Rex Specs co-founder speaks on dog eye care

This photo features a Coast Guard K9 wearing dog eye protection. Superimposed on the photo is a message from Rex Spec about the donation drive.

Rex Specs dog goggles are high-quality protective eyewear for the active and working dog. They typically retail for $80, but this holiday season, the company is hosting a donation drive for the Military Working Dog Team Support Association (MWDTSA). If you donate $40, Rex Specs will work with MWDTSA to deliver protective eyewear for a military working dog deployed in a global combat zone.

This year, we have set the goal to include Rex Specs in all 200 Q1-2019 care packages that MWDTSA will ship out in February. These goggles shield the eyes of MWDs from helicopter rotor wash, desert sand storms, winter blizzards, and other environmental hazards. With the holidays coming up, it’s a great way to honor our nation’s four-legged heroes.

MWDTSA had the opportunity to talk with Rex Specs co-founder, Jesse Emilo, to discuss the need for K9 eye protection.

Q: In what situations can dogs benefit from protective eyewear?

This photo shows two dogs on a hiking trail, wearing Rex Specs dog eye care goggles. The tinted lenses shield their eyes from the intense sun.
Photo credit: Drew Smith

A: In any situation where humans wear eye protection, it’s important to consider whether a dog also needs eye protection.

UV rays, dust, dirt, debris—and even grass, seeds, and sticks—pose potential hazards for dogs. Canines living at high altitude and in sunny environments experience intense and prolonged UV exposure that can harm their eyes. In some cases, time in the sun can aggravate existing medical conditions such as iris atrophy or pannus. Goggles provide UV protection so that a dog’s time outdoors does not need to be limited or restricted.

Dogs that are deployed from helicopters (MWDs, Police K9s, Search and Rescue, etc.) or that live and work in areas with lots of particulates use goggles to help protect from foreign objects getting into the eye.

There are dogs that accompany their handlers in unique situations and environments, such as chemistry labs or welding shops, where eye protection is worn by all—so why not the dog? Many dogs wear goggles for protection while sticking their head out the car window or while riding in a motorcycle sidecar.

Whether your dog’s eyes are healthy or they suffer from an eye disease, many people choose to protect their four-legged companion’s eyes before an injury occurs.

Working dogs such as MWDs, hunting dogs, and other highly trained K9s have hundreds or thousands of hours of training. An eye injury could end their career. Rex Specs act as insurance to protect your partner from eye harm.

Q: What are the risks dogs (and their owners) face if a dog does not wear protective goggles?

This photo shows a working dog on leash, wearing Rex Specs goggles.
Rex Specs dog goggles are designed tough for the working dog. Features include a low-profile strap system for custom fit and harness integration, as well as a durable frame that stands up to rugged use. Spherical ANSI-rated UV400 lenses provide a full field of view and impact protection. (Photo courtesy of Rex Specs)

A: Some dogs have eye conditions that are genetically inherited, and some face on-the-job or other environmental hazards. The risks associated with not wearing goggles depend on the circumstances.

One of our dogs, Yaz, lacks pigment around the eye, resulting in severe sunburn when outside all day. Her eye would get red and puffy for a few days after being in the sun for too long. Sometimes, she would even develop a scab on her eyelid. At the age of 8, she needed entropion surgery on the eye.

The surgery was costly, and we felt badly about bringing her on all-day outdoor adventures without protecting her eyes—before and especially after surgery. Now that we have Rex Specs, we can bring her along on the boat or out in the sun for a long day, with confidence that she’s O.K.

Our other dog, Tuckerman, was diagnosed with pannus at the age of 2. It’s an autoimmune condition that affects the cornea (the clear) part of the eye. If left untreated, it eventually can scar the eye so badly that it causes vision impairment or blindness. This condition can worsen with UV exposure.

One treatment for pannus is daily steroid drops. This prescription is not cheap when accumulated over a lifetime. Goggles are a less expensive alternative. Tuckerman still has pannus, but at the age of 9, he’s doing well. With his Rex Specs, we feel good about bringing him on long runs and adventures, knowing he’s protected from UV rays.

Q: Some dogs swipe their eye area with a paw in an effort to remove an irritant. What other signals/symptoms should dog owners watch for that might indicate an eye injury or irritation?

A: Wiping or pawing at the eye should definitely trigger owners to take a closer look at their dog’s eyes. Other signs of possible irritation include discharge, redness, or swelling. If you suspect something is wrong with your dog’s eye, document the issue, take photos, and check it frequently. If it’s becoming worse or not improving, consult your veterinarian. Eyes are sensitive and delicate. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so call your vet if you have any questions or concerns. Treating an injury early can help keep the pain down, expedite the healing time, and minimize the cost associated with the injury.

Q: Are there any basic first aid/home care tips that owners should know when caring for their dogs’ eyes? In addition to goggles, are there any particular dog eye care supplies owners should always have on hand?

We recommend giving your dogs an overall checkup quite often, and particularly after they are exposed to harsh environments or show signs of possible injury. Check their entire body, not just their eyes. Bird-hunting dogs, for example, often run through tall grass and thorny weeds. Look closely at their paws, bodies, faces, and eyes to make sure there are no scratches, or embedded debris or grass seeds. One thing that’s nice to have on hand is saline solution, which can be used to rinse or flush a dog’s eye.

Q: What are common mistakes dog owners make when caring for their dogs’ eyes, and what should owners do instead?

A: The most common mistake might be not giving your dog’s eyes the attention they deserve. Most medical conditions get worse over time and are easy to miss if you’re not keeping an EYE on your four-legged companion. We have a lot of customers who say, “If I had only known earlier,” when they find out about a condition or injury.

Regularly check your dog’s eyes, ears, paws, nails, and body. If you see something different or something that has changed, take note and keep track of it. The more information and awareness you have from the start, the better your vet might be able to treat an injury or symptom. Also, ask your vet to examine your dog’s eyes during annual checkups or if you suspect something is wrong. Nobody knows your dog as well as you do—trust your instinct if you feel something is off.

MWDTSA is grateful for Rex Specs’ ongoing support of our nation’s military working dogs. We thank you, our readers, for supporting this year’s Rex Specs drive. These goggles protect MWDs’ eyes from harsh elements, so they can work more comfortably and safely. Let’s set a record and send a spectacular number of Rex Specs to these intrepid four-legged service members. Here’s how.

How to Keep Your Dog Active This Winter

dog-sledding

By Megan Schneider from Kurgo Products

Snowflakes are flurrying outside a frosted window while you’re curled up in front of the fireplace, hot cocoa in hand. Your pup snoozes beside you as you pet him. The last thing you want to do is get up and go outside, right? This winter, that doesn’t have to be the case! Your dog still needs exercise for his mental health and yours. Here are some fun ideas to stay active both indoors and outdoors.

Plan a puppy play date. This one is the best of both worlds. First, you get to hang out with your dog. Second, you get to hang out with your friend and his or her dog. And, bonus, you can do this one inside or out. If you want to play outside, great! You deserve a lot of credit, because it’s cold out there. Just make sure you bundle your dog up in a dog coat to keep him warm! You can go to a dog park, take a walk, or even just play fetch with the pups in your back yard. However, if you’re like me and can’t always bring yourself to brave the frozen tundra, you can also have a play date inside. Set up a mini obstacle course for your dogs – you can use things like cones, spare tires, and poles to set up a basic course – and have a little friendly competition with your pal!

Jogging with dogFind a dog park. The great thing about dog parks is that there are both indoor and outdoor parks. Whatever suits you and your pup’s lifestyle better is fine. Again, if you will be keeping him outdoors, make sure he is prepared for the cold in a warm dog jacket. You might also want to consider dog shoes or a salve, like Musher’s Secret. At the dog park, you can do all sorts of things – play fetch with a ball or Frisbee, let your dog make new friends (just be sure to keep an eye on him), run with him, or so much more. However, taking your dog to an indoor park could be more beneficial to both you and your pup than an outdoor park. First, there are no other creatures waiting to sabotage your play date. While ticks and mosquitoes are more of a summer worry, there are always a few stragglers – I’ve been pulling ticks off my dog all November long! An indoor park allows you to enjoy playtime with your pup with peace of mind. Additionally, when you play with your dog outdoors, chances are he loves to dig in the dirt or snow – this may be entertaining to watch, but it makes a lot of extra work for you later when you have to bathe him for the third time in two days. Finally, indoor parks keep both you and your dog out of the cold so you don’t have to worry about all the extra layers for both of you.

Create a scavenger hunt. This may require a little extra effort on your part, as most dogs have an amazing sense of smell. However, it will be worth the effort to see how happy this makes your dog! Snow is great for a scavenger hunt because even if you don’t have a great hiding place, the snow covers everything. Pick a few items such as treats, toys, and tennis balls and hide them across your yard. You’ll both get a decent amount of exercise trekking through the snow, and you’ll have a blast watching what he goes after first! This one can also be done indoors. Since you have less space inside, change it up a bit – show your dog a treat or a toy and tell him to sit and stay while you hide it. You can do this one at a time or with several items at once.

Bring him to your favorite retailer (or his). There are all sorts of clichés about kids in candy stores and girls in shoe stores – but have you ever seen a dog in a pet store? He will be in literal (read: figurative) heaven traipsing down aisles filled with toys and treats. You can let him pick out a new dog toy or new treat flavor, or maybe even a new dog bed. Additionally, you can also take your pup along to your favorite store. Many major stores, such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, and LUSH Cosmetics all allow dogs in their stores. Shopping and hanging out with your dog? It doesn’t get any better than that! Just always be sure to call the store first to make sure dogs fit into their specific store policies.

Dog and snowshoesBundle up and get outside! This one is the most obvious of all, which is why I saved it for last. Yes, winter is cold and snowy and we don’t all love it. But chances are, your dog does. So bundle yourself and your dog up, get outside, and start a game of fetch or go for a walk. After all, there’s nothing cuter than watching your dog frolic through freshly fallen snow. Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, try something new – there are all sorts of fun winter sports you can do with your dog, such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or skijoring. All three require a bit more effort than your typical snow day with your dog, especially skijoring – it is a new sport that combines dog sledding with cross-country skiing. But all three promise to be tons of fun, as well!
Whatever you decide to do with your dog this winter, just have fun. And, most importantly, make sure you always make time to exercise your pup – it will keep him both happy and healthy!

Megan Schneider graduated summa cum laude from Temple University in 2016 with a degree in advertising research & strategy. She has written content for blogs as well as for advertising and promotional materials, and is currently writing for Kurgo, a company committed to helping people and their dogs get out and enjoy the world together by creating high quality dog travel and outdoor products.