This account was sent to me by the owner of a little terrier-mix. It is a good example of a dog owner being a dog’s best advocate.
On August 6th, 2018, I went outside to play fetch with my 6-year-old pup, Milo. I threw the ball into the grass and noticed that he could not find it. I then thought back to the night before when he tried to jump onto the sofa, but completely missed. I realized he could not see.
The next morning, I took Milo to his vet. She referred me to an animal ophthalmologist at Washington State University in Spokane. On August 9th, the ophthalmologist performed a thorough eye exam on Milo. The electroretinogram (ERG) demonstrated that Milo’s eyes had no electrical signal from his retina, which explained his acute blindness.
The ophthalmologist told me that Milo had a disease known as SARDs, for which there is no treatment. She recommended I purchase a book entitled “Living with Blind Dogs,” by a nurse named Caroline Levin.
I felt so hopeless and cried the entire 4-hour drive home. I couldn’t stand the thought of my pup not being able to see again. As soon as I got home, I went online and purchased the book.
I opened Caroline’s book on August 22nd. I was impressed at how much information was provided on SARDs. There were multiple pages dedicated to a mitigation treatment. There were links to numerous clinical studies supporting Caroline’s conclusion that SARDs was a result of “adrenal exhaustion,” rather than the universally accepted response of “unknown cause.”
It was quite a challenge just to get Milo’s vet to agree to send his hormone and immunology bloodwork to the recommended lab, since she firmly believed that SARDs could not be treated. While we waited for the results, I continued to visit Caroline’s website and read her articles. I, too, am an RN and respect Caroline’s scientific justification regarding the cause of SARDs. I also realized if a human went blind overnight, a doctor wouldn’t just say “I’m sorry this happened,” and send you home without at least looking into it.
Milo’s bloodwork came back abnormal, just as Caroline had mentioned it would with SARDs. I absolutely had to do something for my best friend! I finally found someone to start Milo’s treatment and prevent further retinal damage.
Milo was started on numerous prescription meds and supplements. I also changed his diet completely. He went from store bought processed dog food to home cooked, human-grade meat and vegetables according to Caroline’s recommendations.
About a month into his treatment, I tested his vision by performing the “cotton ball test.” Milo had regained some vision in his left eye. When we went for walks, he was afraid of large objects on his left side.
A few weeks later, I noticed that he was able to fetch balls as long as they continued to be in motion. At the end of January, 2019, I performed the cotton ball test again and noticed that he had also regained some vision in his right eye.
Since August, Milo has resumed all the adventures and activities he did before he was diagnosed with SARDs. Although his vision isn’t perfect, he can hike off-leash, and I can rest assured that his safety is not in jeopardy. Honestly, if you met him, you would never be able to tell he has any visual impairments.
If I could say one thing to the vets, it’s that I hope they would be more open to investigating treatment options for SARDs, and acknowledge that it doesn’t just affect a dog’s vision, but his entire health.
Janet Paek RN
It’s been almost 2 years since Milo was diagnosed with SARDS and he’s still doing great! I had avoided taking him to the vet the entire time until recently, to get a lipoma checked. Once I was there, and the vet started asking me how he was doing, I casually brought up Milo’s SARDs treatment regimen that he had been on, and surprisingly she was very open and interested. I was so relieved she didn’t judge me for seeking out alternative care. She also tested his eye sight and told me how she had never seen a dog recover or stabilize from SARDs and that Milo is living proof that mitigation treatment actually works.
Milo’s near-sighted vision is poor, maybe even non-existent, but he can see when I wave anything at least a foot in front of him and structurally his eye is still normal. His recent labs also came back within normal. But most importantly, he is happy and full of energy. I am thankful for your help and guidance. Happy Thanksgiving!
Janet and Milo