Figgy is a nine-year-old, male miniature Dachshund. And he is one of the best examples of why hormone replacement therapy should be pursued for dogs with SARDS. You can read more about the treatment protocol here.
In 2016, at age six, Figgy was diagnosed with Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration. He has regained and retained his vision due to hormone replacement therapy. The videos below show Figgy navigating an obstacle course in June of 2019, three years after therapy was initiated. You’ve just got to love his little jump at the end. How can anyone watch these videos and still claim that SARD is irreversible?
Skeptics might say, “Oh, but the dog knows his home environment. It’s not an accurate setting for an obstacle course.” For those viewers, here’s Figgy competing at the 2019 Nosework Trial in Grant’s Pass, Oregon. Please note that at the one-minute mark how he navigates the table leg, the step stool, and the carpet sweeper.
And another one.
2021 UPDATE: Figgy is still highly visual five years after treatment was started. Here he and Ida are having a private nosework lesson.
Ida, Figgy’s owner, tells his story below. Some additional comments from me are in parenthesis.
Hi Caroline, Figgy was diagnosed with SARD in June 2016. I have the flatlined ERG to prove it. My regular vet sent me to an ophthalmologist who poo-pooed any kind of treatment but I was prepared (sort of) after going online, finding and talking to you. I insisted she read your materials and do something accordingly but she was only willing to try a course of Doxicycline and Prednisone.
After about 6 weeks Figgy seemed to have regained his vision, but I was afraid he might lose it again if not kept on continuing treatment. I contacted you again and this time Figgy went on to the treatment plan in YOUR book, thanks to a holistic vet who was willing to prescribe the meds for me.
(Readers, for many years veterinary ophthalmologists have prescribed a short course of high-dose prednisone along with doxycycline or cyclosporin. This treatment was originally developed to rule out possible inflammation. However, doxycycline/cyclosporin and high-dose prednisone rarely benefit SARD dogs. Sometimes they even make symptoms worse.
Occasionally, a dog like Figgy will respond to the prednisone but not for the reason most people think. It’s not an anti-inflammatory action that’s helping these dogs, but rather, it’s the hormone replacement effect.
SARD dogs make elevated sex-hormone steroids because they can no longer make cortisol. Some dogs like Figgy respond dramatically to the presence of prednisone (a cortisol replacement), which reduces the excessive adrenal sex-hormone levels and spares the retina.
However, these HIGH doses of prednisone can only be given for a short time, and the vision is lost again when the medication ends. SARD dogs are in need of LOW-dose cortisol replacement (LOW-dose prednisone or LOW-dose medrol) given long-term in order to replace the cortisol these dogs no longer produce. It was this course of treatment that Figgy’s holistic veterinarian initiated. —Caroline)
The only setbacks Figgy still has are symptoms during the estrogen spikes in November and February/March, like dark spots on his groin and excessive sneezing, both of which improve and go away with pulsing the Medrol for two weeks.
I would say that Figgy’s vision fluctuates depending on the lighting. He clearly can see well enough to negotiate an obstacle course and many other things when the lighting is good, but less so when dim. Then he is less confident.
Figgy still sees an ophthalmologist for checkups (not the one who initially put him on the Prednisone and Doxicycline, she left California) and this new one confirms that Figgy is “not blind” as she puts it, and is in fact, staying consistently “not blind” over the past three years.
I asked her if she would recommend this treatment to her clients. She said, “No.” Despite living proof in her own patient, Figgy, she does not “want to get their hopes up.” So I have to tell his story here and hope that other dog owners see it.
I will be sending the videos to her as evidence. Will she change her mind? I doubt it, but who knows? Maybe she is seeing more and more success cases as people find you and try the treatment on their own? I hope Figgy’s story can help others in this situation.
(Readers, there IS therapy for these dogs! When the underlying hormone problem is addressed 20%–55% of dogs regain functional vision.This is not “false hope”. These are the numbers. This information should not be withheld from SARD-dog owners. Dog owners should be permitted to make informed decisions for their pets. —Caroline)
There are many more resources for SARD dog owners here.