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Understanding Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Sards in Dogs

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Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration (SARDS) on set or sudden loss of vision for dogs (rarely for cats) of any pure or mixed breed. This syndrome referred to as toxic neuroretinopathy, metabolic toxic retinopathy, and silent retina syndrome. These pets are generally in good health or sometimes have liver disease and between seven and fourteen years of age, predominately more females than males. Research indicates vision loss occurs by a total destruction of the visual cell layer (the rods and cones) of the retina with subsequent blindness. Owners of dogs may notice their pet's vision decreasing five to ten days, before a complete loss of sight. Symptoms related to SARDS include, dramatic increase in drinking and appetite weeks before onset of visual loss. Also, some owners reported a concurrent decrease in hearing and smell. Blood and urine tests may link SARDS to Cushing's syndrome (hyperadrenocorticism - Caused by excessive production of the hormone ACTH by the pituitary gland. ACTH stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, attributed to accelerated aging. Symptoms include: Hair loss, skin thins and may lose resistance to fight off infections). Treatment for hyperadrenocorticism will not result in a return of vision.

If an electroretinogram (ERG) - test retinal function Specialized contact lenses are placed on the eyes of an awaken dog and flashing a series of lights in the eye. A graph of the electrical impulses records electronic signals detected by electrodes. If the ERG does not detect electrical responses or is flat and the blood pressure is normal, SARDS is most likely diagnosed. The pathophysiology of SARDS triggered by a biochemical process, resulting in a massive apoptosis (Rapid cell death of neural cells), similar to human retinal death known as glaucoma (Excessive accumulation of fluid build up in the eye, leading to decrease blood flow to the optic nerve may cause damage) leading to blindness. No cure for sudden acquired retinal degeneration. Dogs do not suffer any pain, just in a state of confusion.

Published in the Winter 2004, On the website: Westie Foundation of America, Incorporated -Katherine Parr owner (website) and researcher of the article - Elusive Diagnosis and SARDS': According to the article, Caroline D. Levin, a registered ophthalmologic nurse who has studied SARDS, suggest what may trigger this syndrome maybe linked to inadequate nutrition from some commercial pet foods, cause destructive response in the cellular network. One of many few theories, attempt to describe the possible cause of sudden acquired Retinal Degeneration. As soon as a pet owner realizes their dog exhibits any loss of vision, should immediately visit the nearest veterinary ophthalmologist.

In 2007, Iowa State University veterinary researchers led by veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Sinsa Grozdanic in the College of veterinary medicine, reported (Article: Blind Dogs Can See After Treatment for Sudden Onset Blinding Disease' Released on May 30, 2007 - Iowa State University) to have successfully treated two dogs for sudden retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS), previously incurable disease. The experiment treatment (April 12 and April 27, 2007) reversed blindness and restore sight for two dogs diagnosed with SARDS. The dogs were administered an intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg), a human blood product that contains antibodies from the plasma of thousands of blood donors. Previously it treated immune deficiencies, inflammatory diseases, and autoimmune diseases. Dr. Grozdanic said: "SARDS was first identified in the 1980s and blinds as many as 4,000 dogs each year in North America." As result of the experimental treatment, researchers were able to regain five to ten percent electrical activity in the dog's retinas. Dr. Grozandic commented by saying: "Although the dogs won't be catching any Frisbee, they can navigate and not bump into objects." Also, according to Dr. Grozdanic, the intravenous immunoglobulin treatment has limitations: Dogs with severe cardiac or kidney disease cannot tolerate the IVIg, and wont' work on dogs whose retina degeneration is advanced. Dr. Grozandic commented regarding the limitation said: "Once a dog gets SARDS, the retina degenerates quickly, so it's important the dog is treated with IVIg very soon after diagnosis. Usually dogs have SARDS longer than two months have severe retinal changes. The sooner it's treated, the better chance it will work."

According to Blind Dogs Can See After New Treatment for Sudden Onset Blind Disease', released on May 30, 2007, source Iowa State University: A dog that is a good candidate for the treatment of SARDS, hospitalization and intensive care fees, approximate $1,200 and IVIg cost $35 - 40 per pound of the dog's body weight. Regarding duration of time for treatment, Dr. Grozdanic said: "At this point, the biggest unknown is how long the treatment will last. It could be anywhere from a few weeks to a few years."

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