SARDS Symptoms in a Schnauzer

SARDS strikes with little warning.

SARDS strikes with little warning.

Schanuzers are prone to several eye ailments, but among the most devastating is sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome, or SARDS. Though your dog will go completely blind, remember that dogs don't rely on vision as much as people. Take care of him and he can still enjoy a good life.

Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome

Although SARDS is not believed to be genetic in origin, Schnauzers appear predisposed to the disorder, according to Michigan Veterinary Specialists. The actual cause of SARDS is currently unknown, although it might be related to Cushing's disease, or hyperadrenocorticism. It's possibly an autoimmune issue, in which your Schnauzer's own immune system attacks his tissues rather than protecting them. Your dog's retina—which receives light at the rear of the eye, allowing vision—ceases to function.


The key word in SARDS is "sudden." Your Schnauzer's vision might appear perfectly normal, until suddenly it isn't. While it might seem to occur literally overnight, this disorder usually comes on gradually over a few weeks. Your dog might start drinking and eating more before the vision loss, symptoms that don't appear connected to his eyes. Initial vision loss might be more obvious in low light. While SARDS is more prevalent in Schnauzers than some other breeds, it also tends to affect females more than males, and occurs more often in overweight dogs in the 7- to 14-year age range.


Other diseases, some of them treatable, mimic SARDS. Because the onset of SARDS is so rapid, your dog's retina might appear normal to your vet at the initial examination. Either your vet or a canine ophthalmologist should perform an electroretinogram to evaluate whether your Schnauzer has any retinal function. If the retina still functions to some degree, your dog doesn't have SARDS.


There is no standard treatment for SARDS, although Seattle's Northwest Animal Eye Specialists report an experimental treatment involving intravenous administration of immunoglobulins. Only otherwise healthy dogs can receive this treatment, which "may not produce any improvement of vision." If your Schnauzer is diagnosed with Cushing's disease, your vet can prescribe medication for the condition, but it won't restore sight. Dogs with SARDS are not in pain. Over time, most blind dogs adjust to their condition. Avoid rearranging the furniture or blocking normal traffic routes in your house.

About the Author

Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.

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