Thursday, December 5, 2013
The First Sign of Blindness
6/?/13 - Sometime in June, Shasta had a couple of potty accidents in the house. It happend about four times. I thought she was having bad dreams and wetting the bed because she never woke me up to take her outside. Shasta was only 5 yrs old at the time and this was unordinary behavior. I took her to the vet and they asked me if she had been panting more than normal, drinking more water than usual, or having difficulty urinating. She didn't have trouble urinating and the other two symptoms was hard to tell because it was June in Sacramento and she is an Alaskan Malamute in the heat so I was always trying to keep her cool. They did a urinalysis and some blood work and even an xray and they found nothing out of the ordinary except that her bladder was enlarged and her urine was very diluted meaning she had been drinking more water than usual lately. I was asked to watch her water intake and get a few more samples of urine over the next two weeks. Everything checked out ok after that so we did no further testing. 8/7/13 - After returning home to Shasta from a short vacation we noticed she had trouble seeing. She would walk closely to walls, turn around and bump her head on a door or wall...she wasn't seeing the treat when we would practice our commands, she would sniff frantically for it. And she would also hesitate to jump into the car or on the bed or couch, which wasn't normal. The next day I took her to the vet. 8/8/13 - I walked Shasta into the vet and they did a menace test where they wave their hand in front of her eyes without making wind to see if she blinks. She didn't blink. After the crushing news that our beloved Shasta was rapidly going blind, there's no known cause and no known cure, I was assured Shasta would adapt to her environment, she may go through a bout of depression during this adjustment period which most dogs come out of, and she can still live a happy and full life. My vet referred me to an ophthalmalogist which I couldn't get in to see for another week. After breaking the news to my husband and after sobbing...our first inclination was to train her to be the best blind dog ever who could navigate without any problem, she would just learn to hone in using her other senses. Not as easy as we thought... 8/8/13 we had plans to go camping for our friend's birthday. The vet said Shasta would be ok to go as she seemed to feel fine and still had some sight. We thought twice about it, but Shasta loves the outdoors and my husband said he wanted to do as much fun stuff with her as he could while she still had some sight. 8/9/13 - After returning from our camping trip, we could see Shasta's condition declining rapidly. I had a good cry while I layed with her as I could see she was depressed. My husband posted a comment on FB regarding Shasta's vision loss and many people reached out to me asking what was going on. Although I had no real answers at the time, one piece of advice from a friend motivated me to become my own expert on this fairly unknown condition that's baffling veterinarians. I got online and found among a lot of dead ends... one story about a dog named Reo, a Miniature Pinscher, whose owner Lynn kept an ongoing blog that included her own daily trials and tribulations for the next two years following SARDS diagnosis. The name of her blog is "A Journey with SARDS- from despair to a cure!" I read Reo's story, which led me to Dr. Alfred Plechner and Caroline Levin, RN, the only experts on the subject and the only ones consulting on the disease. I HIGHLY recommend that pet owners read the information each has written on the subject if your pet is having any of the symptoms that Shasta has experienced. Dr. Plechner's website is: www.drplechner.com. Caroline Levin, RN's book: Living with Blind Dogs. 8/12/13 - After reading Levin's book and Dr. Plechner's website, and while I was still waiting for our appt with the Ophthalmologist, I kept reading Reo's blog because there was a lot of information there and her owners provided great details about Reo's condition and behavior after each meals, supplements, interactions, and special events.It seems Reo had some ups and downs in the beginning so I payed close attention to the outcome and created a timeline for Shasta. I also started listing all the ingredients in everything she was given in her food, treats, medicines, etc. and I emailed Dr. Plechner after reading his theory on SARDS. Dr.Plechner.com is the only veterinarian currently known to have a sound theory on the underlying issue of not only SARDS, but many conditions seen in dogs today. He has spent 50 years pursuing research and answers to why our pets are so allergic to our environment and commercial pet foods. He has a theory, referred to as the Plechner Syndrome which can be read about in great detail on his website. Caroline Levin also believes in his theory, but refers to Plechner Syndrome and Adrenal Exhaustion interchangeably. Plecher is an expert in the underlying cause of SARDS and many other pet ailments, while Levin is an expert in SARDS and her theory differs slightly as to what happens between the onset of Adrenal Exhaustion and blindness. Reo's owner decided to treat Reo with Plechner's protocol, but also with Levin's supplements and diet suggestions. If your dog has been diagnosed with SARDS, I highly suggest reading Plechner's website and Levin's book and scheduling a consultation with both of them. They both offer their biography and history in medicine along with several successful case studies, however when time is of the essence with SARDS dogs, I would make an appt with Dr. Plechner via his website first, make an appt with your vet to get an EI-1 blood panel done and sent off to National Vet Diagnostic Services. While that is in progress, you can read the rest of Plechner's website and books. The second piece of advice that I have to offer is get your dog on a high quality dog food. Not many vets agree on what a good dog food is, but it took me a few months (a few months too long actually) to figure out that the raw food diet for Shasta was best. More to come on this subject later.