What causes a six-year-old dog to go blind in less than a week? Is there anything we can do to fix it? The vet says she has SARDS.
— J. Vozzo, Henderson, Nevada
While several conditions can cause your dog to go blind quickly, if your veterinarian says your dog has Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration (SARDS), then that is the culprit of your dog’s disability. This condition can affect any breed/mixed breed of dog and is the result of the destruction of the rods and cones in the retina, which results in sudden blindness. Many dog owners report seeing an increase in appetite and water consumption a week or two before the blindness. There is no treatment and no way to reverse blindness caused by SARDS.
Please know your dog is not in any pain and does not need to be euthanized. Animals can adapt to blindness, especially when their owners do a few key things. Here are a few tips.
First, don’t move the furniture around or leave baskets of laundry or shoes in odd places. Push in the chairs to the dining room table after your meals. The more the space stays the same, the quicker she will adjust.
Second, use sound and scent to help her know where she is going. Put a bell or something scented, like a car freshener, on the door she uses to go out and relieve herself. The scent will help her find her way to the door (always use the same scent) and the bells will let her know the door is open and she can go out.
Next, keep water and food dishes in the same place, so she can easily find them. In fact, if she gets disoriented, take her to the door where she relieves herself or her food dishes, so she can get her bearings again.
Finally, block her access to stairs using baby gates and to inground pools using covers or fencing. Provide some short stairs to the bed or couch, if she is allowed on them. Learning stairs will be her hardest task, so be patient. You can use treats on each step to coax her along.
Hope this helps.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal