Donna partners with Dr. Cathy Alinovi, a retired veterinarian, to create informative pet health articles.
Are you living with a dog with epilepsy? The worry and stress about caring for your pet's health may have exhausted you to the point that you feel unable to learn new ways to manage the epilepsy.
While epilepsy is a serious disease, there is more to life with an epileptic pet than living from one seizure to the next. Dr. Cathy Alinovi of Healthy PAWsibilities shares what she has learned about canine epilepsy from her clients.
Question 1: What is epilepsy?
Dr. Cathy: When seizures happen repeatedly, over weeks or months, the condition is classified as epilepsy.
Q2: How many types of epilepsy are there?
Dr. Cathy: Epilepsy is either primary or secondary. Primary epilepsy is often called idiopathic—idiopathic means conventional medicine does not know the cause—and these dogs are completely normal in between seizures.
Secondary epilepsy is also called acquired or symptomatic. Acquired epilepsy is something that develops due to an exposure or life event, such as distemper infection, head trauma or brain tumor; these dogs are not normal in between seizures.
Q3: Which dog breeds are predisposed to epilepsy?
Dr. Cathy: There is a long list of breeds predisposed to epilepsy. However, just because your dog's breed is on the list, it does not mean he will have seizures. Additionally, if your dog breed is not on the list, it does not mean your dog will not have seizures. The AKC Group of each breed organizes the table below of dogs with a predisposition for epilepsy.
Breeds Predisposed to Epilepsy by AKC Classification
|Herding Group||Hound Group||Non-sporting Group||Sporting Group||Terrier Group||Working Group|
Jack Russell Terrier/Parson Russell Terrier
Bernese Mountain Dog
Wire-haired Fox Terrier
German Shepherd Dog
Q4: Why does my dog have seizures?
Dr. Cathy: A seizure is an electrical imbalance in the brain. The brain is supposed to have a balance between Go (excitatory) and No-Go (inhibitory) functions. When a seizure starts, the No-Go isn’t strong enough to prevent the Go from happening. The question is: why is the Go signal so strong and the No-Go signal too weak to prevent the seizure as happens in normal dogs.
Q5: What happens during a seizure?
Dr. Cathy: Usually, in one super tiny little part of the brain, the Go signal overwhelms the local No-Go and the seizure starts. If the rest of the brain is a touch weak, the Go signal will overwhelm the whole brain and cause a full-blown seizure. Some seizures are just tremors; other seizures overwhelm the whole body and lead to falling down, drooling, screaming, pooping, peeing, vomiting, and the appearance of drunkenness.
Q6: Are there ways to prevent my dog's seizures?
Dr. Cathy: This is the million-dollar question. Anyone whose dog has seizures wants to know how to prevent the seizures. However, what those people want is to know how to reverse time and undo the one thing that caused their dogs to be epileptic.
In hindsight, they will wish they had fed better food (real food), done less vaccinating, applied less chemicals, used less chemicals to clean in their houses, avoided toxic lawn chemicals and so on. So, for those whose dogs haven’t had seizures, who might possibly read this, those are the things that can help prevent seizures.
Q7: How can I keep my dog safe during a seizure?
Dr. Cathy: The caveat question is how to keep yourself safe during the seizure. It’s normal parenting instinct to want to jump in and help. You have to be careful not to get hurt while wanting to help your dog. Watch the mouth and head. If you can hold your dog without being bitten, then hold your dog. Your goal is to keep him from hitting his head on the floor. Some dogs rush head long into walls or down stairs, so preventing him from getting hurt is your goal.
Q8: What causes epilepsy?
Dr. Cathy: Secondary, or acquired, epilepsy can have many causes. These causes can range from heavy metal overload (like lead or arsenic), to bacterial infection, to tick borne disease, to brain tumor; in other words, anything that can imbalance the workings of the brain.
Primary epilepsy is believed to be a genetic imbalance in how the brain functions or was put together. The truth is, in primary epilepsy, the cause is not known. Therefore, prescribing medication is a guesstimate because if the cause if not known, how the brain is malfunctioning is not known, thus we can’t know which medication may reverse the problem.
Q9: How common is epilepsy in canines?
Dr. Cathy: Statistically one to three percent dogs have seizures. This means 1 to 3 dogs out of 100 have seizures. Most dog owners know 100 people with dogs and of those, 1 or 2 will have epilepsy. It’s fairly common.
Q10: What are the symptoms of epilepsy?
Dr. Cathy: In between seizures, there are no visible signs of an epileptic. Before an epileptic has a seizure, there may be a prodrome stage or an aura that identifies a seizure is coming.
The prodrome stage is a time of abnormal behavior that comes before a seizure. An aura is where the seizure patient may see or hear or smell things. This is a hard phase to identify in dogs because it is hard for dogs to say they smell something funny.
Some seizures look like fly biting where the dog snaps in the air at seemingly nothing. Some seizures are just tremors and drooling. The stereotypical seizure is where the dog lays on his side, urinates and defecates on himself, and even screams as if in agony.
Q11: How is epilepsy diagnosed?
Dr. Cathy: It’s basically a diagnosis by exclusion. If the seizure never repeats, it’s a one-time event. Regardless if there has been one seizure or more, basic tests include bloodwork, urinalysis, tests for tick diseases, and sometimes even an MRI. If there is no obvious reason for the seizures, it is called epilepsy.
How to Calm an Epileptic Dog
Common Medications Used to Treat Canine Epilepsy
|First Line Medications||Second Line Medications|
Q12: What are the Western medicine treatments for epilepsy?
Dr. Cathy: Standard medications include phenobarbital, and potassium or sodium bromide are the most common treatments for epilepsy.
If these medicines or some combination of them doesn't control the seizures, then there are second line medications that can sometimes help control seizures.
These medications include: levetiracetam, valproic acid, zonisamide, gabapentin, topiramate, and now even pregabalin. TABLE
Q13: What are the alternative medicine treatment options?
Dr. Cathy: Anything that makes the body work better helps combat epilepsy. Alternative treatment starts with detoxification. Because toxic exposure (think lead, fungi, organophosphates, parasites, nutritional imbalance), can cause seizures, detoxification is an initial first step.
Detoxification comes in many forms, including herbal therapy. Additionally, getting to the root of the seizures helps determine alternative treatments.
Sometimes, a full and complete life history makes homeopathy the answer to seizures. Sometimes, the right Chinese herbal formula can stop seizures. The beauty of alternative medicine is each patient is treated as an individual, rather than following a formula that is not one size fits all. The reasons for seizures are individual, thus should be the treatment be individualized.
Q14: What will living with an epileptic dog be like?
Dr. Cathy: Most of the time, your life will be normal. If your dog has a break through seizure, you may have to give oral or rectal valium, or the seizures may be mild and easy to manage so you only have to hold your dog through the seizures.
Q15: How will I need to manage my dog's epilepsy?
Dr. Cathy: Medication (be it conventional or alternative), good food, avoidance of chemicals and vaccines, and life as usual.
Q15: What roles do diet and exercise play in epilepsy?
Dr. Cathy: The crazy thing is many seizures start in the intestines. The neurotransmitters (chemicals that talk between the nerves) that make the intestines work are the same as the ones in the brain.
For many dogs, controlling the imbalance in the intestines prevents the chemical imbalance from spreading to their brains.
Exercise is always a key to good health because the entire body works better when it moves. Exercise helps reduce weight and sometimes, the toxins stored in the body’s fat may be the cause of seizures. Exercise also makes the intestines work better, which, in turn, may make the brain work better by not having seizures.
Q16: What else do pet parents need to know about epilepsy?
Dr. Cathy: Most owners of seizure dogs wrack their brains trying to identify a cause, so they scrutinize anything that may have changed just before the seizures started. For some patients, it might have been a rabies vaccine. The sad side of things is 30-40% of seizure patients never get control of their seizures with medication, no matter how much medication is given or how many different types. The thing to figure out is how to make the seizures less of an issue, so they have less impact.
Vote for your favorite pet
This veterinary medical information is based on information provided during a telephone interview with a professional, qualified, retired veterinarian. However, it is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. Always seek your veterinarian’s advice about your pet’s health.
While this information is periodically researched and updated (under the guidance of veterinary input) in the attempt to be timely and factual, no guarantee is given the information is correct, complete, and/or up-to-date.
Recommendations as to therapeutics, diagnostics and best standards of practice in the veterinary industry and/or opinions between professionals may differ or change as technologies and information changes. You should not use this article as your sole source of information on any matter of veterinary health or attempt to self-diagnose or treat your pets as the information herein may not be appropriate for your pet. The safest option for you and your pet is to rely on the advice of your veterinarian to diagnose and recommend the best treatment options.
© 2014 Donna Cosmato
Shirley Owens on December 15, 2016:
My Italian Greyhound starting having seizures when she was a young puppy. At first it scared me. I learned over time It has to do with her getting too hot. I learned to pick her up and bath her face with a little water to cool her down. I talk to her and hold her while walking with her until she comes out of it. She has been such comfort to me and I love her so much. She is 14 years old and acts like a puppy. My Vet told me she had a heart like a "puppy".
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on June 29, 2014:
I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your precious pet, Irc7815. I'm glad it was helpful to you.
Linda Crist from Central Virginia on June 29, 2014:
I recently lost my 11 year old Italian Greyhound to cancer but she was also a seizure dog. Most of her seizures followed vaccines (immediately) so we never really treated her as epileptic. Seizures are very common to IG's so I was thrilled to find your hub on the subject. It's very clear and concise, full of good information, and well organized. Thank you.
Hezekiah from Japan on June 28, 2014:
Intersting topic. It may not be disease but the dog we used to have used to get fits from eating worming tablets.
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on June 26, 2014:
Hi Melissa, best wishes for your new border collie puppy for a long, healthy life. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub and found it useful; thank you for commenting.
Melissa Knight from Murfreesboro, TN on June 25, 2014:
Thank you so much for this information! I have a border collie puppy, and it's been my fear that he will have seizures like my beloved previous border collie darling did - so this information is so helpful! We love them so much - so anything I can learn to be more informed provides comfort!
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on June 25, 2014:
Thank you for voting up and commenting on this hub, torrilynn. It is awful to see a pet suffering because it makes us feel so helpless, doesn't it?
torrilynn on June 24, 2014:
I never knew that these diseases could cause seizures in dogs. I use to have a dog and I know the pain that one must feel to see their dog have a seizure or are hurt in any type of way. thanks for the hub. voted up.
Understanding Canine Epilepsy
Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder seen in dogs, and has been estimated to affect approximately 0.75% of the canine population 3 . The term epilepsy refers to a heterogeneous disease that is characterized by the presence of recurrent, unprovoked seizures resulting from an abnormality of the brain. The condition can be inherited (genetic or idiopathic epilepsy), caused by structural problems in the brain (structural epilepsy), or stem from an unknown cause (epilepsy of unknown cause) 1 . Determination of an appropriate treatment regimen for canine epilepsy depends on an accurate diagnosis of the type and cause of seizures, only after which appropriate therapeutic options can be identified.
Diagnosing and Classifying Canine Seizures
Although classification systems exist for human seizures, there is not yet a widely accepted classification system available for seizures in dogs 1 . While human systems are sometimes used to describe canine seizures, this can be problematic. Human classifications are not always clearly applicable to canines, and there is often confusion about the meaning of specific terminology in the veterinary setting. This is particularly true of those classification elements which require subjective reporting of symptoms. For example, while dog owners may notice a specific behavior that typically precedes a seizure and is indicative of a behavioral change, there is no direct way to determine the presence of a pre-seizure event as sometimes diagnosed in humans.
Recently, the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force proposed a classification scheme for veterinary seizures, which is similar but not identical to the current human classification system 1 . Using this system, a seizure is primarily classified according to where it begins in the brain, with specific features of the seizure used to further characterize the event.
Seizure description is the most critical information needed for the diagnosis of canine epilepsies. There are two basic types of seizures, generalized and focal. Generalized seizures involve both sides of the brain at the onset, and are characterized by clinical signs apparent on both sides of the body. Most generalized seizures manifest as bilateral involuntary muscle movements or sudden losses or increases in muscle tone. During a generalized seizure, an individual’s awareness of the environment is typically impaired, and salivation, urination and/or defecation can occur. Focal seizures originate in a discrete area of the brain, and are characterized by signs that affect a single side or specific part of the body. Focal seizures can present with abnormal motor activity (facial twitches, chewing movements, paddling of a limb), behavioral signs (fear, attention seeking), and/or changes in autonomic functions (pupil dilation, salivation, vomiting). Awareness may or may not be impaired during focal seizures. A focal seizure can spread to both sides of the brain and become generalized.
Commonly Used Terminology
Automatisms – repetitive motor activity that resembles movement under voluntary control, such as lip smacking, licking or chewing
Atonic seizure – a sudden loss of muscle tone lasting several seconds or more, not following a tonic or myoclonic event
Cluster seizures – a group of seizures within a shorter than normal interval clinically defined as 2 or more seizures within a 24-hour period
Focal seizure – seizures originating from only part of the brain and therefore also only affecting part of the body
Generalized seizure – seizures originating from both hemispheres of the brain
Idiopathic epilepsy – epilepsy without an identifiable structural cause, typically assumed to be genetic.
Interictal period – the time between seizures
Myoclonic seizure – sudden, brief contractions of a muscle or group of muscles
Postictal period – the time immediately following a seizure, where behavioral changes may be observed
Refractory epilepsy – seizures that occur even during treatment with therapeutic doses of antiepileptic medication, i.e. the medication stops being effective
Status epilepticus – a serious condition where seizures follow closely on one another without a break, or where a single seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
Tonic seizure– a sustained increase in muscle tone (i.e. stiffening) lasting up to several minutes
Tonic-clonic seizure – a seizure where the tonic phase is followed by shorter, clonic (jerking) movements
When observing seizures, it is important for dog owners to keep a diary of detailed information including: 1) affected body parts 2) when seizures occur 3) how often seizures occur, and 4) how long they last (see attached diary template for record keeping). Veterinarians and owners should also pay close attention to how dogs behave immediately after a seizure. Although some animals will quickly return to normal, during the postictal period, others will experience difficulties standing or moving blindness sedation, anxiety or other changes in behavior. These symptoms may last for varying amounts of time, and can affect treatment choice.
In some cases, seizures can result from exposure to a specific stimulus, such as an illness, exposure to a toxin, or problems with metabolism (reactive seizures). Any potentially precipitating events should be brought to the attention of the attending veterinarian, as such reactive seizures are not generally treated with standard anti-epileptic drugs 4 . Reflex seizures, which are seizures that occur consistently after a particular exposure, such as to a loud noise, a flashing light, or a more complex movement or behavior, have also been reported in dogs 5 .
Types of Epilepsy in Dogs
It is not always possible to identify the cause of seizures in dogs however, canine epilepsies can generally be classified into one of three categories based on etiology. Idiopathic epilepsy is defined as epilepsy without an identifiable structural cause and having an assumed genetic origin. Repeated seizures in 1-5 year old dogs with a normal neurologic examination, where there are no known structural abnormalities of the brain, metabolic diseases, or toxin exposures, are often assumed to be a form of idiopathic epilepsy 5 . The designation of idiopathic epilepsy suggests that the exact cause of the seizures is unknown, although the condition is presumed to be inherited. However, the cause of such epilepsies can sometimes be determined, for example when seizures are the result of a specific genetic defect known to occur in certain breeds.
Structural epilepsy is the diagnosis for seizures that occur because of observable damage to or malformations of the brain. For example, structural epilepsy can occur after an inflammatory disease of the brain, growth of an intracranial tumor, or after trauma to the head. It can also be the result of congenital malformations or a vascular event, such as a stroke 5 . The brain abnormalities seen with structural epilepsies can sometimes be detected using an MRI or by analysis of cerebrospinal fluid. Testing for structural epilepsy may be indicated if a dog exhibits neurologic abnormalities between seizures or if the dog falls outside the typical age range of onset for idiopathic epilepsy. Interictal changes are less common in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy.
Epilepsy of unknown cause is used to describe a condition in which a structural cause is suspected, but has not been identified on diagnostic evaluation.
Reactive seizures, seizures which occur in response to specific stimuli (such as a metabolic derangement or a toxin), are not considered to be a form of epilepsy, because they are not caused by an abnormality of the brain.
The Genetics of Canine Epilepsy
A large number of genetic mutations have been associated with epilepsy in both humans and mice. In humans, the inheritance of epilepsy is generally complex, meaning that it involves interactions of one or more genes with each other as well as potentially with environmental factors, and this is likely true of epilepsy in dogs as well. However, the extent of inbreeding within specific dog breeds has allowed the identification of certain animals that are at particularly high risk of seizure development. No fewer than 26 dog breeds have shown at least some evidence of heritable epilepsies.
Gene mutations have been identified, many of which include a group of diseases known as neuronal ceroid-lipofuscinoses. These are storage disorders where mutations lead to the abnormal accumulation and storage of a cellular product within cells, eventually leading to the dysfunction or death of neurons 1 . One gene for an inherited epilepsy has been identified in Lagotto Romagnolo dogs. That gene, LGI2, is similar to the previously identified human epilepsy gene LGI1, and scientists believe that a number of heritable epilepsies may have similar causes in humans and canines 1 . Research into potential similarities between dog and human epilepsies has also led to the identification of several candidate genes that may predict the effectiveness of anti-epileptic treatment in some breeds.
The Etiology of Epilepsy
The specific biochemical mechanisms that cause seizures are not yet fully understood in either dogs or humans, although seizures are known to result from dysfunction in the brain’s electrical activity. It is generally believed that epileptic seizures are caused by an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory activity in specific areas of the brain, leading to either excessive brain activity or activity that is unusually depressed. However, in the absence of structural damage or metabolic insults, the causes of such dysfunction are not clear. There is some evidence suggesting that abnormal excitatory processes may be caused by functional abnormalities in neurons, specifically mutations in the ion channels that are essential to cells’ electrical function 7 , but that explanation is likely to only apply to a subset of idiopathic epilepsies. Further research into the specific causes of various forms of epilepsy is still needed current understanding is incomplete.
Medical Management Options
The information provided below is for information purposes only and cannot replace the advice of your veterinarian. Do not give your dog any medications without a prescription from a veterinarian.
Anti-epileptic drugs (AED) work primarily by inhibiting the action of excitatory neurotransmitters, stimulating inhibitory pathways, or altering ion channel function in the brain. Not all drugs work equally well in all animals, and their safety profiles are somewhat variable. A single, isolated seizure is not usually seen as a reason to begin treatment with AEDs. Treatment with these drugs is usually indicated when multiple generalized seizures have occurred within a 24 hour period, a dog has had at least two seizures within a six month period, or a dog has unusual or severe signs during the postictal period 9 .
Once treatment has been declared necessary, the process of choosing the right drug requires balancing effectiveness and tolerability. Although many short-term side effects can be managed by titrating medication dosages, some AEDs have the potential to cause significant adverse effects. Therefore, it is important for medications to be chosen and tested with care and to recognize that not all epilepsies are amenable to drug treatment.
Phenobarbital, a first generation AED, is one of the drugs most used in veterinary patients, because it is effective, relatively inexpensive, well-tolerated, and easily dosed 9 . Serious side effects include blood cell loss (cytopenias) and liver toxicity. Other side effects include sedation, ataxia, and increased appetite and water consumption. Dogs can also develop tolerance to phenobarbital over time, and are susceptible to withdrawal effects as physical dependence can develop 9 .
Potassium bromide, or bromide, is another first generation AED that is often used to treat canine epilepsy. When used in combination with phenobarbital and other AEDs that are metabolized in the liver, dosages of those drugs can potentially be lowered to reduce the risk of liver damage. Bromide may also be useful in resolving some cases of epilepsy that do not respond to phenobarbital monotherapy 9 . Side effects of bromide include sedation, ataxia, vomiting and increased appetite and water consumption.
Second generation AEDs used in dogs include levetiracetam, zonisamide, felbamate, gabapentin, pregabalin, and topiramate. Of these, levetiracetam and zonisamide are used most frequently. Levetiracetam is considered to be a particularly safe treatment option with a wide range of dosages, however, its efficacy remains unclear 9 . Side effects are considered mild, with sedation and ataxia reported most commonly. Further, co-administration with phenobarbital can affect how long it remains in the bloodstream 9 . Zonisamide is metabolized by the liver and can cause liver toxicity, although this is infrequently observed. Other adverse effects include sedation, ataxia, vomiting and inappetance. It is well absorbed, works via multiple mechanisms, and has shown to be effective against a variety of seizure types in humans. Because it interacts with phenobarbital, zonisamide doses should be increased when the two drugs are used in combination 9 . The second generation human epilepsy drug lamotrigine is not recommended for use in dogs because it can cause heart arrhythmias 8 .
Several third generation AEDs have been marketed for human use within the last few years and may turn out to be useful in the treatment of canine epilepsy. Lacosamide has been shown to be well tolerated in people, and some canine-specific data exist to support its use in dogs 8 . Rufinamide, a novel AED that is unlike any existing AEDs on the market, may also have some potential for canine treatment 8 . Finally, several other types of drugs are also under investigation for epilepsy treatment, including drugs that decrease inflammation, alter the connections between neurons, and address other brain health concerns, but they are not yet ready for general use 7 .
Determining the appropriate dose for an AED is an extended process. While initial dosing is determined by weight, different dogs metabolize these drugs in different ways. Therefore, a series of blood tests are often needed to evaluate serum drug levels over time in order to make certain that levels remain high enough to be therapeutic but low enough not to be toxic 9 . While measuring serum levels of AEDs is a useful monitoring tool, it is not a substitute for clinical assessment when determining the appropriate drug type and dose for any individual dog.
Drug resistant, or refractory, epilepsy presents additional treatment challenges both in terms of dosing and in drug choice. Refractory epilepsy is diagnosed when treatment with two appropriate AEDs has failed and occurs in 30-40% of all dogs with epilepsy 6 . It can occasionally be dealt with by the addition of second or third generation drugs, such as gabapentin, zonisamide, levetiracetam, or pregabalin 6 in a multi-drug regimen. There are some dogs for whom seizure control may remain elusive.
The Future of Canine Epilepsy
Researchers continue to investigate the causes of canine epilepsies, both inherited and acquired, along with new therapies to more safely and effectively treat canine seizures. Furthermore, they do this not only to improve the health of dogs with epilepsy, but also to help their human counterparts. Epilepsy in dogs and humans is similar enough that canine epilepsy research not only has direct impacts on dog health, it also has the potential to improve the lives of human epileptic populations 10 .
Translational research elements, those that bridge the species gap, can be observed across a broad range of clinical areas. Many of the types of familial epilepsy seen in dogs are similar to those that cause inherited human seizures 1,10 , and drug research has been shown to be beneficial to both species. Canine epilepsies have also been used as a testing ground for new therapeutic options that can help dogs and humans alike. For example, preliminary research on intracranial electroencephalography (iEEG) in dogs suggests that the technique might be a way to predict seizures, which has the potential to be incredibly helpful for individuals who currently suffer from seemingly random epileptic events 4 .
There are limits, of course. Canine epilepsy isn’t identical to human epilepsy, and several drugs have already been shown to have differential toxicity in dogs and humans 5,8,10 . Additionally, owners have a limited ability to monitor their dogs’ seizures, particularly when compared to how well people can report on their own seizures 10 . Still, the extent to which naturally occurring epilepsy in dogs is similar to epilepsy in humans presents a unique opportunity to study canine epilepsy as a model to help dogs and their owners alike.
The AKC Canine Health Foundation thanks Drs. Chris Mariani, Karen Muñana, Ned Patterson, and Mary Smith for review and editing of this educational document.
Causes of seizures
So causes of seizures in dogs can really be broken down into a number of different groups if you'd like. Toxins is one. That's something that a dog has eaten such as a poison, slug bait or mycotoxin, which is from moldy food. There's a whole range of different things that can cause seizures. Infection, for example, so things like meningitis or other infections can cause seizures. We can get organ disease or hormonal abnormalities that causes changes in the blood that then can trigger seizures. We can get central lesions, so that's lesions within the brain that can cause seizures. So that can be kind of brain masses, brain tumors and that kind of thing, and we can also get epilepsy.
So depending on the age of the dog, the nature of the seizures and the clinical exam in between seizures depends on what's going to be more likely.
Now epilepsy isn't going to be likely in this case because that's a disease of young dogs. It typically starts between about one to five years of age, there’s a little bit of variation there but it's a disease that starts in early age. Poisons are always a potential, but that's really going to most likely cause one off seizures. Infections, that can happen at any age. There are some that are more likely to affect different aged dogs.
Organ disease is definitely something the older dogs can be affected with, but you tend to get changes in between seizures. So you might see vomiting, diarrhea, changes in drinking and urination, that kind of thing. And then central lesions, so like brain tumors and again we would often see other neurological changes in between kind of that seizure activity but that can be sometimes very difficult to appreciate.
So really those are the causes of seizures and I wouldn't expect the heart failure to be related, but taking a video is going to be a good idea so that you can really confirm that it is seizure activity and not just a collapse with loss of consciousness.
The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.
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Dog Seizures: 10 Ways to Prevent and Treat Them
Dog seizures are scary and unsettling. Seizures are complex and can't always be prevented. In most cases, the underlying cause isn't something owners have control over, but there are some things you can do to limit the potential for seizures in dogs.
Most of the time, the signs of dog seizures are obvious. The animal will stiffen, fall over, and have full body tremors. They may also have urine or fecal accidents. A dog might appear worried or frightened, says Dr. Brian Voynick, the owner and director of the American Animal Hospital of Randolph, New Jersey who has been in the field for 33 years. Symptoms can include glazed eyes, a distant gaze, involuntary twitching, or muscle contractions or unconsciousness. Sometimes the dog will paddle his legs as if dreaming.
Sometimes, however, an owner might not know a dog seizure has occurred, says Dr. Christina Lorenson, a small animal practitioner in North Kingstown, Rhode Island with over 15 years experience. "It is possible to have a 'partial seizure' that is very subtle -- just stiffening up and staring out in space or odd movement of the body," she says. Also, of course, if your dog has a seizure when you're not home or when you are sleeping, you might not be aware that it has happened.
Dr. Voynick shares his best advice on how to prevent and treat dog seizures:
- Pay Attention to Genetics
Genetics are important. When you get a puppy, ask if the parents have any history of seizures. Certain breeds are more likely to have seizures, especially German shepherds, cocker spaniels, Siberian huskies, golden retrievers and poodles. It's also seen in mixed breeds.
- Feed Your Dog Right
Healthy eating is key. You want to make sure your dog gets adequate nutrition. Consult with your veterinarian based on your dog's specific needs.
- Know Your Pet's Health -- and Health of Its Ancestors
Liver disease can cause seizures, so you want to make sure that illness is not in the blood line. This is difficult if you obtain puppies from pet stores, but if you have a purebred dog, the breeder should have this information.
- Monitor Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar can lead to seizures. Supplement your dog's diet with carbohydrates and sugars per your vet's recommendations.
- Have the Brain Checked
Get your dog checked for brain tumors. Surgery may resolve seizures by removing brain tumors such as meningiomas, which are common in older dogs. CT scans can diagnose them early, but X-rays will not detect them.
- Blame It on the Moon
The environment could be to blame. Moon cycles may put your dog at higher risk of seizures during a full moon. Dr. Voynick recommends speaking with your vet about giving your dog Valium during these times to prevent seizures.
- Get Your Pet Tested
Lab testing is important. Some dogs only have one seizure and then it never happens again. But other dogs have more than one. There is greater potential for brain damage when each seizure occurs, so early treatment and monitoring are imperative.
- Find the Perfect Remedy
Drugs such as potassium bromide or phenobarbital can help control seizures. As always, ask your veterinarian for recommendations for your dog's specific problem.
- Seek Alternative Methods
Alternative therapies are sometimes helpful. Some owners report a drop in dog seizure activity after using acupuncture but, again, check with your vet first.
- Keep Calm
Reduce stress whenever possible, as stress can trigger episodes.
Dr. Lorenson advises bringing your dog to the veterinarian after its first seizure. Seek immediate emergency care if your dog has a seizure that lasts longer than 10 minutes or has three or more seizures in a 24-hour period. She also suggests protecting your pets during a seizure so they're not in danger (i.e., falling down stairs) but do not handle them any more than necessary. They are unaware and can bite their owners.
What Caregivers Need to Know
Dr. Lorenson and Dr. Voynick suggest that people working with your pet be fully informed about the seizure diagnosis. They should know how to handle a seizure if it occurs, how to administer medication and when to seek emergency care. They should also make sure the dog is eating and drinking properly to avoid dehydration, especially in hot weather.
If a dog walker or trainer is taking your dog out, have her avoid excessive stress by taking the dog on walks individually (not with other dogs) and avoiding noisy streets and construction areas.
Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys including a set of identical twins. She is also mom to three rescue pets: Scarlett, a 7-year-old Beagle, and Edith and Ollie, 15-year-old identical twin cats. She has written for numerous parenting publications and is the president of On Point Communications.
This was sent to me by Dr. Patricia Jordan in response to my question on connecting seizures to vaccination:
There is lots of info that vaccines can and do cause seizures in the first place. You do not know how many times, taking a history of my clients pets, that they had seizures that started following vaccine administration and their vet never was capable of connecting the dots.
Well, not even the medically hubristic veterinarians, even the head of [a famous university], the MEDICAL [not veterinary] College. I had him as an instructor on epilepsy and was ASTOUNDED that when reviewing human seizure cases they never ask about vaccine administration. In the Federal Registry, seizures are the number one side effect of the vaccine procedure!
Also, in homeopathy we RARELY see a case that [didn't read] "never well since vaccinations." Also, the vaccines cause autoimmune diseases, especially the rabies which is the ONLY forced vaccine. and then when the animals becomes sick with autoimmune thyroid disease the dogs are often put on phenobarbital which drugs them up and makes them HYPOTHYROID if they were not heading that way in the first place! Then even thyroid disease can make patients seizure. and round and round and round it goes, with veterinarians not understanding the very disease EMANATES from the procedure of vaccine administration.