Unfortunately, some dogs can suffer a sudden and irreversible blindness which can be extremely distressing to their owners. The condition is known as Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) and it negatively impacts a dog’s retina resulting in them losing their sight. At the onset of the disorder, a dog’s retina will typically appear to be normal although in fact, it is not functioning as it should at all.
A vet would want to carry out a thorough examination of a dog’s eyes and would need to carry out what is known as an electroretinogram or ERG for short. The test would establish if a dog’s retina is working or if it has stopped functioning altogether. Specialist equipment is needed to carry out this type of electrical test being designed to detect even the minutest of electrical impulses which are found in the retina which is found at the back of the eye. The retina is stimulated by shining light and retinal responses are recorded by electrodes. When a retina is functioning normally, a positive “waveform” is registered.
Dogs typically need to be sedated or put under general anaesthetic for the test to the carried out safely because they need to be kept motionless while the test is being carried out. With this said, it is a painless procedure which means that very calm dogs sometimes don’t even need to be sedated for the procedure to be carried out on them.
Much research has been carried out as to why some dogs suffer from SARDS, but to date the causes remain unknown. With this said, recent studies suggest that the condition could be an autoimmune disorder which in short means, it could happen because a dog’s own immune system starts attacking body tissue because of the what is referred to as the “development of auto-antibodies”.
There are several breeds that appear to be more predisposed to suffering from SARDS which includes the following:
It is worth noting that studies also suggest that the disorder seems to affect female dogs from middle age to their senior years more than their male counterparts.
Sadly, there are no treatment options for dogs suffering from SARDS although a research group did treat several dogs with a drug known as IVIG which is designed for use on humans. The results saw some dogs regain a little of their vision, but a full recovery was not evident in any of the dogs that were given the medication. There is also a real danger of using the drug on dogs because it can cause sudden death because dogs can have a severe allergic reaction to the medication.
Apart from total blindness, dogs can display other symptoms when they develop SARDS which include the following:
Most dogs that develop Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome will show signs of being confused when they lose their sight, but they soon adapt and will rely on their other senses namely their hearing and smell. However, it’s important for owners to help their pets during this time which means making sure that everything in the home remains familiar to them and to always keep them on a lead when out on a walk using verbal commands.