Petunia is a 9 year old female West Highland Terrier who comes from championship stock. Petunia’s grandmother was featured on the cover of Dog Fancy magazine. Petunia is like one of our children. She is the only pet who has been allowed to sleep in our bed. Petunia loves to chase the geese and wildlife which hang around the wetland adjoining our lakefront property. We would go to the ends of the Earth to find medical treatment for Petunia and as it turned out we almost did.
From puppyhood, Petunia has suffered from and has been treated for seasonal allergies. In mid February 2013, Petunia had a serious infection from her allergies. In early March 2013, the energetic Petunia became increasingly lethargic and had no desire to play or romp. Petunia began sleeping most of the day.
In late March 2013, we noticed that Petunia was running into chairs and having trouble navigating the stairs when entering and exiting our home. Petunia’s vision seemed to be impaired at a distance and she did not have vision close up. We took Petunia to our local veterinarian who ran several vision tests, all of which were normal. As our veterinarian could not diagnosis Petunia’s problem, we decided to seek the opinion of an ophthalmologist.
On April 2, 2013, my wife and I took Petunia to the Department of Ophthalmology at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine (MSUCVM). Petunia was thoroughly examined by the ophthalmology department head, an ophthalmology resident and numerous students. The examinations revealed that Petunia’s eyes were structurally normal. A retinal scan was performed and we were told that both of Petunia’s retinas “flat lined.”
The ophthalmologists determined that Petunia was totally blind and reported that Petunia “most likely has Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS).” We were told, and the report stated that, “Unfortunately, we are not sure what causes SARDS and there is no effective treatment that reverses the condition. The prognosis for regaining vision is poor.” The report went on to say, “The most important thing is keeping her comfortable” and her systemic health should be monitored for “an underlying condition in the body.” We were told to “make her comfortable” and to return in six months.
We were stunned by the prognosis. We were offered no hope of a cure for Petunia’s blindness. The resident stated and wrote “Some veterinary ophthalmologists have tried a high dose steroid treatment or immunoglobulin (eye injection) treatment in Iowa with variable results.” The resident stated that these two alternatives had not been peer reviewed or studied. The resident however offered to follow one of the alternatives by giving Petunia high doses of oral steroids. We declined this treatment.
After leaving MSUCVM, we began an on-line search for information and treatment of SARDS. After consulting with another university department of veterinary ophthalmology, we also decided not to pursue the eye injection treatment offered by an Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine professor, Dr. Sinisa Grozdanic.
Further on-line searches led us to publications of case studies on SARDS by Caroline Levin RN. The Levin publications referenced a number of studies as well as test results, vision acuity of subjects, and treatment protocols on canines with SARDS.
Our veterinarian was given copies of the Levine publications but she was skeptical about their value in treating Petunia’s SARDS. Our veterinarian ran tests and determined that Petunia was not suffering from underlying Cushing’s disease. During April and May 2013, Petunia’s health continued to decline. She was losing weight and had become fearful to move about.
Unfortunately, the Levin publications failed to mention one veterinarian who had created a viable protocol for the treatment of SARDS. Further searches led us to a Wikipedia article on SARDS. It made reference to a treatment protocol developed by Dr. Alfred Plechner and an endocrine-immune blood test developed by him. The blood test developed by Dr. Plechner is done exclusively by National Veterinary Diagnostic Services of Richmond, Texas.
In early May 2013, we blogged Dr. Plechner’s website and received an immediate response from him. Dr. Plechner offered to work with our veterinarian. Dr. Plechner made it clear that his role was one of consultant. In this role Dr. Plechner offered to make suggestions to our veterinarian for Petunia’s evaluation and possible treatment.
Our veterinarian is a kind and caring person who has been devoted to providing quality care for Petunia. She is open minded and experienced. In the beginning our veterinarian was skeptical about the Plechner treatment protocol. We offered to sign a release of liability but our veterinarian declined. Our veterinarian elected to proceed with the Plechner treatment protocol and told us when she undertakes a treatment she stands behind it.
Petunia’s blood was tested by the Texas lab. Upon receipt of the blood test results, Dr. Plechner made suggestions to our veterinarian for Petunia’s treatment. At Dr. Plechner’s suggestion our veterinarian placed Petunia on thyroid therapy. In late May 2013 through late August 2013, Petunia had her blood tested several times and she received a series of Depomedrol injections. Approximately 10 days after each of the injections Petunia was placed on a daily dose of oral Medrol.
By early July 2013, we began to think that Petunia’s vision was returning. Petunia was waiting to have her blood drawn. Our veterinarian came out to see Petunia. Petunia followed the doctor’s hand as she raised her hand up then down and then right and left. The doctor then pitched a small yellow toy on the bench and Petunia went after it. The doctor was astonished.
Petunia’s veterinarian continues to work in consultation with Dr. Plechner to get Petunia “normalized.” Petunia has had no adverse reactions to the treatment. Petunia is back to being our alert dog who barks when she hears strange noises or sees our neighbor from 200 feet away chasing geese back into the lake. Petunia is more active during the day and is sleeping well at night. She loves to be outside and to watch the wildlife from our patio window. Sometimes Petunia has problems adjusting her vision when coming into the house after being outside in the bright sunshine. Petunia has regained weight and her overall appearance has improved. Our veterinarian calls Petunia her “miracle dog.”
We believe that Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine (MSUCVM) did Petunia a disservice. We believe that MSUCVM has a duty to educate its staff, students and the veterinarian community at large about SARDS and to advise its clients of all of the SARDS treatment protocols which are available. MSUCVM Ophthalmologists failed Petunia when they only discussed with us two non-peer reviewed options and failed to discuss with us Dr. Plechner’s treatment protocol. Because MSUCVM did not make us aware of Dr. Plechner’s treatment protocol, Petunia’s health continued to decline until by the grace of God we found Dr. Plechner.
This we know. The restoration of Petunia’s vision is a gift from God, delivered by the caring hands of her veterinarian in consultation with Dr. Plechner. We also know that Dr. Plechner is an advocate for animals suffering with SARDS. Dr. Plechner is on the front line every day fighting SARDS. Dr. Plechner is committed to educating us about SARDS and healing animals with SARDS. Dr. Plechner’s treatment protocol is working for Petunia and many other dogs suffering from SARDS.
These facts leave us wondering why the academic community continues to claim that, “there is no effective treatment that reverses the condition,” of SARDS but fails to investigate Dr. Plechner’s treatment protocol. Why does the academic community not share the same pursuit of Dr. Plechner in establishing a treatment for SARDS that would be available to veterinarians around the World? Why does the academic community continue to allow so many dogs to suffer from SARDS even though Dr. Plechner’s treatment is having significant success? We also wonder who among the prominent universities, such as Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, will be the first to establish a national center for the study, research and treatment of SARDS? Who will accept the challenge and join in the fight to help patients like our warrior Petunia win their battle against SARDS?
Edward and Tannith Parker