My Artie, My Little Loving Best Friend… Suddenly Diagnosed with SARDS, HELP!

Hi, my name is Becca and I live in Rhode Island.
My 13-yr. old Puggle Artie (just had his birthday June 26th,) was seen yesterday by an ophthalmologist regarding his cataracts due to the last few weeks of concerning behavior. Though the cataracts are present, I was in shock to find out he is now completely blind due to SARDS.

It started very rapidly about 4 weeks ago; first he would wake me up at all hours of the night crying to go outside to the bathroom, then I noticed that his thirst had increased, as well as his appetite markedly. Being a Puggle, I can tell when something is wrong with him just by his tail- if it is curled up he is happy, and when it’s not he’s either not feeling well, he is bored, scared, sad, or something is bothering him- and it has been uncurled for about a month now. I have had him since he was 8 weeks old- he is my best friend- I know his mannerisms, different barks; I know my dog well and something was very wrong.

Then the heavy drooling started, and I would find him standing in a room just staring at a wall; like he was zoned out and staring into space. Soon after, around two weeks ago, he started bumping into chairs and other furniture, and seemed to ignore me when I called him. When we went for our walks, he would tire out quickly or lose interest, and I would have to bribe him with a treat to get him outside. When we take our walks he always wants to smell around (prob from being half Beagle,) and I live in a very rural area; there are prickly bushes everywhere like briars and blackberries, and also due to the larger than normal eyes he has due to his breed, I am so scared he is going to injure them I have cut back on his food slightly and treats bc he has gained 2 pounds in the last month- from 31 to 33 lbs, which is heavy for his frame.

I want to engage him, and don’t really know what to do. He no longer wants to play at all (in May he was running around as if he were a puppy- he has always had a lot of energy,) but now I can’t seem to get his interest for walking or exercising; all he wants is food- though I now have to ‘tap’ on his food bowl even when he hears me put down his meal because he cannot see it.

I read that dogs that get SARDS are also usually thought to have Cushing’s Disease- he was tested for that at the recommendation of his vet just a few months ago. He was tested negative as well for diabetes, but my primary vet thought the vision issue was due to his cataracts which aren’t completely ripe but are substantial. Last night when I was given the diagnosis, the Ophthalmologist compared the cataracts to him looking through a foggy shower door, but after the ERG test, concluded he was now completely blind and diagnosed him with this horrible and untreatable disease, SARDS. To add to my grief, it is so frustrating that they don’t have any answers as to what causes it and warned me that anyone who says it can be cured would be taking advantage of me.

I am doing my best to remain hopeful; not crying in front of him, praising him, and researching training ideas and reading up as much as I can online. I would be very interested in a trainer that specializes in dogs with blindness to help me ‘retrain’ him as I am so new to this (and want to make sure I am not making my dog feel worse,) but can’t seem to find one, and am on a very limited income. All of my savings were pretty much depleted during the last few months of veterinary appointments, and then in attempting to uncover the mystery of his abnormal behavior.

We have lived in the same house for almost 7 years; he is struggling somewhat but knows the ‘lay of the land’. ANYTHING that you could recommend or suggest would be immensely appreciated. I am in unchartered territory and want to make him as happy and as comfortable as possible. My first step is purchasing baby gates today to install at the top and bottom of the single staircase in my home.

I don’t want to lose my best friend; they say that SARDS is permanent, but some websites claim they have a cure- I was warned about this by my vet, but wish it were true.

Please contact me anytime, I really could use advise from someone who is familiar with this horrible and understudied disease, SARDS, and will do anything to get my Artie happy again and allow him to enjoy his ‘golden years’ instead of seeing him look so sad. Any suggestions, advice, or assistance you have for me would make me eternally grateful,

Sincerely and Respectively,

Becca

6 thoughts on “My Artie, My Little Loving Best Friend… Suddenly Diagnosed with SARDS, HELP!

  1. Carina Josefine

    Hi Becca 🙂

    I would love to try to help you both. I am a god trainer and behaviour consultant from Norway, doing a project on blind dogs and quality of life. You can have a look on our website for more info (it is not fancy or full of content – our facebook page is better for that – but the information is up to date)

    http://blinddogsqol.carinajosefine.no/front-page-features/about/ I don’t charge, as I do this to learn, and set up something for blind dogs and mental health that vets and pet professionals can use in the future.

    Send me an email on blinddogs@carinajosefine.no and we can have a talk about all of this. There is life after SARDS (it can be pretty amazing as well 🙂 )

    1. Ellen Lowe

      Hi Becca,

      My Allie (now 10 year old Cockapoo) went blind with SARDS 3 years ago. I know how stunning and heartbreaking this diagnosis is. She was also diagnosed with Cushing’s disease. Treatable but it explained her increased thirst and hunger.

      Allie, like Artie was very depressed and confused at first. But time does help. When I see her nearing a wall or object in the house I say quickly ‘watch it’ (kinda silly come to think of it). She now knows to slow down.
      When she goes downstairs or up I tell her before she gets to the step ‘up or down’. She has learned that.
      She is not interested in toys except every once in a while. I have had issues on walks with her getting aggressive with other dogs that she doesn’t know so now i keep her back and warn the oncoming dog owner that meeting is not a good idea.

      There is a collar that “Muffin’s Halo For Blind Dogs” sells that has a rubber ring in front of the dogs face mounted to a harness. Some dogs love it. The organization can often ask for donations to gift one to people who can’t manage the cost. Look them up online.

      Allie sleeps in bed with me so after her falling off the side I tried keeping her on a tight leash so I would wake up before she took a dive. After doing that for a while I changed to a lower bed that she has now learned to safely jump on or off of.

      I have switched Allie to a harness that the lead clips to on her chest. She doesn’t pull nearly as much so walks are more pleasant and I can keep a close watch on her. She still gets to do the sniffing bit but safely.
      Having a blind dog is like having a toddler. Ya just have to keep an eye on them most of the time.
      Your Artie will adjust and will be happier in time. You just have to breathe deeply and be kind to yourself while learning how to get used to this new way of being together.

      Good luck. If I think of other things I will post them here.

      Ellen in CT

  2. Jemma

    Hi Becca
    My girl Chloe was diagnosed with SARDs 4 years ago now. She’s just turned 11 a couple of months ago.
    It was a huge adjustment for us, particularly as hubby is in the army and we move every 3 years.
    I’m also a vet nurse and I know for a fact that there is no cure for SARDs so please don’t get caught up in those that will take advantage of you.
    You can try and make things easier around the house for Artie by using certain perfumes around the area of the house (couches, chairs, beds) and training him to understand where each of those areas are or you can use cues to help him navigate the house. Chloe understands the words “up, down, right, left” and most importantly “stop”.
    Try not to move anything and if you do make sure he knows it’s new place by leading him over to sniff it.
    You can also purchase a halo harness which protects their heads and gives them back their confidence when walking.
    It will take time but as long as you keep calm he will learn in his own way how to enjoy his life. Dogs are great in a way that they learn quickly to adapt and there’sno reason he can’t live a normal life.
    I hope this helps!
    You’re doing a great job by providing him all the care he needs 😊🐶

  3. Michele

    Hello Becca!

    I am right there with you! Our almost 12 year old ShihTzu, Truman, went suddenly blind in early July. The veterinary opthomologist diagnosed it as Progressive Retinal Atrophy, but it went pretty quick (over the course of about a month he went totally blind). The vet said some SARDS could be “mixed in”? Truman did not have the significant symptoms of SARDS, but nevertheless, he is now blind;-(. He sleeps a lot more. He is much more “quiet” and he becomes disoriented — especially in the morning (admittedly, Truman has never been a “morning person”;-)).

    The positive thing is he is very food motivated. The not so positive thing he is not at all interested in the 2x per day 1/4 mile walks we used to take. He, overall, is moving much slower. He is gaining weight — not good for a senior dog with luxating patellas…. (me too, right along with him;)). What I have started doing is measuring his food for the day into a separate container. I use it throughout the day for motivation/treats. He does not get as much as he used to in his food bowl — it’s spread throughout the day.

    Prior to becoming blind, we purchased a couple of Trixie activity board “puzzles” from Amazon which he LOVES. He also has a little “treat ball” he also really likes. I feel like these two things have helped him with his confidence. We also play “monkey in the middle” — a game where 2 or 3 of us have a few pieces of kibble and we call him from person to person — increasing the distance and moving around each time. He LOVES this game — it is the happiest and most energetic we see him.

    I read somewhere online, depending upon the age, breed, overall health of dogs who become suddenly blind, it can take between 3-6 months for them to “adjust”. The adjustment for us, as owners, is huge, as well. It is not easy, physically or emotionally. We take one day at a time. We love on him as much as we can and appreciate any small progress we see. It feels lonely, but there is good support out there and reasons to be hopeful.

    I look forward to continuing to learn from all who have dealt with this condition.

    Good luck, Becca!

    Michele aka Mr. Truman’s #1 fan and sidekick

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