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New Study Looks for Answers to an Unexplained Eye Disease in Dogs

If your dog has sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome, they may be eligible for the clinical trial.

Jackie Brown  |  Dec 14th 2016


Editor’s note: Have you seen the Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our December-January issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

A Dogster reader wrote in to tell us about their dog who suddenly went blind. As it turned out, she had something called sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome. Not much is known about this mysterious eye disease, but veterinarian Freya Mowat, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, wants to find out what causes SARDS so it can be better treated and hopefully even prevented someday.

Dr. Mowat is one of the principal investigators of a clinical trial searching for answers about SARDS. Dogs diagnosed with SARDS are typically middle-aged and usually female, with no history of vision problems. For unknown reasons, the rods and cones in the eyes become damaged, leading to retinal degeneration and ultimately, total permanent blindness. In addition to blindness, dogs with SARDS frequently have an increased appetite and weight gain, as well as increased thirst and urination, reminiscent of dogs with Cushing’s disease.

Dogs accepted into the initial clinical trial might also be enrolled in a concurrent therapeutic trial, which is investigating the use of a drug called mycophenolate mofetil to treat SARDS. The costs of all the diagnostic testing and medications are covered by the study. To learn more about Dr. Mowat’s clinical trail, and to find out if your dog might be a candidate, visit cvm.ncsu.edu, or email Dr. Mowat at fmmowat@ncsu.edu.