INDICATIONS FOR USE
The most common reason eye protection devices are used in the dog is to prevent self-trauma. Eyes that are fragile, such as those with deep corneal wounds (ulcers) or following surgical repair, must be protected from self-inflicted or inadvertent injury that could complicate healing or lead to vision threatening consequences.
While dogs infrequently try to rub their eyes directly, they are much more likely to rub them through closed eyelids using their paws, pillows, furniture, blankets, carpet, etc. The major complications of self-trauma are eyelid skin abrasion and hair loss, dehiscence (breaking down) of sutures placed in the eye and eyelid, and rupture of deep corneal ulcers. Bacteria and other microorganisms are also introduced to corneal wounds, further increasing the risk or severity of infection.
In addition to limiting the risk of self- trauma, these protection devices act as rigid “bumpers” to guard against injury to eyes that are healing, yet have impaired vision.
PROTECTIVE NECK COLLARS: Aka Elizabethan collars or e-collars
In general, use of e-collars is indicated for dogs with eyes that are fragile or in which self-trauma has been observed. An added benefit of e-collars in contrast to goggles, visors and masks, is that they do not require removal to medicate the eyes. Elizabethan collars also hinder hand biting by aggressive dogs when instilling eye medications. These collars are designed to be worn 24/7. The dogs eat, sleep and drink with them in place, provided they are fitted properly, and fed in weighted food and water dishes that are smaller than the diameter of the funneled collar.
Rigid plastic e-collars: Opt for the clear versions to improve visibility. This collar type is currently the classic protection device used in dogs with corneal ulcerations, injuries and following ocular surgery. Examples include Buster ClicTM, Kong EZ CollarTM, and VETVIEWTM, with the latter two having a soft vinyl covering around the neck to limit chaffing. Collar sizes are selected so that they extend 1-2” beyond the end of the nose, when positioned at the base of the neck. Dogs will happily demonstrate their ability to rub their eyes while in a kennel by pushing the e- collar against the bars until their eyes are exposed. When that happens, time to up-size.
Soft versions of the e-collar: Many brands are available, one of which is the Comfy ConeTM. These are flexible and cushioned, however they easily crush in on the sides when pressure is applied. They are opaque and completely obstruct vision. These collars can be good choice following some eyelid surgeries and for non-fragile corneas.
Inflatable neck rings or “doughnuts” can limit the ability of the paws to reach the eyes, but they do not prevent eye rubbing on other objects or from inadvertently bumping their visually impaired or fragile eyes. Therefore, they are not a good protection option for most eye conditions.
GOGGLES, VISORS AND MASKS
Advantages over the e-collar: These devices fit closer to the face, provide a wider range of view and enable navigation through doggy doors, door frames, hallways, while limiting injury to owner’s calves, furniture and wall paint. They effectively shield eyes from grasses, brush and projectile debris. Tinting is available in most devices to provide UV light protection, especially beneficial to dogs with chronic superficial keratitis (“pannus”), a condition exacerbated by UV sun exposure. Easier access to food and water bowls. They can be very effective in preventing ocular injury dogs with low level vision or blindness.
Disadvantages: Goggles that are fitted too close to the eyes and contact eyelid skin, are too easily shifted on the face, therefore are not recommended following eye or eyelid surgery. All of these devices must be removed during instillation of eye medications. Care must be taken not to bump fragile eyes while removing and replacing the devices, and a second person may be needed to hold paws that may quickly rub eyes during instillation of medications.
Doggles™: Close fitting goggles with elastic security straps, available in several frame sizes. Use not recommended for fragile eyes or following eye surgery.
Optivizor™: Made of soft, 2mm thick clear PVC, marketed for eye and face protection. Resembles a clear “welding mask” with a Velcro collar and chin strap. Visor is suspended on the forehead to position visor in front of the eyes. Ears are outside the visor, improving aeration.
Different sizes are available to accommodate length of the nose.
Rex Specs K9 Eyewear™ – These resemble “ski goggles” with a large spherical lens design allowing for a full range of view. Soft foam edge fits snuggly on the face, protecting the eyes from dust and projectile debris. Lenses provide excellent UV protection. These goggles are more stable in the face, while allowing for full jaw motion. Good option for working and highly active dogs.