Could My Dog Have Epilepsy?

Some diseases are a mystery, even to those who study them for a lifetime. The word idiopathic means “personal suffering” in Greek. It also means that medical professionals don’t know what causes it! Recurrent seizures in dogs are often caused by idiopathic epilepsy. About 80 percent of all cases are of unknown origin. There are, however, other types of seizure affecting canines.

Types and Symptoms of Epilepsy in Dogs

All forms of epilepsy result in seizures, which produce sudden attacks, spasms, or convulsions. Although they are neurological disorders originating in the brain, the causes can be difficult to pinpoint.

Often the result of structural lesions in the brain, symptomatic epilepsy can and often does cause frequent seizures. It can affect dogs of nearly any age, especially those between six months and five years old.

The term Cluster seizure is used to describe a condition causing multiple seizures over several consecutive days. In many cases, the problem is attributed to brain lesions or damage to the brain.

When the seizure occurs on an almost constant basis, your furry friend may be suffering from a condition called status epilepticus. These episodes may strike after brief periods of inactivity, which may last for a day or two.

Last but not least, there is the most common form of the chronic condition, idiopathic epilepsy. As we mentioned, the disease has no known cause. Even after exhaustive examinations, veterinarians will not be able to find any damage to the brain or visible lesions when idiopathic epilepsy is involved. They simply don’t know why the seizures are striking your pet.

Frequency of Seizures in Dogs

The more seizures your pouch has, the more likely they are to damage the neurons in the brain, which consequently makes it more likely for seizures in the future. These convulsions can harm small parts or both sides of their brain. Either type can cause damage your pet may never recover from.

Symptoms of Seizures in Dogs

In most cases, a seizure is preceded by a brief period or stage the experts refer to as an aura.  During this time, your dog may become increasingly apprehensive, even frightened. In some instances, your dog may seek attention or look dazed or discombobulated. Once the seizures begin, they are impossible to mistake for anything else. A canine who is in full seizure will turn on his or her side, become stiff, salivate, urinate, defecate, and chomps the jaws. The limbs will spartle and jerk for the entire episode, which typically lasts between thirty and ninety seconds. In most cases, they strike when your canine friend is resting or asleep, often in the morning or late at night.

Diagnosis of Seizures in Dogs

If your dog has a seizure, it is imperative a veterinarian exams your pet as soon as possible. Epilepsy of any kind cannot be diagnosed through a simple physical examination. Your pouch must undergo a battery of tests. Biochemical tests often reveal one or more of the following conditions if epilepsy is suspected: kidney and/or liver failure, low blood sugar, viral or fungal blood disease, a fatty liver, or an infectious disease of the blood.

Treatment of Seizures in Dogs

No matter the type, prescription medications often help reduce the frequency and intensity of canine seizures. If administered according to your veterinarian’s instructions, they should improve your dog’s health and wellness. The right drug may also extend his lifespan by several years!

What drugs will your pet’s veterinarian prescribe for seizures in dogs?

Phenobarbital – A traditional drug used by veterinarians for seizures of unknown causes, or idiopathic epilepsy, in dogs. Phenobarbital is classified as a schedule IV controlled substance and is best purchased through your pet’s veterinarian or through a local community pharmacy.

potassium bromide is available in tablet and suspension forms

K-BroVet (potassium bromide)

Potassium Bromide – Prescribed to pets suffering from any form of the disease, Potassium Bromide helps control seizures. The popularity of the drug is due in no small part to the fact that it can be safely combined with other capsules, such as Phenobarbital, which have proven remarkably effective at mitigating the most violent symptoms of seizures.

Zonisamide – A supplemental drug used to treat chronic forms of epilepsy, Zonisamide is popular with dog owners who wish to avoid the side effects of more powerful medications such as Phenobarbital. The generic drug is affordable and readily available in most pharmacies.

Primidone – When epilepsy is the result of an infection, such as distemper or viral encephalitis, a specific prescription medication will be required to treat it. Primidone was designed to control the convulsions or seizures associated with numerous infections.  Available in tablet form, it is long-term medication administered on a regular basis. Even young dogs can benefit from this drug, as it should reduce both the severity and the frequency of seizures.

Levetiracetam – Available as a generic or as the brand name Keppra, Levetiracetam is a human-labelled drug used for seizures in dogs. While Levetiracetam appears safe for use in pets, studies of this drug’s side effects are ongoing. Be sure to report any side effects to your pet’s veterinarian and pharmacist.

Depending on a few factors including the frequency and severity of your pet’s seizures, your pet’s veterinarian may prescribe one or more of the above drugs. Be sure to ask questions and follow your veterinarian’s directions when giving your pet these drugs.

Does your dog or cat have epilepsy or any other type of seizures? Let us know what success you have experienced using the drugs listed above, or any other new therapies your veterinarian has prescribed in the comments below.