“Hans” Continues to Search & Rescue with Help of a Donated Cornea & Ophthalmic Surgery

Hans, a NEMSAR Search & Rescue Dog Who Received a Corneoscleral Transplant at Upstate Veterinary Specialties“Hans” is a search and rescue dog who works with North East Mobile Search and Rescue (NEMSAR), a search and rescue group that covers a large section of New York’s Hudson Valley and searches for lost or missing people. Recently, “Hans'” right eye was diagnosed with a condition called Epibulbar Melanocytoma. This is a benign tumor that grows along the corneal-scleral margin in young dogs. Though this condition is benign and should not cause systemic health concerns, it is locally aggressive and will continue to grow over time. As this tumor grows, it can interfereEpibulbar Melanocytoma in Hans the Search & Rescue Dog with normal ocular function such as blinking, ability to spread the tears, and even vision. Surgical removal of this tumor can be very difficult, as the corneoscleral tissue is only 0.5 mm thick in a normal patient. In “Hans’” case, the tumor invaded the entire depth of the corneoscleral margin, and therefore a tissue graft was necessary to repair the defect.

Dr. Christa Corbett removed the Epibulbar Melanocytoma with Ophthalmic Surgery at Upstate Veterinary Specialtiesthe aid of a surgical microscope. The resulting defect measured 8 x 14mm, and therefore a rigid graft material was essential. A corneoscleral transplant was performed using ocular tissue donated from a deceased dog, with his owner’s permission. This generous donation saved “Hans’” eye, as a standard semi-synthetic graft material would not have been strong enough to close a defect of this size.

Ophthalmic Surgery at Upstate Veterinary SpecialtiesEven with this transplant “Hans” still carried risks such as ocular infection, intraocular hemorrhage, tissue graft rejection, and blindness. “Hans’” owners were devoted and very diligent with his post-operative care, and as a result “Hans” is doing great! The Corneoscleral transplant was successful, and the donor tissue is now fully incorporated as part of “Hans’” eye. “Hans” once again has normal vision and can now return to his work with North East Mobile Search and Rescue (NEMSAR).

To learn more about the specialty ophthalmology services offered at Hans' Eye Upstate Veterinary Specialties and about eye conditions that can impact your pet’s vision, please visit our ophthalmology page.