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Dedicated blind therapy dog saved by vets so she can carry on working for the NHS

Sumi the 12-year-old Japanese Akita still manages to carry out incredible work at care homes, brain injury units and hospitals in Yorkshire despite being completely blind

By Laura Sharman News Reporter  & Jasmine Norden

10:15, 28 Nov 2022

A dedicated therapy dog is still doing fantastic work for the NHS despite going blind.  Japanese Akita Sumi woke up one day and the sight in one of her eyes had completely disappeared.  Owner Steve Deighton, from Derbyshire, drove more than 2,000 miles in a desperate bid to save her vision after she was diagnosed with Uveo-Dermatologic Syndrome (UDS).  But her condition got worse over time and the 12-year-old is now entirely blind.  Despite this, the pooch is still able to continue her important work in care homes, hospitals and brain injury units.  Steve told Yorkshire Live: "So Sumi’s totally blind now but she’s amazing and is still working at a local hospital three mornings a week.  It all began way back in June 2016 although we’ve still no idea of the cause, except that it was possibly hereditary.  I was devastated and extremely concerned as the initial prognosis was poor."

Sumi regularly saw ophthalmologist David Habin at Paragon Veterinary Referrals in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.  "David was extremely knowledgeable and patient and discussed all the issues with us in detail," he continued.

“During this phase of her illness, we travelled more than 2,000 miles as we needed to see David every week for blood tests, checks on her eyes and regular alterations to her medication.”

Vets were able to reduce the pressure on Sumi's eyes after her diagnosis to enable her to have sight again, but too much damage had already been done.  Steve said: "She would be on eye drops for the rest of her life and there was always the threat that the illness would return.  Sadly, in 2019, Sumi woke up one morning with cloudy eyes and unable to see.  David told us that the pressures in her eyes had increased again. One eye was ‘dead’ and the other had a cataract, but it was too risky to operate on it due to glaucoma.  It was a tough moment and we opted to let her have the rest of her life without sight rather than put her life at risk."

Steve credited Sumi's vet for making sure the dog was still able to continue her work at the hospital.  The pet pooch has worked as a therapy dog since 2016, and still does today.  Steve said: "We have total trust in Paragon and are very grateful for their care which has allowed our girl to continue her work within the NHS as a therapy dog.  Without their excellent skills we would have lost her so we would definitely recommend them, in fact we do regularly.”

Sumi's ophthalmologist David explained that most Akitas with UDS will go blind, even after treatment.  He added: "Thankfully, like Sumi, nearly all will adapt to their impairment.  Mr and Mrs Deighton are not only lovely clients but are also incredibly committed to Sumi’s care.”

Steve praised the vets and said he would have lost Sumi if it was not for the "excellent skills".


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