Canine Epilepsy – How To Treat It

If your dog starts having seizures it is important to get him in for an evaluation by a veterinarian as soon as possible. If your dog is diagnosed with epilepsy, the following article will outline some ways that these seizures can be controlled. It is important to understand that epilepsy is not the cause of all dog seizures, however. For example, certain kinds of brain tumors or an injury to the dog’s brain can cause seizures, as can certain toxins in the environment. In such cases, treatment for epilepsy will be completely ineffective. 

This article will help you to understand the different treatment options available once you have a definitive diagnosis of epilepsy from your veterinarian. Generally no treatment is recommended unless the seizures are occurring at least once a month. You should keep in mind that the purpose of treatment is to reduce the frequency and intensity of the seizures, and that in many cases the seizures will continue in spite of the treatment, so don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. 

Anti-Epileptic Drugs, or “AED’s” are usually the first choice of treatment options, with Phenobarbitol and Potassium bromide being the two most commonly prescribed drugs, sometimes independently and sometimes together, if administering just one of them does not produce sufficient seizure control. Diazepam, more commonly known as Valium, can be used if the seizures come one after another or last longer than 5 minutes. These types of seizures are called cluster seizures (status epilepticus). One controversial drug that is still a treatment option for epilepsy is Primidone. Primidone shouldn’t be considered as a treatment for canine epilepsy except as a last resort, as this medication has some very serious side effects including lethargy, excessive hunger and thirst as well as an elevation of liver enzymes. Repeated studies have shown that Neurontin (gabapentin) is also effective in the treatment of seizures. Researching these studies is a good idea for anyone considering the use of AED’s. The caution about using AED’s is that they can cause liver enzymes to become elevated, and dogs on these drugs need to have regular chemistry panels done to be sure that their livers are not being damaged. 

There are alternative treatments you can try such as acupuncture and gold bead implants, this is where gold beads are placed inside the acupuncture areas. Acupuncture is something worth a try, however the use of gold bead implants is something better avoided unless a last resort.  
Diet, Homeopathy and Vitamin Therapy. I believe that diet plays a critical role in the treatment of canine epilepsy, because many commercial dog foods are full of chemical dyes and preservatives. It is widely known that dogs can suffer from seizures due to preservatives, for this reason you should try to remove them from your dogs diet completely. Feeding your dog fresh food, including green leafy vegetables, may actually stop seizures in a dog that has a sensitivity to preservatives. You should certainly seek the advice of a holistic vet in order to help your dog have the best possible diet and homeopathic treatments. If your water supply has fluoride added then you should invest in a filter for your dogs water.  

It is also a good idea to get some Rescue Remedy, and even some ice cream. I found the Bachs Flower Essence called Rescue Remedy, which is sold in most health food stores, to be very useful in lessening the severity of a seizure if you can get 4 or 5 drops of it into the dog’s mouth as soon as the seizure starts, and after a seizure, a spoonful of Breyers All Natural vanilla ice cream (preservative free!) can help to quickly restore blood sugar levels which are compromised by the tremendous amount of energy it takes a little body to experience a seizure. My dog got to where he would go to the refrigerator after his seizures and look happily up at the freezer, wagging his tail expectantly. 

How To Overcome Seizures In Dogs

Seizures in dogs happen more frequently than people imagine. Watching your dog while he is having a seizure can be quite a frightening experience. There are important things that a pet owner should keep in mind should their dog experience this at one time or another.

As in any frightening situation, what you need to do is stay calm. Watching a loved pet have a seizure can send anyone into a panic, but your dog can sense this. Knowing that you are nervous or in state of panic can further agitate the dog. Try and remain calm through out the whole situation.

The next thing is to place something soft under his head. It can be a towel or even a blanket. This should be done to prevent your pet from further hurting himself or his head during the convulsions. Make sure that you have removed everything around him. Do not have toys or any type of hard surface around him or her while they are experiencing the seizure. If they are near a wall, move them further away from it.

During a seizure your instinct reaction would be to reach into their mouth to prevent swallowing of the tongue. Do not reach into your dogs mouth. This can be very dangerous as your dog does not realize what he is doing at this time and can clench his jaw tight on your hand causing severe damage. Do not worry about the tongue as he will not swallow or choke on it during a seizure.

Once you have removed everything from around your pet, sit down next to him and talk in a soothing voice. Having you around will make your pet feel more secure. Encourage your dog to stay laying down and reassure him that it will be okay.

It would be helpful if you keep note of the incident. Keep track of how long it lasted and if it is the first time or how many has he had since it has started. The last thing you want to be doing during that time is looking for pen and paper. Taking a mental note or just glancing at the clock to know an estimate time of when it started and when it stopped can help. This information should be given to the veterinarian.

After the seizure has stopped, give him some sugar. Low blood sugars can be one of the causes of the seizure. One or two teaspoons should suffice. Do not give him too much of it as this can also be bad. Vanilla ice cream is preferred but if you have another flavor instead in your refrigerator, that should do. After feeding your pet ice cream, try and give them dog food to help maintain the sugar given.

Seizures in dogs can be scary but knowing what to do during this time can really help both of you. Remember to let your veterinarian know everything that happen, and if it is not the first time, you do not need to take your pet every time a seizure occurs. If it is more than one occurring, one after another, take your pet to a veterinarian emergency room.

Unfortunately for dogs, epilepsy can either be inherited or it may even be caused by the preservatives in the food that they eat. There are certain breeds that are more likely to experience this condition than others. There are three different types that may possibly present in a canine. Most animals affected by canine epilepsy can be treated by a change in their diet and with proper medication and monitoring. 

Beagles, Dachshunds, German Shepherds, Keeshonds and Belgian Tervurens are all breeds with a proven genetic predisposition for seizures. The English Springer Spaniel has also been included in the group frequently. The condition is actually very common for dogs even when it is not a genetically inherited trait and it may just develop over the course of their life. The condition has also been linked to problems related to the thyroid gland and should be considered at initial onset. 

A change in diet may be the first course of treatment for many dogs because the preservatives in the food can be the main cause of many seizures. For particular breeds that are at high risk, it is wise to feed with only food that has no preservatives from the beginning and eliminate the possible chance of the problem developing. Be sure to read the labels carefully and preservative information will be indicated on the packaging. 

The three various type of epilepsy that may occur with canines are reactive, secondary and primary. Seizures labeled as reactive involve the metabolic system. These are always related to either low blood sugar, kidney failure or liver failure. 

Symptomatic or secondary seizures have a cause that is specifically known at onset. These are usually related to a previous stroke or an existing brain tumor. Trauma can also be a likely cause for this type. 

Primary or idiopathic seizures are labeled as such due to having no known cause. This diagnosis is reached when all other probable conditions have been completely eliminated. These are likely to begin in dogs that are in the age group of one and three. 

Different types of seizures present and they can last for different time lengths and at various intensity levels. A petit mal is considered mild and may be brief and only result in a brief moment of looking upward or staring while the grand mal is moderate and can last for as long as three minutes with a possible loss of consciousness. Status epilepticus and cluster seizures are difficult to differentiate between and both are considered life threatening. They can go on for long periods with loss of consciousness and then return. 

Several excellent medications are used to treat the condition including Phenobarbital, Valium and potassium bromide. Continual monitoring of the liver function is necessary when the animal is being treated with Phenobarbital. If the liver becomes damaged at some point due to medication, the animal is likely to be switched to only potassium bromide as treatment. Valium is most often used to treat status epilepticus and cluster seizures and can be given by injection, orally or rectally. There are some over the counter remedies that will assist with faster recovery for pets after experiencing a seizure, so consult with the veterinarian about using these substances for the treatment of canine epilepsy when necessary.