A dog relaxes in a pair of protective glasses.

Do Dogs Need Sunglasses?

While they’re often used to make a fashion statement, people primarily wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Over time, prolonged exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of age-related eye disorders like cataracts. Dogs can develop cataracts and other ocular conditions as they age, but sunlight doesn’t typically play a large role. Our pets simply don’t live long enough to get exposed to that much sunlight.

What sunlight dogs do get exposed to isn’t usually as dangerous to them as it might be to us. Robert English, a veterinarian specializing in eye care, notes that most breeds are relatively safe from direct sunlight as a result of their heavy brows and deep-set eyes.

For some pups, however, sunglasses may be more than a fun accessory to show off at the dog park. Though the sun’s rays aren’t known to cause any canine ocular diseases, they can make certain conditions worse.

Sun Exposure and Pannus in Dogs

Chronic Superficial Keratitis (more commonly known as pannus) is an autoimmune disease of the cornea that can lead to vision loss and blindness in dogs. Like other autoimmune diseases, pannus “tricks” the immune system into attacking healthy cells. If left untreated, this can result in severe scarring across a dog’s cornea. The disease is not usually painful, but it can dramatically affect a dog’s life and standard of living. Pet owners can identify pannus by looking for a pink-white film around the lower-outer edges of their dog’s eyes.

There is no cure for pannus and veterinarians aren’t exactly sure what causes it. What they do know for sure is that UV rays speed the disease’s progression. Treatment generally involves both topical and injectable anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids. Veterinarians may also recommend reducing exposure to direct sunlight. Protective eyewear can play an important role in making this happen, especially for active dogs or those who live in very sunny or high-altitude regions. At least one brand of protective canine eyewear, Rex Specs, was developed specifically to help address pannus.

German Shepherds and Greyhounds are among the breeds most likely to develop pannus.

More Reasons Your Dog May Need Protective Eyewear

Stopping the progression of eye conditions like pannus is just one reason to consider purchasing a pair of “doggles.” For brachycephalic breeds like Pugs and Boston Terriers, prominent eyeballs present a regular injury risk. Dr. Brady Beale, an instructor in veterinary ophthalmology, notes that breeds like these are “much more susceptible to abrasions, ulcers, and cuts” than long-faced dogs. Sunglasses or goggles can also alleviate symptoms for dogs who regularly suffer from eye discomfort or who have previously injured themselves. Elizabethan collars are a more common choice, but some veterinarians may recommend protective eyewear for dogs recovering from ocular surgeries.

Learn More About Your Dog’s Eyes

Want to learn more about the canine eye? Check out these articles from the PetPlace library: