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Pet Insurance Claim of the Week: SARDS

ellie blind dog on couchThe last 7 days have been rough on me. This week’s featured pet insurance claim discusses a personal experience with my own 6-year-old dog, Ellie. Last Tuesday, she was diagnosed with SARDS which is sudden acute retinal degeneration syndrome. I had never heard of the condition before, but have certainly learned a lot about it in the past week.

What is it: SARDS is a degeneration of the retina in dogs which leads to irreversible vision loss. It may occur over a month or as quickly as overnight.

Causes: Not much is known about the cause of SARDS but it is believed not to be genetically linked, and according to Michigan Veterinary Specialists, “It is currently thought that it is a toxic reaction in the retina possibly related fat bi product, hormonal and immune-mediated causes.”
The condition may occur in any dog, but it is more common in females than males, and Dachshunds and Schnauzers seem to be predisposed.

Symptoms: A dog with SARDS may become very hungry and thirsty for a few months and potentially gain weight due to the increased hunger. The other symptom is vision loss, however the eyes may still appear normal from the outside.

Diagnosis: Ellie had an ERG (electroretinogram) which detects retinal activity. If there is no activity, then SARDS is confirmed. However, if retinal activity is presence, then the veterinary ophthalmologist will need to perform further tests to determine the cause of vision loss.

Treatment: Unfortunately there is no treatment for this condition. However, the increased hunger and thirst symptoms are supposed to subside after 2-3 months. At this point, we are just hoping that she will keep her blurry vision and not go completely blind, but there is really no way to tell.

My pet insurance claim included a visit to my regular vet with a thyroid test and an eye pressure test (for glaucoma), and a visit to the veterinary ophthalmologist which included an examination and an ERG.

Total claim amount: $630.85
Deductible applied: -$0.00
Ineligible costs (exam fees): -$187.00
10% co-insurance: -$44.39
Trupanion repaid: $399.46

Ellie is still getting used to life with less vision. She bumps into things when we’re outside of her familiar places (home and my desk area at work) and this makes her frustrated and stressed out. But we got some toys with jingle bells inside that are easier for her to find and we are glad that she is still wagging her tail!

About Stacy @Trupanion

Stacy Kowalchuk is a dog mom to her rescued Whippet-mix, Ellie. During the week, you can find Stacy surfing (the internet, that is) and managing Trupanion's presence in the social media world. In her free time, Stacy likes to bake, especially cupcakes! To balance her culinary affinity, she also likes to stay active, especially with activities that include her dog such as hiking and going to dog parks.

11 Responses to Pet Insurance Claim of the Week: SARDS

  1. Yvonne Lundin says:

    Bless your heart!!! I had a dog with SARDS. He adapted so much better than I did!! I feel your worry and concern. Hang in there!! Sending hugs and prayers to both you and Ellie.

  2. Sheri says:

    This story made me cry. I love that you are working with your dog to make her life as “normal” as possible. I’m sure she will adjust to vision loss much better than we would. She will have a long, happy and fulfilling life with or without her vision. Take care.

  3. Connie Faivre says:

    Will keep you and Ellie in my prayers. My 18-year old Aussie (her name is Noel) who died in 2011 went completely blind the last two years of her life. She compensated really well, and really never let it get to her. We made sure, just in case there was some semblance of vision left, that there was always bright light wherever she went, and obstacles were always kept to a minimum. Ellie is lucky to have you (and vice versa, probably!)

  4. Heather says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Stacy. We love Ellie and will help her as much as we can! You are such a great dog mama – she is lucky to have you!
    — Heather @ Trupanion

  5. Susan says:

    My 10 year old Scottie was diagnosed with SARDS and in addition, is now diabetic. At the end of last year she was diagnosed with a nailbed tumor in which she had her toe amputated. The tumor was a “rare” benigned tumor, thankfully, but unfortunately came down with SARDS and diabetes. It has been very hard to watch a fun, energetic, happy dog go thru this. She is adjusting. But her “zest” for life has subdued. We are doing everthing to make her a happy dog and are committed to the very end to make her safe and not feel alone.

    • Stacy says:

      Hi Susan,
      Thanks for sharing about your pup. It sounds like she has been through a lot which is really tough but I commend you for being such a good dog mommy and sticking by her side through all of it. :) I am finding with Ellie that she’s happiest if I continue to treat her normally. I try my best not to react when she bumps into things so that she will just get used to it as a normal part of life. I’m glad your dog has a good, safe home!

      • Susan says:

        Thank you! Both my husband and I try to keep things as normal as possible. We have another Scottie and two cats so she never feels like she is alone. I tell her daily that I will take care of her until the very end, whenever that end is.

  6. Beverly C says:

    I had a wonderful basset hound named Francis who went blind and he had 10 more fabulous years with me. Great book: ‘Living with Blind Dogs’ by Carol
    Levin.

    • Stacy says:

      I actually have that book sitting on my desk right now, Beverly! It is definitely a great resource and has helped explain a few things including the reason Ellie’s pupils are now blue/green instead of black. :) We hear her bump into things some nights, but overall she is doing very well and is a happy dog who still looks for her toys! Life is much different, but still great!

  7. Mira says:

    Hi stacy, Thank you for your story. my dog is a 8 year old maltese poodle and has SARDS. the sympoms you described all began while we were away on our honeymoon (likely a stressful time for our dog as we had dropped her to our parents house where they would watch her for the week) in end of May. When we returned, She had increased appetite, weight gain, smelly stool, increased liver enzymes, increased cholestrol and for the first time had accident in the bed in the month of June and July. She walked funny, almost reluctantly. In hindsight, her not running, inability to jump on the couch, staring out in the middle of the kitchen, and to me her eyes looked different. they were fine to the drs. but to me something was different. Mid August, on our daily walks, she started tripping on the speed bumps in our condo complex. I panicked and brought her home and saw her bump straight into the door before I could open it. After much back and forth between SARDS and Immune Mediated Retinopathy, the Drs were really unable to give us any definitive diagnosis or treatment. Only thing for sure was that our baby was unable to see. it was devastating. The only saving grace has been that our dog, much like your dog, has adjusted wonderfully. She knows the house well and you wouldn’t be able to tell she can’t see. She is still the sweet loving dog we fall in love with more and more everyday. She is our light. I hope that there is more responsible research and approach to find cure and prevention by the veterinary community for this illness.

    • Stacy says:

      Hi Mira,
      Thanks for sharing your story! It is interesting to hear how stories from others since this condition is so rare and there isn’t much out there about it. When we went to the animal eye specialist, there was a diagnostic test that he was able to do that verified SARDS. And this year during our annual check-up, our regular veterinarian looked into Ellie’s eyes out of curiosity, and noted that there were no blood vessels left in one eye, and only a small number in the other. Very interesting.
      Anyway I’m glad to hear that your girl has adjusted and is doing well! Please send her my love! :)

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