Health & Environment

‘Doggles’ Sunglasses Help Protect Dogs With Pannus From Harmful UV Rays

German Shepherds have a higher chance of developing pannus, a condition that can lead to blindness. Dogs living in areas with a high UV index are at increased risk.
By Dorian Martin, Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences July 22, 2019

Sadie the dog wearing goggles
Sadie, a German Shepherd, wears ‘doggles’ as part of a treatment plan to protect her eyesight from damage caused by pannus.

Courtesy of Beatriz Vidal

Wearing her Doggles sunglasses, Sadie projects a jet pilot’s intensity as she plays outdoors at her Brenham home.

More importantly, the eyewear is a critical part of a treatment plan prescribed by Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital to protect the German Shepherd’s eyesight from further damage caused by pannus.

This chronic inflammatory condition, which often attacks the cornea, is caused when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues.

German Shepherds are one of the rare breeds that have a higher chance of developing this progressive condition, which can lead to blindness. In addition, dogs living in areas with a high UV index—such as Texas—or at higher altitudes are at increased risk.

Beatriz Vidal, Sadie’s owner, noticed a film beginning to grow over the dog’s eyes in 2017. A Brenham veterinarian prescribed steroids and Sadie’s health improved. However, after the dog developed an eye infection and regressed, Vidal decided to bring her to Texas A&M’s renowned veterinary hospital.

“We got her in there just in time,” Vidal said. “If we had waited any longer, it could have been a different story.”

The hospital staff diagnosed Sadie’s condition and started intensive treatment that included eye drops and topical anti-inflammatory medications. Sadie’s eyes began to clear up within 10 days.

“We are often able to clear the cornea of blood vessels with treatment; however, the pigmentary changes that occur with chronic disease are often permanent,” said Dr. Erin Scott, assistant professor in ophthalmology. “It is important that owners are aware this condition is controllable but not curable—so life-long therapy is indicated to control inflammation and modulate the body’s immune response.”

The staff also recommended that Vidal purchase a pair of Doggles for Sadie that will protect her eyes while outdoors for an extended period of time, since the eyewear helps to limit UV light.

“Not all dogs tolerate wearing them and not all owners are interested in getting Doggles for their dogs, so it is not required, just recommended,” Scott said. “The Doggles shouldn’t cause discomfort; there are many different sizes to fit all breeds of dogs.”

Dogs always have been an integral part of Vidal’s life.

Her parents owned two small dogs while she was a child and Vidal made sure that her own children grew up with the loving presence of a beagle. Yet, the Brenham resident had always dreamed of owning a big dog one day.

That day came as a surprise when her boyfriend presented Vidal with a backpack that contained a small, furry German Shepherd puppy that looked like a little bear.

In the four years since, Sadie has since grown into a 76-pound dog who thinks she is a lap dog.

“She’s my baby girl,” Vidal said. “She brings a lot of joy and happiness to everyone.”

The Comparative Ophthalmology Service staff has enjoyed working with Sadie and Ms. Vidal.

“Sadie has been an excellent patient for us, allowing us to examine her eyes closely with our specialized instruments,” Scott said. “Ms. Vidal has also done a wonderful job caring for Sadie; our success relies a great deal on our client’s dedication to treating their pet’s eyes at home!”

The admiration is mutual.

“The hospital staff have been amazing, very patient and very thorough,” Vidal said. “They explained everything to us and we were able to ask any questions that we wanted. They were very loving toward Sadie.”

This article by Dorian Martin originally appeared on the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences website.

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