CERF stands for the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. As taken from the CERF web site, "CERF is an organization that was founded by a group of concerned, purebred owner/breeders who recognised that the quality of their dogs' lives were being affected by heritable eye disease." The CERF eye exam is the gold standard by which the majority, if not all, breed clubs test the quality of their potential breeding stock against. The CERF eye exam is one of the four health tests necessary for a great dane to get their CHIC certification.
The test is relatively simple, but must be performed by a certified canine ophthamologist. Drops are placed into the dogs eyes approximately 10-15 min. prior to the exam. Then the dog is taken into a room where the ophthamologist has a series of special lenses and other equipment used to look at the dog's eyes while the lights are out in the room. The procedure is really very quick and painless. Both of my dogs have now gone through it. Bess has had it done a couple of times and Heffner got his done for the first time in April. He let the ophthamologist know how he felt about the testing by letting out the biggest and most dramatic sigh while he was getting his eyes looked at.:o) It was pretty funny and got a chuckle from the doctor.
The eye exam will essentially let you know of anything that is wrong with your dog's eyes. Be it an eye lid problem such as entropian or ectropian. Or be it a problem of the eye itself, such as glaucoma. There are many eye problems that are genetic and where it is feasible, you want to rule those genes out in the future. This test gives breeders a way to better assess their potential breeding stock.
Unlike many of the OFA tests, the CERF exam is required annually in order to maintain the dog's certification. When looking up a dog's records on the OFA web site, the latest date of the exam for each test is listed. If the dog is over due, that line is recorded in italics. There is also no age limit for a dog to have a CERF exam.
In addition to be a quick and painless procedure, it's also fairly inexpensive. As always, the cost will vary depending on where you go to get it done. If you make an independent appointment with an ophthamologist to have them look at your dog's eyes, you are looking at a considerably higher cost. However, there are CERF clinics everywhere. The vast majority of all breed shows have a clinic going on at least one of the days. I highly recommend going to one of these clinics if you are interested in getting your dog tested. The cost is generally $25 for the exam. You then mail off the results of the test to CERF itself. The cost of registering your dog the first time is $12. After that it's $8 each time. So at it's most expensive the CERF exam costs a whopping $37.
If you're looking to get a puppy and your screening your breeders, beware the "breeder" who says they don't need to health test their dogs or that the health testing is just too expensive. It's not and that's not a good enough excuse! If it was such a hard test to come by and so costly (which it obviously isn't), then why on earth would I even bother getting my neutered male tested when he will never be part of anyone's breeding program? It's just no excuse. It's better to know what you're getting passed down from your puppy's parents than not to.