SARDS: Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome

The first time I ever heard about SARDS was last October. That was when I met "Scotty Boy" and featured him in my newsletter. His new mom, Dorie, adopted him from an animal shelter in Las Vegas. He had been abandoned in a WalMart parking lot. Someone had just left him there crying. Dorie saved Scotty Boy, and developed a Halo Vest which made his life much easier.

Suzi and Scotty Boy both lost their sight to a disease called SARDS. 

Just what is SARDS?

Sudden Acquired Retinal Syndrome (SARDS) is an auto-immune disease. An auto-immune disease is a disease where the body forms antibodies to attack its own cells. In SARDS the body produces antibodies that attack the cells in the retina, causing blindness. It most commonly occurs in middle aged female dogs, but can occur in any breed, age, or gender.

Dr. Plechner’s SARDS Clinical Case Study

SARDS appears to be an auto-immune disease that will lead to blindness.

It stems from a hormonal antibody imbalance that allows a deregulated immune system to not only lose their protective functions, but allows their system to lose recognition of self tissue and turn against the body and cause self tissue destruction.

This can occur, when the natural cortisol that is produced by the middle layer adrenal cortex of the body is either, deficient, bound or defective.

When this occurs, an excess production of sex hormones are produced by the inner layer adrenal cortex.

I personally believe that the offending hormone is due to estrogen.

read more...

SARDS Clinical Case Study

What are some of the early symptoms your dog may exhibit before the onset of SARDS?

According to their website, sardsawareness.org, dogs that develop SARDS have a history of some or all of the following behavioral and clinical symptoms:

  • Reluctance to jump on or 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.
  • Polydypsia (excessive drinking)
  • Polyuria (excessive urinating)
  • Hypersalivation
  • Tearing eyes
  • Seasonal skin allergies
  • Food allergies
  • Vaccination allergies

The above symptoms may appear months or years before the onset of noticeable visual deficiencies in your dog. If you notice that your dog has any of these symptoms you should visit a veterinary ophthalmologist.

How is SARDS diagnosed?

When examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist, a dog with SARDS will typically be blind in both eyes, but will have a relatively normal appearing retina. SARDS is definitively diagnosed by a test of retinal function called an electroretinogram, or ERG. In dogs with SARDS the ERG waveform is extinguished, or flat line, because there is no measurable function remaining.

What is the treatment for SARDS?

There are currently two forms of treatment for SARDS. For immediate treatment, a strong prescription combination of steroids and antibiotics can help to suppress the auto-immune response and stop the rapid deterioration of vision to preserve what vision your dog currently has. There is also an experimental treatment that uses immunoglobulins (IVIg) to potentially help restore or maintain sight capability. IVIg treatment is relatively new and there is no data that shows the long term effects on dogs that have received this treatment.


It is with a heavy heart that I must share the sad news of the passing of Scotty Boy. He died December 2012 from SARDS.

Dorie is taking Scotty Boy's legacy forward.

Helping other blind dogs has become her mission in life.

Scotty Boy had a doctor who is one of the doctors in the world who can cure SARDS if it is caught early. His website is:  www.drplechner.com