Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS)

Blindness may occur in your dog for different reasons. Diabetes may lead to cataracts and blindness, hypertension secondary to kidney failure may result in retinal detachment and blindness. A less known cause of sudden blindness in dogs is Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS).

SARDS is a condition that can affect any dog and the median age of diagnosis is 8.5 years. It is a condition that affects bitches more than dogs. There is no known cause of the condition. The cells of the rods and cones of the retina suddenly undergo cell death (apoptosis). Blindness is considered permanent and dogs usually adjust quickly to visual loss.

"A recent survey of owners of dogs affected with SARDS indicates that owners perceive the quality of their dogs' life as good. Of the 100 dogs represented in the survey, only nine owners reported that they thought their dogs' quality of life was poor. Owners also reported that navigation abilities in both the house and the yard were moderate to excellent. Forty percent of owners reported moderate to excellent navigation even in new and unfamiliar surroundings.

Forty-eight percent of the owners found no need to make special provisions for their blind dogs. Despite the decrease in play, increase in sleep, and other signs of depression, few owners found that their relationship with their dogs changed with SARDS. In fact 40 percent indicated that their relationship was improved, with most indicating a profound improvement with the relationship. 

Although 62 percent of owners in the survey felt that blindness was the most important factor in decreased quality of life, few thought that euthanasia was appropriate. In fact 95 percent of owners indicated that they would discourage euthanasia for dogs with SARDS. This included five owners who did euthanize their dogs due to SARDS but in retrospect felt that it was unnecessary. Interestingly, of the five owners indicating that euthanasia was the best choice for SARDS patients, only two of them actually euthanized their dogs." Petmd, 2019

SARDS is a frustrating condition as there is no known cause and therefore no preventative actions available. Luckily the dog can adapt and continue to have a good quality of life.


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