What is SARDS?

Tilly is blind because of SARDS.

Tilly is blind because of SARDS.

Tilly is blind because of SARDS.

13th March 2011
My darling Tillie has now been blind for 8 weeks.   She is 10years and 5months. Apart from being an exceptionally spoilt and loved dog she is now totally dependent on me, her “mother”.   Here is our story.

a dog with nuclear sclerosis

a dog with nuclear sclerosis

On 17th June 2010 I took her to see Uncle Geoff – “her eyes look glazed at night” Geoff took out his instrument and looked into her eyes and said that she wouldn’t go blind but in his opinion she had “nuclear sclerosis”.   So I went home quite content.

Several months passed and in September I went on holidays leaving Tillie with her carer for 2 weeks.   She ended up being operated for a haematoma on her ear – nothing to do I believe with what is to follow.   I came home and we continued our lives.    She had put on some weight – her food had been changed from freshly cooked fish and potatoes to dry food – blue cod and tapioca – 1 cup a day as on the back of the packet.   Geoff said that she should only have ½ cup at this stage her weight had increased from 5.2 to 5.4kg.   By December she was 5.8kg.

On 11 Jan 2011 back seeing Geoff her weight had increased to 5.9kg.   So the recommendations were blood tests on the Monday and Tuesday.   On the Monday Geoff checked her eyes as I said she was bumping into the wall and furniture occasionally.   She definitely COULD see.   However I decided that I wanted to take her to an eye specialist and so I came home and phoned Dr Geoff Smith at the North Shore Veterinary Specialist Hospital at Crows Nest.   Channette decided she wanted to come with me as he had been her lecturer some years before.   So we met and saw Dr Smith and after looking into her eyes with his equipment looked at me and said “Helen she is totally blind and has transient Cushing’s disease.  We do not know what the correlation is but  the Cushing’s will pass.”
I was shocked and shattered and just could not believe it – however this was the case – my Tillie is now a totally blind dog.

Tillie’s progression as a blind dog.
Before leaving the veterinary practice I purchased a harness so that when on lead she would not have her neck hurt if suddenly having to save her falling down stairs etc.
I then came home crying my eyes out and absolutely shattered.   The days progressed and I went into a state or depression – this lasted till 3 weeks ago.

I phoned  Vet HQ and asked Jemmah if there was a blind dog trainer to train me and Tillie on how we would cope.  Jemmah said I should phone Liarne Henry – K9 Dog trainer – who does our Puppy school and Dog Training.   Liarne replied to my story was that she trains blind dogs. So we made an appointment for the first of four visits to my home on 18th January 2011

Liarne is an animal lover, she is gentle, caring and an amazing person.  After spending a good hour making friends and lots of yummies later… Liarne stated that had she not known that Tillie was blind she would have assumed that Tillie was 3 years blind.   Not because Tillie is my dog but she has always been very clever.  So we started learning together.   Nothing was to be left on floors, no moving of furniture, food  or her water bowl.   She learnt not to touch anything at the park with a single command “leave it”, to go into her travel cage (so that she can travel by plane) to go through the doggie door , up and down stairs and many other things.  I also bought 2 bells – one for me and one for Tillie –as a couple of times she snuck up on me and I trod on her. Now  I can hear where she is – she hears where I am.

It is now 8 weeks since 13th January –and she has relearned her way of life – yes her personality has changed a little, but her tail wags when people visit, when we have breakfast and dinner and when she has a good rub on her back – Liarne recommended this.  She looks at you as if she can see, is off lead in the park – the bell and my voice and has a big smile on her face when there.    All is well and we have totally settled into our new way of life.  Her weight is now 5.7kg and her Cushing’s shape is diminishing.

-Helen K

Tillie K – Blind because of SARDS

Helen brought Tillie in and was worried she was going blind. She was definitely not blind and had cloudiness to the cornea that we call Nuclear Sclerosis

Over the following months we noted some interesting changes in Tillie. The final result was as Helen mentioned, a Tuesday when I examined her and she could see to Thursday when she was completely Blind. I have never seen this condition before and Jeff Smith a mentor of mine said that the findings in the eye are very mild and to a non-ophthalmologist the signs would be missed. However Jeff new exactly what the diagnosis was and on a specific blood test Tillie was indeed suffering from Hyperadrenocorticism – know in the human and dog world as Cushing’s disease.

The blindness is due to Sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS). It can occur in any breed, but female dogs may be predisposed. Approximately 4000 cases are seen in the United States annually.

The cause of SARDS are not completely understood although Cushing’s Disease is one of the main factors. Very few dogs with cushing’s disease get SARDS so its not completely understood what else predisposes a dog to SARDS.

Symptoms include sudden permanent blindness, but may occur more slowly over several days, weeks or months, dilated pupils, and loss of the pupillary light reflex. Other symptoms commonly seen are similar to those seen with Cushing’s disease and include increased water consumption and urination, weight gain, confusion, restlessness, behavioral changes and lethargy. These symptoms may develop over a few months preceding the onset of SARDS.

To Helen and Tilly’s credit they are both doing very well with the massive adjustment. Blindness is a hard ailment but there is no reason why the ailment can not be overcome and a happy life for both owner and pet achieved.

Geoff

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