This article (Part II of II) discusses dog epilepsy, including the stages of a canine seizure. It also includes a discussion long term solutions, such as medications and acupuncture.
In Part I of Understanding Canine Epilepsy, we looked at handling epileptic seizures, preparing for the veterinarian, and the causes of seizures.
In Part II, we look at the breeds most often affected by epilepsy, the stages of a canine seizure as well as long term solutions, such as medications and canine acupuncture.
To start, here is a list of breeds most often affected with epilepsy:
This is not a complete list of all breeds prone to dog epilepsy, but this is still a reasonable rundown. As a prospective pet owner, you should obviously do your research about the breed of dog you wish to purchase.
Epileptic seizures will go through several stages. The first stage is known as the prodome stage. In this stage, you may notice subtle differences in the dog’s behaviors or disposition. You’ll possibly see mood and behavior changes hours or days before the seizure.
The second stage of a dog epilepsy seizure is known as the Aura stage. During this time very distinct changes are taking place. The dog may vomit, salivate excessively, tremble or uncontrollably urinate. It is very likely to see your dog act oddly, including hiding, wandering and extreme running.
The next stage is the ictus stage, which is when your dog is literally having the seizure. During the seizure any of the following may occur: loss of bladder and/or bowel control, thrashing of head and legs, loss of consciousness or the gnashing of teeth. Seizures will range from relatively mild in nature to very severe.
The final stage of a dog epilepsy seizure is called the ictal or postictus stage. This is the period immediately following the actual seizure (ictus stage). Some pet owners have noted their dog as being very thirsty. Others have said the dog appears to be drunk or on narcotics, and some simply have noted the dog simply went to sleep. Again, behaviors will vary depending on the severity and the individual dog. At a minimum, you can expect confusion and disorientation.
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Up until this point we have discussed seizures that have ranged from mild (twitches, or staring off into space) to moderate (gnashing of teeth, etc.). There are two very severe types of seizures that can be life threatening if not addressed immediately; they are status epilepticus, which lasts from 8 to 10 minutes with no normal behavior exhibited by the animal in between seizures, and cluster seizures which occur many times during a 24 hours period.
It is extremely hard to distinguish between status epilepticus and cluster seizures, only a veterinarian can properly distinguish between the two. Again, take good notes and call your vet immediately.
A veterinarian may recommend Phenobarbital, Dilantin, or Diazepam in order to control the seizures. If your dog is placed on Phenobarbital, it is important to test the dog about 4 times per year to check for any liver damage.
Of course, be sure to understand the effects and side effects of these medications with your vet. Similarly, as with any medication, a tolerance can be built up after prolonged use and a veterinarian may have to change the prescription or in severe cases recommend an injection of Valium in order to control the number and severity of the seizures.
By the way, to succeed with treatment, you must regularly administer the drugs. This might appear obvious but this is the most common reason why treatment fails. Furthermore, if treatment isn’t working, there might be other issues (e.g., brain tumor or gastrointestinal disorders). Be careful also about drug interactions. If your dog is taking other medication, discuss this with your vet.
The above list of medications for dog epilepsy is not the only option your veterinarian has available. It is also important to note that pet owners also have holistic approaches to consider, such as canine acupuncture or auriculotherapy (ear-point acupuncture).
When all is said and done, there is good news. Don’t despair! With the proper care, a dog with epilepsy can go on to live a long and otherwise healthy life. Pet owners should be well informed, remain calm and soothe their pets. Most importantly give the medication as arranged on a regular basis to ensure the dog will reap the maximum benefit from the treatment.