Managing Canine Epilepsy
Unlike arthritis or loss of hearing or sight in your dog, the manifestation of epilepsy or a seizure arrives like a tsunami. In most cases, there is no warning and you and your dog are suddenly placed in a terrifying situation.
With our dog Kodiak, a Husky-Shepherd mix, we had spent the morning in our local dog park romping with his canine pals. It was early and I was kibbitzing with some friends when I saw my dog stagger into the fence, shaking, dazed and disoriented.
From his labored breathing, I thought he was choking. Desperate, I stuck my hand in his throat to clear his breathing passage – hoping to find a piece of mulch – or something else, but there was nothing there. He started foaming at the mouth, and fell over. I scooped up my pup – all 45 pounds of him, now unconscious, ran to the car and placed him in the back seat. My heart was racing and I thought my dog was dead. I called my husband from the car and hurriedly told him to meet me in the driveway to rush Kodi to the Veterinarian.
When I pulled up in the driveway to pick up my husband, I looked in the back seat to see Kodi standing on all fours, panting and looking perfectly normal. Kodiak had just had his first seizure.
After some tests, our Veterinarian informed us that our dog was epileptic and we would need to start a regimen of Phenobarbital. Fortunately, the dog had a positive response to the medication and within two weeks was seizure-free. In searching for general information about epilepsy and seizures, we found this helpful definition and description at criticalvetcare.com
A seizure is a disruption of the brain cells (neurons) that leads to the spontaneous discharge of those cells. The following may occur: loss of consciousness (glassy eyes), excess or loss of muscle tone, urination, defecation, salivation, other psychic manifestations, alteration of sensation and/or hallucinations of special senses (fly biting, shadow chasing, tail chasing)
There are usually 3 parts to a seizure: The aura, the ictus, and the post ictus. The aura is a subjective sensation that precedes seizure. It only lasts a few minutes and usually is expressed by anxiety. In humans, the events occurring can help localize the area or focus of the seizure in the brain but in the dog or cat, the aura is often missed or too brief. The ictus is the actual seizure event. It can vary in duration, and severity. The post ictus is the period after the seizure that lasts from minutes to days. Wide range of behaviors and neurological aberrations are seen. Blindness, depression, panting, pacing, lethargy are commonly seen. Occasionally, aggression is noted.
We are most familiar with the general motor seizure, better known as grand mal seizures. This type of seizure is expressed by the entire body. The whole brain is involved. The convulsions are symmetric. Salivation, urination, defecation and loss of consciousness are usually observed. Paddling of the limbs and chomping of jaws occur. The cause of these seizures can be acquired (congenital malformation, birth trauma, neonatal or post-natal hypoxia, trauma, encephalitis, neoplasm (cancer), etc. In such cases, the seizures may not appear for weeks, months or years after the causative lesion. This type of seizure can also be inherited from generation to generation.
If your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy, you’ll need to develop a strategy for coping with seizures. Dr. Anne Chauvet, Pet Neurologist offered this advice for those critical moments.
• Get the dog to a safe place – no furniture to bump into or sharp objects
• Cover with a blanket to contain, if possible
• Place a rolled up towel in his or her mouth – be careful!
• Talk softly to comfort your dog
• Place an ice pack on the head if possible
• Stay clear of your dog’s mouth! Your dog could inadvertently bite you.
Dogs do not swallow their tongues during seizures like people because they stay on their side and not their back.
Dr. Chauvet also advised that if the seizure lasts more than a few minutes, go to an emergency veterinary facility immediately.
Initially our regular vet suggested that Kodiak would be on Phenobarbital for the rest of his life, but over time he has been weaned off of the medication. In reading the information on http://criticalvetcare.com this seems to a common practice.
We asked Dr. Chauvet of Sarasota, FL what her thoughts were about this, “Generally if a dog is seizure free for a six month period, we will try to slowly wean a dog off of the meds, keeping carefully track of the dosage. In this way we can determine what the ideal dosage is should the seizures return.”
Dr. Chauvet also explained, there are many other medications that can be tried. Talk to your veterinarian and suggest that they consult with a specialist about your dog’s specific needs and situation. You may need to consider side effects and other health problems in choosing the right treatment path.
Properly treated, most dogs can live normal happy lives with epilepsy. Need more information? Visit CriticalVetCare.com or http://www.canine-epilepsy-guardian-angels.com/