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Cocoa, the dog who has to wear goggles for the rest of her life

Megan and Cocoa

There is a rare eye disease in dogs called pannus or chronic superficial keratitis. It is believed to be a hereditary condition that is prevalent in certain dog breeds such as German shepherds and border collies with predisposing factors such increased exposure to ultraviolet light and high altitudes.

The symptoms include a dark pigment covering the cornea which impairs vision. Both eyes are usually affected but one may be worse than the other. The condition starts with an elevated pink mass on the cornea. The third eyelid normally appears thickened and inflamed.

Cocoa is a collie mix who lives with Megan Novak in Worthing, West Sussex, UK. She adopted Cocoa in Greece and brought her to the UK in 2013 after volunteering with a charity that rescues dogs and finds homes for them.

In 2021 Megan noticed a cloudiness in both of Cocoa’s eyes. She thought it was cataracts but a veterinarian diagnosed pannus. It seems that because she had some border collie in her she was more susceptible to this disease. Bearing in mind the bright light of Greece, I wonder if some damage was done in Greece.

Megan had to buy £100 pair of special goggles which cuts out UV light to protect further damage to Cocoa’s corneas. Megan says that she is a dog walker so she is outside all day and this may have been a factor which exacerbated the disease. She believes that the sun’s UV rays are higher than they used to be in the UK which may be another factor.

A veterinarian suggested by a product called ‘doggles” which are like swimming goggles with two eyepieces but she decided to buy a product called Rex Specs. They don’t sit on individual eyes as you can see in the photograph and they look rather cool actually.

Megan says that Cocoa is still a happy girl. It seems that she is able to tolerate the goggles well which is a good thing because she will have to wear them for the rest of her life. I don’t know whether she only wears them she goes outside which is where she would be more exposed to UV light.

Megan says that Cocoa is her life and when she marries her boyfriend, Cocoa is going to be her dog of honour and ring bearer. Cocoa will walk down the aisle with her and her fiancé knows that he is second to Cocoa 😉.

In addition to wearing special goggles to protect the eyes, pannus is treated with topical corticosteroids, normally prednisolone or dexamethasone. Sometimes veterinarians use an immune modulating drug such as cyclosporine. They might inject steroids under the conjunctiva. If there is a secondary infection a veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics. It seems a not all veterinarians prescribe the kind of goggles that Cocoa wears.

These are treatments which suppress the symptoms and manage the disease but don’t cure it. They halt the progression of it. Although it is said that some aspects of the disease may be reversed.

Sometimes a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist is brought in to treat this condition particularly when it is more aggressive. The med info comes from VCA Hospitals in the USA.

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