Blindsided.

5 01 2013

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

After a quiet holiday, I was doing laundry and packing to make a quick trip on January 2nd. A short drive, just me and my poodle, Ms. Blossom, aka Blossom Possom, aka Ms. B.

Around 9 pm I went over to greet Ms. B, who had been snoozing on the sofa.

“Hey there, sweetie!”

No response.

“Blossom?” I picked up her snout, and to my horror, she barely reacted.

“Blossom!!” She opened her eyes, mere slits, showing her third eyelids.

I sat on the sofa, stunned. What was wrong with her? She was fine yesterday… trying not to panic, I called my Dad, who, at 83, has been around a lot of dogs.

“I’d let her be for now. She probably just needs some down time.” I asked him to call me at 7:30 in the morning, so I can call the vet at 8 (I’m a late riser.) The Pet Emergency Clinic was out of the question – too expensive.

I managed to get her downstairs for her evening business, then carried her to her crate.

She was worse the next morning, and my vet had an opening at 4:20 in the afternoon. I fought down rising panic all day. She was lethargic, a sack of potatoes, no muscle tone, obviously very sick.

To make a long story shorter, he diagnosed conjunctivitis, and sent us home. The next morning she was losing her sight, and no better, not even her eyes. I called and he agreed, she shouldn’t be feeling like this. The blood work showed nothing – all normal – and he was at a loss. We added an antibiotic as a precaution, because in the past she’d not sprung a fever until several days went by.

I decided to get a second opinion, and went on Friday the 4th. By this time Ms. Blossom was completely blind, and her pupils didn’t respond to a flashlight in a darkened room. The vet thought it was SARDS, Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration. At least I had a name. We left with the phone number of the city’s veterinary ophthalmologist, who had no appointments available that afternoon.

A cursory web search on SARDS became more and more concerning – many conflicting opinions and articles as to it’s treatment and etiology. There’s a Igi protocol which would likely run into the mid-four figures – out of the question.

I was curious, though. Most articles agreed that for a couple of weeks prior to the blindness, the vast majority of canines exhibited symptoms of raging appetite and thirst, episodes of peeing in the house (due to drinking more water), large weight gain, and panting. Ms. B had none of these symptoms – the only one she had on the very long list was lethargy.

It’s a puzzle. More to the point, it’s a heartbreak.

Today is the first sunny day in what seems like two weeks, and I opened the door onto my balcony and ensconced Ms. B in the sun. As you can see, she’s imitating a Flat Dog, sound asleep. I’m sitting here typing on my laptop, with the fresh air – I knew she would enjoy this, and I am, too.

Flat Dog (Ms. Blossom)

Flat Dog (Ms. Blossom)

I just went for a brisk walk, and can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that less than a week ago she was trotting beside me, ranging to the end of her flexi lead. Since her vision loss I’ve taken her out on the leash a couple of times. We walk at the speed of a Parkinson’s patient.

Canines are adaptable, I know. If she doesn’t end up with SARDS, I know she’ll adjust. At twelve she’s had a pretty good life… and as I told a friend today, anytime you adopt a pet you are setting yourself up for heartbreak, unless you die first. Cold comfort, that.

On Monday we go in for an appointment to find out what this truly is. I’m hoping it’s optic neuritis – something fairly easily treated.

Keep your fingers crossed for us?

My blind girl

My blind girl

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9 responses

5 01 2013
Alice

Crossed!

5 01 2013
Julia Indigo

Thank you, dear friend. Mine are crossed for your four-legged, as well..

6 01 2013
termitespeaker

How horrible! I never heard of SARDS. Why would retinal degeneration cause all those other symptoms, like hunger and thirst and lethargy? It sounds a little bit like diabetes. Obviously, though, they must have checked for that. Anyway, I think that’s terrible and I really feel for you and for Ms. Blossom!

6 01 2013
Julia Indigo

The sudden blindness in SARDS is caused by the immune system gone awry, and the other symptoms show how it’s a systemic disease, versus optical neuritis, which is localized to the optic nerve.

There is suspicion that it’s related to adrenal failure/insufficiency.

I would feel really bad for Ms. B if that’s it – there are only around 4000 cases of SARDS in the US/year. 😦

Thank you for your comment and thoughts, Lorinda. We’ll see what the vet eye doc says tomorrow.

6 01 2013
Samantha Warren

So sad. 😦 My thoughts are with you. My aunt’s dog went mostly blind recently and she adjusted pretty quickly to it, so as long as it’s nothing worse than blindness, Ms. B should be okay in the long run. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

6 01 2013
Christine Ashworth

Oh hon. So sorry. Fingers and toes crossed that you and Ms. Blossom get back to your regular routine soon. Hugs!

6 01 2013
sheilapierson

I’ve never heard of this before, but hoping for a good outcome! She looks really sweet.

8 01 2013
Karen McFarland

Oh wow Julia. I am so sorry to hear this. What a strange thing to deal with. Your poor puppy. And you. This is a lot of stress on you girl. Good grief. Please let us know how Ms. B is doing, okay? {{Hug!}} 🙂

18 10 2014
HogsAteMySister

As you say, dogs are very adaptable. My Moosedawg ended up tumor-ridden, half-blind and mainly deaf at 13, but still happy until the end. Hugs and good thoughts from Down Under.

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