March 14th 2023
A SARD-dog owner from Oregon shared the following email with me. It was written by her general practice vet.
“I looked into this theory regarding endocrine links to SARDS, as well as this National Diagnostic Lab that I have never heard of. The consensus in the veterinary community is that this is a scam. This is not a veterinary laboratory that is used by the veterinary community. It sounded like it was being run out of someone’s home. When consulting the internal medicine community, there is no link between hormones and SARDs that has been proven.”
Let’s start with the vet’s misgivings about National Veterinary Diagnostics Services (NVDS). And then we’ll address the hormone issue.
In the cases I’ve followed these past 17 years, the presence of clinical signs/symptoms closely correlates with hormone levels recorded at NVDS. However, if a practitioner doesn’t wish to use NVDS, they certainly have another option.
Practitioners have always had the option to use the Adrenal Sex Hormone Panel at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM). This is a nationally accredited laboratory run by board certified internal medicine practitioners. The Adrenal Sex Hormone Panel was developed over 20 years ago by the late Dr. Jack Oliver DVM, PhD, head of the endocrinology department at UTCVM, and author of more than 20 research papers.
There’s no reason to deny a SARD-dog owner’s request for hormone testing. There has always been a second hormone panel.
In 2003 a research paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists. This study was conducted By Dr. Carter, Dr. Bentley, et al, and included Dr. Oliver’s findings from adrenal sex hormone panels performed at the Department of Endocrinology, UTCVM. The paper demonstrated that 9 out of 10 SARD dogs had elevated levels of adrenal sex hormones. (1)
In 2007 Dr. Oliver authored a paper entitled “Steroid Profiles in the Diagnosis of Canine Adrenal Disorders” presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. In it he stated, “Steroid profiles have also helped to better understand the condition of SARDS in dogs, where steroids other than cortisol are frequently involved.” (2)
In 2009 the work of Dr. Bentley, Carter, Oliver, et al was updated and the findings were published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, a peer-reviewed, scientific journal. The authors demonstrated that 11 of 13 SARD dogs had elevated adrenal sex hormone levels and recommended the routine evaluation of sex hormones in SARD dogs. (3)
In 2015 a paper entitled, “Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) — A Review and Proposed Strategies Toward a Better Understanding of Pathogenesis, Early Diagnosis and Therapy” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Veterinary Ophthalmology. It stated, “In a majority of SARDS-affected dogs, vision loss is seen in conjunction with systemic signs (PP, PU, PD, weight gain, anxiety, panting, etc.) and/or laboratory abnormalities (lymphopenia, neutrophilia, elevated serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), or cholesterol, as well as reduced urine specific gravity and/or proteinuria) consistent with those seen in certain endocrinopathies…” (4)
So readers, for 20 years it’s been known that nearly all SARD dogs demonstrate elevated adrenal sex hormones. The claim of “no proven link between hormones and SARDS” shows —at best— extreme ignorance and at worst? Well, I’ll let you fill in the blank.
Obviously, the endocrine piece of SARDS is beyond the scope or interest of the ophthalmologists. I had hoped the endocrinologists would pick up the torch and start examining Non-Classic (adult-onset) Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia as a model for these dogs. Human medicine has decades of experience with this condition and veterinarians can look to this body of research. After reading the preposterous statement made above, however, attributed to the “consensus of the internal medicine community” I no longer have high hopes of this.
Dog owners: the veterinary specialists will be the least helpful in caring for your SARD dog. Look to holistic veterinarians or a logical general practice vet with whom you have a good working relationship.
1. Carter RT, Bentley E, Oliver JW, Miller PE, Herring IP. Elevations in Adrenal Sex Hormones in Canine Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS). Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists 2003;34: 40. (Scroll down to abstract #51 if you use the link.)
2. Oliver JW, Steroid Profiles in the Diagnosis of Canine Adrenal Disorders. Proceedings of the 25th Annual Meeting of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 2007; 471-473.
3. Carter RT, Oliver JW, Stepien RL, Bentley E. Elevations in Sex Hormones in Canine Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS). Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 2009; 45: 207-214.
4. Kamaromy AM, Abrams KL, Heckenlively JR, Lundy SK, Maggs DJ, Leeth CM, MohanKumar PS, Peterson-Jones SM, Serreze DV, van der Woerdt A. Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) — a Review and Proposed Strategies Toward a Better Understanding of Pathogenesis, Early Diagnosis, and Therapy. Veterinary Ophthalmology 2015; 19: 319-331.