidal hypoplasia may be revealed during this part of the examination.

If any problems are identified during these examinations, they are recorded in an official CERF form by the Ophthalmologist and sent to CERF for research record keeping and certification by the breeder or owner of the dog.

Why You Will Benefit

  • Cerf exams are very useful to breeders as it provides a registry of purebred dogs that have been certified and free from heritable eye disorders.
  • Dogs can be advertised using CERF registration numbers and can be advertised as being registered with CERF to dog breeders and buyers.

Unlike most one-time genetic exams, CERF tests are only valid for one year after which the dog must be re-examined. For any questions on CERF exams, contact your ophthalmologist.


Meet The Author 

Grant Withers

Canine Specialist & Writer

Grant is an award-winning writer for SitStay with a passion for pets and especially dogs! Grant loves writing about furry little goofballs and aims to educate pet parents about anything and everything regarding their dogs.



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