Day 1 — Onset of “Sudden” Blindness

Posted April 19th, 2009 by spammypie

Thank you for visiting Oscar’s blog.  Normally, Oscar’s postings are full of photographs of Oscar and his Mommy, and the locations that they are visiting.  But this posting is very different, and as a result, is not like Oscar’s regular blog postings.

After reading this post, please read some of his earlier postings and view his wonderful photographs so that you can better acquaint yourself with our lovable baby, Oscar Mayer, Der Uber Schnitzel, and us.  :-)

Thank you for visiting.

Oscar, Suzanne, and Jay.

The following are a few terms and acronyms that you should familiarize yourself with before reading this blog posting:

Auto-Immune Disease — A disease in which a body produces antibodies to attack its normally useful and healthy tissues and cells.
ERG — Electroretinogram
IMR — Immune-Mediated Retinitis
SARDS — Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome

Normally Oscar’s blog postings are in his own “voice”, but due to a recent event involving his eye-sight, he is temporarily incapacitated.  So, we, his Mommy and Daddy, are going to write a series of postings about his condition.

Oscar will resume his own voice after we complete our series of postings on SARDs and IMR.  Please read on to find out what happened to our little baby, Oscar.  We  hope the postings will educate you about his condition and that your new found awareness of SARDs and IMR may help save your own dog’s vision and life.

While we have had many emotional responses to what transpired during the past month, our initial objective is to share with you factual information about Oscar’s diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and recovery.  We will elaborate more on our emotional experiences with the various Drs. and people that we have come to know after we present useful information about SARDS/IMR.

Additionally, because there is so much to cover, we will be writing about SARDS/IMR and our experiences over the next few months, one week at a time with a posting each week.  There is just too much to cover on a single posting, and we wish to make small progress each week rather than to put it off until it is completely done.

So, let us begin with Day 1….

On Friday, March 13, 2009, Oscar was tentatively diagnosed with SARDs.  We say tentatively diagnosed because the veterinary ophthalmologists were unsure of the exact diagnosis, but were inclined to diagnose Oscar’s condition as SARDs, as opposed to IMR.

The ophthalmologists who diagnosed Oscar were Dr. Blocker and Dr. Treadwell of Eye Care for Animals in Tustin, CA.

SARDs and IMR are two rare auto-immune diseases that cause sudden blindness in canines.  An auto-immune disease is a disease in which the body produces anti-bodies to attack and destroy its own healthy and useful tissue.  In this case, Oscar’s body produced antibodies that were attacking its own retinal cells, causing the rapid decline of his vision.  Over a span of 3 days, Oscar’s vision went from seemingly normal to nearly blind.

Canines that ultimately develop SARDs/IMR have a history of some or all of the following behavioral and clinical symptoms:

  • Reluctance to jump on/off platforms, such as beds and sofas, in dim light conditions.
  • Reluctance to walk down the stairs in dim light conditions.
  • Reluctance to chase a ball if it is closer than 10 feet, but will chase it if thrown further away.
  • Abnormally dilated pupils for months, or years, before the “sudden” onset of blindness.
  • Polyphagia (“excessive” eating), often causing weight gain.
  • Polyuria (“excessive” urinating)
  • Polydypsia (“excessive” drinking)
  • Hypersalivation
  • Tearing eyes
  • Seasonal skin allergies
  • Food allergies
  • Vaccination allergies
  • History of previous, or current, tumors (neoplasia), which is applicable to IMR, not SARDs.

To confirm objectively if Oscar had indeed lost visual function, an ERG was taken to measure electrical activity in the retina.  To our dismay, the test results showed that there was no electrical activity in Oscar’s retina.

But we were certain that Oscar had some form of vision, as we knew that he was able to track our slow movements by sight, particularly in brightly lit conditions, such as being outside in sunlight.  However, his indoor and night-time vision, which canines have superior ability over day-time vision, was significantly absent, if not completely gone.

Additionally, a bright-light and dim-light maze test was performed to confirm his day-time and night-time vision.  Both tests showed objective evidence of diminished vision.

Day 1 was quite traumatic for us, as we did not expect to hear such a diagnosis of a rare and incurable condition.

There were so many terms that were medical and foreign to us that we were too stunned to ask any intelligent questions at the veterinary clinic.

So, we wrote down a few things we had heard while the Drs. were diagnosing Oscar, such as “arterial attenuation”, “pale optic nerve”, “normal fundus”, and most importantly,  “SARDS” , “IMR”, and “intravenous human immunoglobulin treatment”.

This concludes the blog posting for Day 1.  The next posting will focus on the research that we did during the weekend immediately following Oscar’s diagnosis.

We’d like to close this posting with the following:

In the U.S., approximately 4,000 cases of SARDs/IMR are reported each year.  With a large canine population of over 70 million in the U.S., 4000 cases is relatively miniscule, and the condition of SARDs/IMR does not receive any attention relatively compared to diseases and medical conditions such as heartworms, mange, ruptured discs, or other genetic diseases that many canines are predisposed to.

It is for the above reason that so few pet owners and Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) are aware of the existance of such diseases.

Ask any or all of your canine pet-owning family members and friends if they have heard of SARDs or IMR.  Better yet, please forward this blog entry to them and ask them to take our poll below.

Meanwhile, as you are already here, please participate in the brief poll below and let us know about your SARDs/IMR awareness.

To our personal friends and family,

Please answer the poll as you would have prior to your knowledge of what has happened to Oscar, before we started to converse about SARDs/IMR.

4 Responses to “Day 1 — Onset of “Sudden” Blindness”

  1. Link

    I had wondered why there had not been blog activity in awhile and I was worried. I’m so sorry for this condition that has severely impacted Oscar’s vision!

    I had not heard of those eye conditions you mention.

    Sometimes people who are statutorily blind–sometimes they still have vision of CF (count fingers-at close distance) or LP (light perception) Sounds like Oscar still has some vision like perhaps LP but still in effect, is stat. blind. Stat. blind in people is 20/200 or worse in both eyes with best correction.

    So weird to me that Oscar’s visual loss was so quick/sudden.

    I hope there is some kind of cure or something that can improve his vision. I’ll be monitoring the blog for further updates.

    Again, I’m so sorry!


  2. My Bologna Has a First Name

    […] This blog posting chronicles Oscar’s experience with SARDS.  To get caught up, please read Day 1’s entry by clicking here. […]

  3. suzanne

    Thank your for your helpful blog. My Sam,terrier-cocker mix just lost his sight from SARDS. I had to do a lot of research on my own and am still in a state of shock. My spunky, bold, and independent little Sam became lethargic and fearful. We are both learning to function differently. I had been a special education teacher and am using the knowledge I have to make adaptations for him. Sadly, Sam is a companion for my older dog who has disabilities. I am running assisted living for dysfunctional canines! Its is good to know others are out there.
    Suzanne, Opie, and Sammy

  4. Julie

    I am sorry to hear about Oscar, and I understand the emotional toll that this takes on you. My 4 year old mini dachshund Libby was diagnosed with SARDS this past Friday. It was such a shock to us. We had noticed her acting funny for a few days before and then on Friday, it was like all the lights went out. All though the ERG showed no functioning, we think she can see shadows to a point. I will keep watching your site, since we are going through the same thing.