Blindness in pets can be caused by a number of factors. Many blind pets are born without vision or may lose their sight gradually, that’s not the case with every pet. In some cases, blindness can occur suddenly. SARDS is one of the most common causes of vision loss in pets.
What is SARDS?
Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome effects the function of retinal tissue and causes rapid vision loss. Vision loss from SARDS typically occurs quickly over a period of 24 hours to a month. SARDS occurs only in adult dogs, usually between the ages of 6 to 14 years and mostly in females. Larger breed dogs are most at risk, however dachshunds and Schnauzers are also predisposed to the condition. Although less common, other purebred and mixed breeds can also have SARDS.
Symptoms of SARDS
Although sudden blindness is the most obvious indicator of the disease, dogs with SARDS may also experience the following symptoms:
- Infrequent blinking or mild eye redness
- Dilated pupils with little or no response to light
- Increased appetite
- Increased thirst and urination
- Sudden weight gain
These symptoms and behavioral changes can be indicators of SARDS as well as other conditions. It’s vital that you pay attention to any change in your dog’s behavior or eyesight. Pets that exhibit one or more of these symptoms should immediately be assessed by a Veterinarian. Your Vet will assess your dog’s eyesight and work to create a proper treatment plan and diagnosis. Pets with vision loss may even be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist or other specialist to receive further treatment and testing.
Can SARDS Be Prevented?
With it’s sudden onset SARDS may seem to come our of the blue, however there are indicators and dogs considered at risk for the condition. As discussed earlier, most dogs with sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome or SARDS follow a few key indicators, including:
- Dog is considered an at risk breed for SARDS
- Dog is a mixed breed or a purebred small breed
- Spayed female dog
- Most pets diagnosed with SARDS are considered middle-age, between the ages of 7 to 10 years
- Pet is moderately overweight
Prior to losing their sight, most SARDS pets will exhibit the following symptoms:
- Extreme hunger and weight gain
- Excessive thirst or drinking more than usual
- More frequent urination, often a larger than usual amount
- In rare cases, a dog may experience loss of smell as well, but this is not as common as other symptoms
- Dog’s eyes have a wide eyed appearance because they are opening their eyes as much as possible in order to see.
Although SARDS is not preventable, knowing the risks and signs of the condition can help. Certainly managing your dog’s weight through diet and exercise can help improve their overall health.
Sadly, there is no scientifically proven treatment for SARDS and most dogs are irreversibly blind. The good news is that the condition is not painful and dogs living with the condition go on to live long, happy lives. And unlike other conditions that affect sight, most dogs with the condition are unlikely to experience any other internal problems. Your dog’s vision loss may never reverse, however some pets have seen some improvement in visual cues.
Acute blindness can be an adjustment for both pets and pet parents. But luckily sight is not a dog’s dominant sense, with adjustment your dog will begin to rely more heavily on their senses, usually their sense of smell. As a pet parent there are many things that you can do to help your pet adjust to living without vision.
How to Help Your Blind Pet
There are a few simple things that you can do to help your blind pet adjust to their change in eyesight:
- Avoid sudden changes to your surroundings. Once your dog adjusts and learns the environment around them, drastic changes can be even more alarming for blind pets.
- Give your pet the tools they need to navigate their home safely. The blind dog halo will gently bump into furniture & walls before the pet does. Keeping the pet safe while giving them the confidence to stay active.
- Switch to verbal and tactile commands. It seems like common sense but avoid using hand gestures to communicate with your pet. By guiding your dog with your voice and gently touching them as you enter and exit a room can help make your dog feel safe and aware of where they are in the house.
See Cooper use the Blind Dog Halo to safely get around his house.