**DISCLAIMER** Please note: I am not a veterinarian, and the purpose of this blog is solely to educate, provide resources, and share Reo's story. In this blog, I will present research and information on the theories of SARDS to which I subscribe, along with my own narrative. If you think your dog may have SARDS, or adrenal exhaustion/Plechner Syndrome, please seek veterinary care right away!

If you are just beginning your SARDS education, I suggest you start with the blog post from August 22, 2011 entitled "SARDS Resources". If you'd like to know our trials, tribulations, and joys from the beginning, start with "But first...Reo!" and click chronologically on from there.

If you would like to read my suggestions as to how I would approach treatment for a newly-diagnosed dog, check the November 16, 2011 post "If I had another SARDS dog" (and then read my blog more fully for appropriate context).

Though we have decided to suspend Reo's retinal protection supplements in September 2012 (see September 16, 2012 post "Decision for Reo") due to the fact that she had very little remaining vision, I am still strongly supportive of our treatment approach, and know that it changed Reo's health and longevity in a positive way. Feel free to comment and ask me any questions - I am happy to help if I can!

Update: Reo became an angel on October 21, 2014. She had a profound kidney infection, causing acute kidney failure, and she was unable to recover. The contributing factors to her decline are covered in my February 16, 2015 blog post "Farewell to Reo".

Though I do not regularly update this blog any longer, much of the information is still relevant (though some of the links may be out of date). Feel free to join the conversation at "SARDS Dogs United" on Facebook.

Monday, August 22, 2011

SARDS Resources

SARDS is a complicated disease, and there are conflicting theories about the causes and treatments.  I personally, subscribe to the cause of adrenal exhaustion/Plechner's syndrome (I will sometimes use the two interchangeably), and believe in treating this cause.  I follow the work of Caroline Levin and Dr. Alfred Plechner, to whom I introduced you in my "Cast of Characters" post.  When doing my research, this theory just made sense to me when I thought about Reo's symptoms.

Reo never had any allergies, skin rashes, itchy skin, food intolerances, etc. that would suggest autoimmune issues.  I believe that SARDS and IMR (Immune-Mediated Retinitis) are two different diseases.  I do not believe that SARDS is an autoimmune disease, while I do believe that IMR is an autoimmune disease.  I won't talk too much about IMR or the IVIg treatment for SARDS, as these are not part of Reo's story.

I won't lie - this is a TON of information to digest, and it is completely overwhelming.  It can be highly confusing, not to mention highly frustrating, especially if you don't have a background in science/anatomy/physiology/biochemistry/ophthalmology!  Please feel free to post questions in the comments and I will help if I can.

Please remember that I'm not a veterinarian, and in no way do I try to discredit anyone's research, theories, or experiences.  I just want to present Reo's story, from my perspective, in a way that makes sense to me, in hopes of helping others!  While I may not be an expert on SARDS, I am an expert on Reo and her treatment, and that's why I'm writing this.

Let me be clear about one very important point.  It is highly likely that your veterinarian, and even your veterinary ophthalmologist, does not have any experience with treating SARDS.  It is also highly likely that he or she has not read any research, or is not familiar with the treatments available to SARDS dogs.  This very fact is infuriating, frustrating, and downright puzzling, but I know that veterinarians and doctors can't know everything about all diseases.  The key is, they need to be open-minded enough to educate themselves so they can help you and your dog.  It is absolutely critical that you are an advocate for your dog, and if you want to pursue treatment, you must be willing to find a veterinarian to help you.  You must do so quickly, because the health of your dog depends on you!

Please read the links below to find out more information about SARDS and IMR.

Always the best place to start for a general, overview definition!

Caroline Levin, RN
Her site was (and still is) my bible in many ways.  There is a wealth of information and research on this site, and if you are the owner of a newly diagnosed SARDS dog, I suggest you read each and every link on this site!  Take notes, and jot down questions you may have.
Caroline's research articles have a "plain English" translation, and so it makes it easy to read about the symptoms, testing, and treatment that these dogs underwent.  Having this information will help you to communicate with your veterinarian.
This article in particular is a nice comparison of the adrenal exhaustion vs. autoimmune theories of SARDS:

I highly recommend a consultation with Caroline, if your dog was recently diagnosed with SARDS.  She can help you understand this disease, and suggest treatment for your dog.  You may email her to set up a consultation time at consult (at) petcarebooks (dot) com

Dr. Alfred Plechner, DVM
Dr. P's site is also a wealth of information.  While both he and Caroline subscribe to similar theories about adrenal exhaustion, they sometimes use different terminology, and suggest different treatments.  Dr. P hasn't done as much research on SARDS specifically like Caroline, but Dr. P has helped over 150,000 humans and animals during his career.  He has also published several books and articles.  To me, his website helps put everything in perspective, as it is "bigger picture" than just SARDS dogs.

I do suggest that you read each and every page on Dr P's site, using the navigation links on the left.  Again, take notes, and jot down any questions you may have.

Bonnie Sue the Scottish Terrier's mom wrote an extremely interesting article on her experiences, including Levin's and Plechner's theories, Dr. Grozdanic's theories, and IVIg information.  It is very well-written, and a great overview of Bonnie Sue's story.  It should be required reading for any dog owner, let alone SARDS dog owner!

I highly suggest a consultation with Dr. Plechner, but he typically requires that your dog already have the EI-1 panel from NVDS (see next entry).  Dr. P treats Plechner Syndrome/adrenal exhaustion quite aggressively, and not all vets will be willing to undertake his protocol (this was my personal experience), so be prepared.  However, Reo is living proof that his treatment WORKS, and isn't your dog's health worth it?  You can fill out the consultation request form on Dr. P's site:

National Veterinary Diagnostic Services (NVDS)
This laboratory will perform a critical blood test to help diagnose your SARDS dog's underlying adrenal issues.  Caroline Levin reports that 98% of all dogs diagnosed with SARDS have adrenal exhaustion.  Therefore, it is of utmost importance that your dog is diagnosed and properly treated!
NVDS performs the most sensitive test, and is recommended by both Caroline Levin and Dr. P (please note that neither is affiliated with the laboratory, but just endorse their testing).  The needed test is the EI-1 panel (endocrine-immune 1 panel) and reports on total estrogen, total cortisol, thyroid hormones, and immunoglobulins.  This information, taken together, will help diagnose your dog.  Your veterinarian may want to send the test out to the University of Michigan, or the University of Tennessee.  I suggest that you push for the NVDS test, as it is more sensitive, and measures all of the analytes which are important to diagnose your dog.
This lab can also be very helpful if you need to find a veterinarian in your area who may have used Dr. Plechner's or Caroline Levin's protocol in the past (some individuals have had success [like me], and some individuals haven't had much success, but it's worth a try if you are desperate to find a vet who'll help you!)

Print out the forms on the website, and bring them to your veterinarian.  Your dog's blood sample should be spun down, and the serum shipped via overnight on ice packs to be kept cold.

SARDS Dogs - Adrenal Exhaustion Yahoo Group 
This is a group that I started, and is intended to be a safe place to learn about and discuss adrenal exhaustion/Plechner Syndrome, and the specialized treatment for this disease, following the recommendations of Dr. Plechner and Caroline Levin.  Members are encouraged to share their own experiences and make suggestions to other members that need help (keeping in mind that we are not veterinarians, and our suggestions should be discussed with a vet!).

SARDS Awareness
A site that talks about some of the differences between SARDs and IMR.  I personally do not agree with all of the information on this site, as it is heavily weighted toward IMR and the associated IVIg treatment from Dr. Grozdanic at Iowa State, but it is a good resource nonetheless.  Unfortunately, it is not regularly updated, but if you are interested in learning more about IVIg therapy, including Dr. Grozdanic's treatment protocol, it is on this site.

SARDS Dogs Yahoo Group
This site was a great support to me when Reo was first diagnosed - the members are very knowledgeable and helpful about SARDS, IMR, IVIg, and blind dogs.  If you need suggestions about how to help your blind dogs cope, this is the place to visit and pose your question!

Blind Dog Info
This page is a collection of stories from owners whose dogs were/are affected with SARDS.  Sometimes it helps just to read others' experiences.

There is also a message board, which you could find useful.  It covers other topics than just SARDS.

After spending countless hours on these sites, perhaps consulting with Caroline and/or Dr. P, and getting your dog's blood test back from NVDS, you may come to the same conclusions that I did:
My dog has adrenal exhaustion/Plechner's Syndrome.  My dog's adrenal glands are not making the cortisol s/he needs, and they're making adrenal estrogen instead.  These high estrogen levels are toxic to my dog's cells, including his/her retinal cells.  High estrogen levels also mimic the symptoms of Cushing's disease.  My dog is sick, and s/he needs help immediately!

So...forward we go!


  1. Hi, my dog has been recently diagnosed with SARDS and I'm on my journey, as you did, in his recovery.
    I would like you to ask if you know if this liver friendly diet from Monica Segal is SARDS friendly as well. I' ve been reading that one of the problems is that there's too much calcium on the retina and this diet has calcium supplement:
    Hope you can guide me because I'm searching for new vet and I want to start the diet ASAP.
    Thank you sooo much for your blog, it makes me feel there's hope :)

  2. Hi there, and I'm sorry to hear about your dog! I am not a vet nutritionist, so I am not sure about the Segal liver diet. It looks healthy to me. Does your dog also have elevated liver enzymes? You are right that Caroline Levin believes that too much calcium uptake in the retina causes a "retinal seizure". She recommends the Magnesium Taurate supplement to counteract this. Wishing you and your pup the best on your new vet search, and hoping that he feels better soon!

  3. My 11 yr old Chihuahua lost her eyesight to SARDS June 2013. I was told there was no way to reverse her blindness. Is that correct and would the time shes had it make it permanent?

    Now she is having seizures, confusion, restlessness. We suspect Cushings. Now I'm going to my reg Vet and start the "help" treatment she needs to live a better quality life. Any suggestions would be helpfull as I am overwhelmed and I even think my Vet may not be as advanced in his SARDS or Cushings knowledge. If it is adrenal, would any non-medicine supplements or the like, help??THANKS

  4. I'm sorry to hear about your Chi! Yes, by now with the time that has passed, her vision loss is permanent. However, it's not too late to address her underlying adrenal condition! I suggest you get an EI-1 panel from National Veterinary Diagnostic Services (referenced above in this post). It's likely that your dog does not have Cushing's, but the opposite of Cushing's - more like Atypical Addison's. Wishing you luck!!

  5. My brother's dog out of the blue had multiple, what seemed to be seizures, not long after she lost the sight in one eye and now the other. The vet told my brother that it is time to put her down that she may have dementia or a brain tumor. She is a 14 yo Shih Tzu. But now I have been reading about SARDS and I thought maybe she should be tested before they got that route. Any thoughts would be gratefully appreciated.

  6. dog has been blind for a month because it took us that long to get an appointment with the opthamalogist. I actually took him to vet as soon as I noticed but I live a long distance from the opthamologist and when we got there she had no clue. Just diagnosed him with SARDS. I got on the internet and found Dr. Pleschner and my vet worked with him on a protocol and he has, today, has his first treatment. Do you think it is too late to get his eyesight back?

  7. Hi there, so sorry for my delayed response! Sorry to hear about your less than stellar experience so far with your ophthalmologist - you are not alone! How wonderful that your dog received his first treatment, I'm glad you found Dr. P! :) It may not be too late for his vision to be saved, so I will cross fingers for you both - keep us posted!

  8. I have been emailing, and my vet has also, to reach out to Dr. P. It's been going on 3 weeks now, and just curious how long it takes for him to respond? I had the EI-1 test done 4 weeks ago and sent to Dr. P also.

  9. Oh, please follow up with him again! He usually gets back very quickly, same day usually! He must have missed something or it went to spam...

  10. Is the only way to get a hold of him is email? I've done it twice, my vet once. I hate doing by email for something like this, I like to talk to someone.

  11. He does speak via phone, but only after email consult. It's puzzling that you sent your panel results and he did not contact either you or your vet. Are you emailing drplechner1 (at) gmail (dot) com ?

  12. I just learned that Dr. P is having some health issues and is in the ER! :( You can see his Facebook page for more info:

    His protocol is published, if your vet feels comfortable starting!

  13. I just read that Dr. P.'s FB page that he died in Sept 2017.

  14. Hi. We just been through a terrifying ordeal last night when we discovered that our 9 year old Chihuahua suddenly went blind. Before that we had received treatment for an eye ulcer in one of her eyes, but the vet told us she can see just fine. Suddenly last night she started bumping into things and seemed disoriented. We took her to emergency hospital and she also hand high fever 103.7
    The doctor told us it may very well be SARDS but told us to see an optomologist as soon as we possibly can. If it is SARDS, is there anything we can do restore our dog's vision? I just discovered your page and read about Dr. P... and realized that he died. Is there anyone who does similar work with pets with SARDS?
    Please help

  15. Hi. We just been through a terrifying ordeal last night when we discovered that our 9 year old Chihuahua suddenly went blind. Before that we had received treatment for an eye ulcer in one of her eyes, but the vet told us she can see just fine. Suddenly last night she started bumping into things and seemed disoriented. We took her to emergency hospital and she also hand high fever 103.7
    The doctor told us it may very well be SARDS but told us to see an optomologist as soon as we possibly can. If it is SARDS, is there anything we can do restore our dog's vision? I just discovered your page and read about Dr. P... and realized that he died. Is there anyone who does similar work with pets with SARDS?
    Please help

  16. Hi Ana - so sorry about your pup! If you are on Facebook, you can join the group "SARDS Dogs United" for lots of resources and guidance. There are other vets who follow Dr P's protocols and can consult with your vet.