Today we meet Mira and her dog Leo from Philadelphia USA. We talk about her experience of caring for dog who very rapidly became blind due to Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration (SARD). She describes the challenges in the early days following the diagnosis and shares some advice for others facing the same situation.
Could you tell us a bit about your experience with SARDs and caring for a blind dog?
Leo was diagnosed with SARDs, Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration, in February 2018. Within a week Leo went from being a normal dog to suddenly being blind.
We had noticed an increase in water intake, him needing to relieve himself more often and a change in his behavior. When Leo started bumping into the back of our legs, not being able to see where his treats were and not being able to play fetch and/or see where his ball was thrown we knew something was wrong. He was missing steps when he was climbing down the stairs causing him to stumble or trip, which was scary because he could have really injured himself.
I left to go out one morning and saw Leo sitting on my couch as he always does. When I came back about 2 hours later, Leo was in the exact same spot which was so unusual. With all of the other signs I saw, I knew something was wrong and took him to the ER that afternoon where the ophthalmologist made the diagnosis.
We learned that increased thirst/urination was symptom of SARDs and it finally started making sense as to why he couldn't find his treats when he usually ate them within seconds!
Since his diagnosis, we have been helping Leo adjust to his new way of life. We purchased a muffins halo for blind dogs, to keep him from bumping into things and we have been helping him re-learn how to climb up and down the stairs since he became scared of them during this time. We have started snapping our fingers when we want him to follow us, so he can hear where we are going and we bought him a bunch of noisy toys so he can play again. He has learned to play fetch (indoors) within a month of going blind. He listens to which direction the ball hit the ground and sniffs arouund until he finds the ball. The best part is he will ONLY bring back the ball that you threw!
Can you describe what a regular day is like with Leo?
Leo is home alone most of the day except for the days I can work from home.
On a normal day, I get back from work around 5 and have a happy dog that greets me at the door. Leo has gotten more comfortable navigating the house and knows exactly where the front door, back door, and his food bowl are. Once I get home, I spend the time hanging out with Leo. Since his diagnosis I've noticed he requires a lot more attention and more encouragement. He likes knowing we are around and that we are close by.
Leo gets my undivided attention for about an hour until my mom gets home, then its her turn! He knows when mom gets home its time for dinner around 6pm.
Once dinner and bathroom time are done and over with, Leo spends the rest of his evening playing with his toys or snuggling up next to one of his humans. His favorite game his fetch, doing tricks, or getting lots and lots of attention.
Leo spends his weekends hanging out with the family. He knows we are home all day and asks for lots of walks, pets and treats. The weekends we usually have people over so Leo gets to make new friends!
Are there any products for blind soda that you would recommended?
Muffins Halo for blind dogs is a great product for a pet that has recently gone blind. It helps prevent them from bumping into things! Leo doesn't mind wearing it at all and it definitely stops him from injuring his head when he walks around the house.
What advice would you offer to someone whose dog has been diagnosed with SARDs?
I think the biggest tip I can give anyone whos pet was recently diagnosed with SARDs is that its going to be okay! I was so worried about how Leo was going to be after the diagnosis.
We still have days where he gets lost, confused, and sad. Going on walks around the neighborhood is tough but he just needs more time. I thought this was the worst thing to happen to Leo. Although I'm sad it happened at all, I'm very happy to see how well he has managed. He is fearless, willing to learn, and absolutely resilient. I am so proud of him!
It's important to remember that this isn't only an adjustment for your dog, it is an adjustment for you too! It takes time, dogs are so quick to learn with your help and on their own too! Remember to be patient because they're just as scared as you are and are relying on you to help them know everything is going to be okay.
Keep track of Leo’s progress on Instagram.