Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) in Dogs

Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) in Dogs

SARDSDogs are highly resilient, adaptable creatures, but few disabilities affect dogs as profoundly as blindness. Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) is a disease that causes rapid and complete blindness in dogs. It most frequently affects middle-aged dogs, but can strike dogs at any age. Little is known about the underlying cause of this disease, and there is currently no known treatment.

What is SARDS?

SARDS affects the thin visual cell layer of the retina that receives visual input and transfers it to the brain. Within this layer lies photoreceptors (or rods and cones), as well as the nerve fiber layers within the retina. Rapid degenerative changes occur in this layer, resulting in total blindness. According to studies conducted to understand the pathophysiology of SARDS, an unknown trigger sets off a biochemical cascade, causing apoptosis, which is the sudden and rapid cell death of rods and cones. Once the visual nerve cell layer of the retina is destroyed, it cannot regenerate.

Symptoms of SARDS

The first signs of SARDS often become apparent when the pet owner notices that their dog is stumbling and failing to track visual triggers. They may have difficulty maneuvering at night and bump into large items that they should otherwise be able to see. Since complete blindness can happen within days or weeks, a newly blind dog will appear confused and disoriented in their otherwise familiar environment. In the weeks or months prior to their blindness, dogs may experience dramatic increases in appetite and thirst, resulting in weight gain and increased urination.

Diagnosing SARDS

A veterinary ophthalmologist examination may show a normal appearing retina, but the pupils are usually dilated and non-responsive or minimally responsive to light stimulation. The menace response test involves rapidly bringing a hand or other item toward the dog’s eyes, and should normally cause a dog to close his or her eyes. In a dog with SARDS, that response will fail, as will the ability to visually track moving items. An electroretinogram (ERG) may be recommended to assess retinal function. For this test, a special contact lens is placed in the dog’s eyes, followed by a series of lights being flashed into the eye. Electronic signals are recorded, and will be absent in a dog with SARDS. Routine blood and urine testing may suggest Cushing’s Syndrome. Although the connection between Cushing’s Syndrome and SARDS is unclear, dogs should be treated for their Cushing’s, despite the fact that it will not restore lost vision.

It is important for the veterinarian to first rule out other causes of acute blindness, such as optic neuritis, tumors invading the optic nerve, brain tumors, or other inflammatory conditions, because they could be treatable conditions that may restore vision or save the pet’s life.

Living With SARDS

Pets with SARDS are not experiencing pain and can resume a normal life, but they may be confused about their sudden blindness. Survey the dog’s environment, and remove any sharp items or things that may cause injury to the eyes. Consider any pools or stairs that could be hazards for a blind dog. Overall, dogs adjust to their blindness quite well, but information on training and living with blind dogs is widely available through a veterinarian or online.

Parvo In Dogs

arthritic petCanine Parvovirus Infection (CPV)

Canine parvovirus is a potentially life-threatening and highly contagious viral illness. All dogs are at risk of contracting this disease, but puppies under the age of four months and unvaccinated dogs are most at risk. The majority of cases are seen in puppies between the age of six weeks and six months of age. Early vaccination of young puppies drastically reduces the incidence of canine parvovirus infections.

Parvovirus Symptoms

The most common form of parvovirus attacks the intestinal tract, causing symptoms such as lethargy and vomiting, severe bloody diarrhea, fever, lack of appetite, and weight loss. This form of CPV interferes with fluid absorption in the intestine, causing rapid dehydration and weakness. Abdominal palpation may cause pain or discomfort, and the mucous membranes of the mouth and eyes may be red. Death may occur in as little as 48 to 72 hours from initial onset of symptoms, so it is critical that veterinary attention is sought immediately. Although less common, the cardiac form of CPV attacks the heart muscles in very young puppies, and often leads to death.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Parvovirus

Clinical symptoms and laboratory testing assist veterinarians in diagnosing CPV. The ELISA test (Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbant Assay test) is a standard testing tool for parvovirus, and works by detecting the virus in a dog’s stool. It may be necessary to run additional testing and bloodwork.

Since parvovirus is a viral infection, there is no cure. Treatment focuses on controlling symptoms while the virus runs its course. Intravenous fluids and nutrition are essential, to replace the fluids and electrolytes lost from severe diarrhea. Medications may be used to control vomiting and nausea to prevent further dehydration, and antibiotics and anthelmintics fight secondary bacterial infections, parasites, and bacterial toxins in the blood. Puppies without fully developed immune systems are at greater risk, so shock and sudden death are not uncommon in very young dogs.

How to Prevent Parvovirus

Due to its highly contagious nature, dogs infected with the parvovirus must be isolated from other dogs to prevent further spread of the infection. The first line of defense to prevent dogs from contracting the virus is to keep vaccinations current. Puppies 6 to 8 weeks of age should receive their first vaccine, and boosters are given every 4 weeks until they are 16 to 20 weeks old. An additional vaccine is given at one year of age. Older dogs who have not yet received their full series of puppy vaccinations should be given at least one immunization.

Parvovirus can be a tenacious pathogen, capable of surviving for months on surfaces. Good hygiene practices and vaccinations are important, but even then, it can be difficult to eliminate. Many regular disinfectants are not sufficient for killing the virus on surfaces. A solution of one part bleach to 32 parts water may be used on hard surfaces and items in direct contact with the infected pet. Any items that cannot be properly cleaned should be discarded. Pets recovering from parvovirus should be isolated from contact with other animals for at least a two month period following recovery, to prevent the infection from spreading to other pets.

Which Dog Breeds Are Prone to Certain Types of Cancer?

Which Dog Breeds Are Prone to Certain Types of Cancer?

Dog Cancer

Cancer can be a quiet, elusive disease, or an aggressive and quick-developing one. Experienced veterinarians, especially those who embrace the concept of breed-specific preventative wellness, may recommend specific cancer screenings be performed on breeds of dogs most prone to certain types of cancer before there are any signs of disease. These screenings are designed to detect cancers as early as possible, to minimize suffering and maximize life expectancy. Although any type of cancer has a risk of striking any breed of dog, and at any age, certain breeds are more prone to developing specific types of cancer.

Great Danes are exceptionally large and graceful dogs who may suffer from many different health conditions, including gastric torsion, hip dysplasia, and cardiomyopathy (a type of heart condition). However, when it comes to cancer, these gentle giants have a high propensity to develop osteosarcoma, which is an aggressive bone cancer. Osteosarcoma tends to develop in large dogs, including Great Danes, at an earlier age than most other breeds. The first indication of osteosarcoma is lameness, so these dogs should have an X-ray as soon as possible to diagnose this disease. Aggressive treatment, including amputation of the affected limb and chemotherapy, is the best option for these pets, and may extend their life up to two years or more.

Golden Retrievers are highly active dogs, commonly used as working animals. Aside from their role as hunting dogs and as service animals, they make fantastic family companions because of their friendly nature. In addition to having high rates of cataracts, hip dysplasia, and a cartilage disease called Osteochondritis Dissecans, Golden Retrievers have a greater tendency toward developing lymphoma. This cancer originates in the lymphocyte cells of the immune system. Symptoms that include lack of appetite, lethargy and weakness, and weight loss are signs that should not be ignored in Golden Retrievers, and should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Routine laboratory testing, including CBC (complete blood count) and biochemistry profiles may be recommended more frequently for this breed to diagnose this cancer as early as possible. Lymphosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma are two other common types of cancer in Golden Retrievers.

Active, curious, and outgoing, Boxers are excellent companions for active families. They have a high incidence of hip dysplasia and cardiomyopathy, but also develop mast cell tumors more frequently than any other breed. Although they affect older dogs more frequently, they may occur at any age. Boxers are also at higher risk for lymphoma, brain tumors, and melanoma.  They should be inspected frequently for any unusual lumps or bumps on or under their skin or changes in their coat.

A beloved family companion, the sweet and cheerful Cocker Spaniel is happiest when snuggling with his family. This dog’s gentle and loving nature and gorgeous coat reminds us of the most notorious Cocker Spaniel, the “Lady” in Lady and the Tramp. Allergies are especially common in this breed, as is hypothyroidism and epilepsy. Unfortunately, cancer is common in Cocker Spaniels, and is a leading cause of death in this breed. Common cancers include melanoma, basal cell tumors, fibrosarcoma, and anal sac adenocarcinoma.

Another handsome gentle giant is the Bernese Mountain Dog. Hailing from the farmlands of Switzerland, these dogs make great working dogs, watchdogs, and loyal companions. Some health conditions common to this breed of dog include hip and elbow dysplasia and gastric torsion. For some unknown reason, the cause of death for nearly half of all Bernese Mountain Dogs is from cancer. Despite being prone to develop many different types of cancer, mast cell tumors are the most common type of cancer to affect this breed. If caught early, mast cell tumors may be treated with surgical removal, chemotherapy, and medications. This dog’s skin should be examined frequently for any abnormal swelling or bumps.

The German Shepherd Dog is one of the most popular breeds of dog in America. Their intelligence and trainability makes the German Shepherd Dog a popular choice for police and military service, guide assistance work, search and rescue operations, and drug detection. They excel at competitive sports, and make faithful companions. Although generally healthy, GSDs are prone to certain health conditions, including hip dysplasia, allergies, and degenerative myelopathy, a progressive disease of the spinal cord. Cancers such as hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels, as well as lymphoma, are more prevalent in GSDs than most other breeds of dogs.

Rottweilers embody strength and stamina with their broad chests and heavily muscular bodies. They have a natural instinct to protect their families, but are also gentle, playful, and loving dogs.  Rottweilers are prone to hip dysplasia, gastric bloat, and allergies, among other health disorders. Some cancers common to this breed include lymphoma, mast cell tumors, and soft tissue sarcomas, but osteosarcoma is the most prevalent cancer in Rottweilers. This is often an aggressive cancer, requiring an aggressive treatment plan. Early detection and treatment is crucial for the best life expectancy.

Every breed of dog has its own set of personality traits, needs, and health risks. As a responsible pet owner, it is imperative to research the breed you choose to ensure that it is compatible with your family’s lifestyle. Some will require more care and maintenance, while others may need to be more physically or mentally active. Once you have found your new pet, it is important to develop a collaborative relationship with a veterinarian. Together as a team, you and your veterinarian can create a plan for the lifetime care of your pet that can maximize his or her health and quality of life.

Contact Pet Health Hospital today to arrange an appointment.

Why lifetime veterinary care is superior

The philosophy behind the veterinary care that your pet receives is one of the most important aspects of the entire process.  While most people are conditioned to believe that the job of a veterinarian is to simply treat illnesses in animals, provide vaccinations and assist with injuries, a new philosophy on the practice has begun to take shape in Las Vegas and in other areas, Pet Health Hospital being one of the leaders in this new idea.  The concept is “lifetime care and wellness programs.”

While standard veterinary procedures and treatment plans will typically earn more money for the veterinary clinic over time, due to the fact that it is far more profitable to treat large scale illnesses with surgeries and medicines than it is to prevent them in the first place, some veterinarians are beginning to subscribe to the philosophy of preventing the illnesses using the research that we have developed over years of practice.  The simple fact is that we know that many diseases are preventable as long as certain measures are taken at different periods in the animal’s life.  The real issue was attempting to create programs that actually fit specific breeds and types of pets in a way that could be followed as a roadmap.  Dr. Beerenstrauch has spent years compiling specific information on the lifetime care of different breeds, genetics, ages and types of pets into a blueprint that will cover nearly any dog or cat in a general way.

The Canine Wellness and Feline Wellness programs he has developed are not predictors of specific ailments that pets may or may not get, but instead represent a maintenance plan that extends across the animal’s lifetime and takes into consideration aspects of that animal’s specific makeup that have been proven over time.  One breed of dog or cat is different than another when creating a plan that can be followed by a parent over the course of years.  Different breeds of each animal need specific things at different points in their lives in order to maximize the health landscape.  Specific breeds are also prone to things that other breeds are not, and should have these specifics considered when planning maintenance procedures.  This is the specific route that Dr. Beerenstrauch took when constructing the lifetime care programs that Pet Health Hospital has adopted as the guiding philosophy within their Las Vegas clinic, and hopes to one day see spread to veterinarians in other facilities across the nation. The periodic veterinary maintenance procedures that Pet Health Hospital suggests for your pet are not a cookie cutter set of rules, but instead represent a guideline for maintaining the well being of your particular breed of pet, one which is further customized and modified based on specific facts about your pet in particular including breed, age, health and other elements.  Through utilizing the Pet Health Hospital guidance plans, pet owners have the ability to potentially avoid the expensive and potentially deadly illnesses and maladies that effect animals who are left untreated.  The best part is that the plans are free of charge, and do not add any cost to your veterinary care.  They are offered by Pet Health Hospital as a way to keep in better touch with the health of your pet, and as a result allow your pet to live a longer and healthier life.