We have a 13 year old Nova Scotia Duck Toller named Jasper who was diagnosed with PRA five years ago and as a result she now is totally blind. The PRA took about three years to totally destroy her sight. We worried at first how she would react to the loss of vision but as in most cases it just became her new normal.
She is a healthy and happy dog who still enjoys all the things we do. We own a fly in fishing and hunting resort in Northern Ontario and Jasper first showed her signs of vision loss while doing one of her favorite activities, tracking black bears and moose for our hunters. She loved the challenge of the track and excitement she had for it was contagious. She was often described as the best tracking dog any of our hunters had ever seen. She also was a die hard duck dog who never turned down a hunt or challenge. She has adapted well to the vision loss, but still wishes to hunt and I think that is her only disappointment with the blindness.
The PRA progressed into the cataracts so often found with this disorder. This past summer her cataracts began to luxate and began causing her a lot of pain, a visit to a nearby vet (being in Northern Ontario this nearby vet was 200 miles away) who treated the pain and inflammation caused by the luxating lenses but he also suggested the need for the removal of the eyes to address the root cause of her discomfort. We have been researching the options available and would like some input from members of the forum as to how they approached this. We are now back in our home in southern Ontario and are scheduled to meet with a canine ophthalmologist this Friday for a consult. We are concerned regarding costs and options. I had heard of prosthetic eyes vs. the simple removal of the eye itself and would like input on the results of both options.
As to a bit of history about Jasper’s condition. Jasper was the result of a breeding of one of the top Canadian Duck Tollers known. Her sire was Harbour Lights Bentley and her dam was from Cinn- Star Tollers out of Texas. Bentley was a know B class dog for PRA testing and the bitch out of Cinn-Star was supposed to be an A which should have resulted in a clear by history for PRA.
As Jasper grew her capabilities and drive far exceeded anything we could of hoped for. That coupled with a temperament that was beyond belief in her love for everyone and everything we put her to as life challenges. She learned to work livestock from our Boarder Collie Lab cross with both sheep and cattle as we ran a small beef and lamb operation when she was a young dog, about 100 head of each. That soon fell to the way side as life and career changes occurred when we took up the family tourism business in Northern Ontario.
When we began doing the bear hunts in the thick wilderness of Northern Ontario we found the assistance of a tracking dog would be invaluable. So we began trying to train Jasper to the task. She picked up on what we wanted in very short order and soon became renown in our area for her abilities. She enjoyed four seasons of this before we discovered her having a very difficult time coming out of the woods after the first evening track of 2009. We suspected night blindness!
Upon returning to our winter home in southern Ontario that fall we made an appointment with our regular vet who then referred us to a local canine ophthalmologist who confirmed our worst fears. Jasper was going blind! What were we to do? We considered putting her down initially but soon came to our senses and decided to see how things were going to develop. The specialist figured Jasper would be fully blind by spring, this was November. Fortunately Jasper’s vision took another two years before failing completely. When we contacted the breeder regarding Jasper’s sight loss, as she did come with a health guarantee, we were informed the balance of the litters from the bitch from Texas also were all blind now! That is a total of 24 pups! We contacted Cinn-Star who denied having any dogs with PRA, but they suggested immediate euthanasia as they did not want one of their bitches pups reporting as such. We refused to kill our dear dog to protect their REPUTATION!!!
We since found out that almost all of Cinn-Star’s dogs some how mysteriously either drowned, had unfortunate hunting accidents or were lost. We also discovered the owner of Cinn-Star was the reporting person for the AKC regarding the early tracking of PRA records. Strange co-incidence why they had no reported cases.
To say our opinion of them is somewhat low would be an understatement.
Jasper is still a happy and healthy 13 year old dog who now is also beginning to lose her hearing but still is active and playful. We since have bought another Toller, a happy go lucky young dog named Riser who is a great companion to Jasper and looks after her carefully and who thoroughly enjoys his play times with her.
We are due to be going to another canine ophthalmologist this Thursday to see what options are available for Jasper’s eyes since the one who did the initial diagnosis has since passed away. As noted above eye removal is our only option as her right eye is dying and the left has it’s lense so badly luxated it is causing her a great deal of pain.
Thank you all for allowing us to share our story with you all and we will try and keep you up to date with Jasper’s story as it progresses.