Sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS) is a retinal disorder of unknown cause that results in an acute onset of permanent blindness in adult dogs. Affected dogs are typically middle aged to older, and all breeds can be affected. There is no evidence to suggest that this disease is hereditary and there is not any known means of preventing the condition. Historically, there has been no treatment available for this condition. An experimental treatment option is now available for some of these patients (see below).
The primary complaint is always acute vision loss. Most dogs will go completely blind within four weeks of the noticeable onset of vision loss, and many dogs will have total vision loss within one to two weeks. Some owners notice the first signs in poor lighting conditions.
Though many dogs have no clinical signs of illness other than blindness, some dogs will show signs typical for Cushing’s disease (increased thirst, increased urination, weight gain) though they usually test negative for Cushing’s disease. These other signs commonly resolve over time.
An electroretinogram will likely be recommended for your pet in order to evaluate retinal function. This test will confirm or rule-out the diagnosis of SARDS by quantifying how much, if any, retinal function is present.
Some dogs afflicted with SARDS become very anxious and unpredictable, probably due to the exceptional stress of sudden vision loss. However, most dogs will eventually adjust to their blindness and their other senses seem to become more sensitive over time. It is important to keep the home environment as stable as possible and objects should be kept in consistent locations. Pets should not be left outside unattended unless they are in a confined space such as a yard.
This condition is painless and we at Northwest Animal Eye Specialists feel that a good quality of life is still possible with SARDS. Where possible, however, we aim to restore vision to pets. Thus the new experimental treatment might be a consideration. It has thus far only been used on a small number of dogs. Your pet may or may not be a candidate for the treatment depending upon how long the SARDS has been present. The treatment involves IV administration of immunoglobulins. Patients with significant heart, liver, or kidney issues are poor candidates for treatment. The treatment is a chance for vision. At this early point, we don’t have success rates or know for how long any benefits will last. We know that it may not produce any improvement of vision. Lastly, this treatment would not take place at Northwest Animal Eye Specialists. Rather, it would take place with the researchers who came up with this treatment at Iowa State University or. It just depends totally on the case a) if your pet might be a candidate for therapy, and b) the specifics of the plan.