Epilepsy is a term used to describe repeated episodes of seizures. It may also be referred to as momentary involuntary disturbance of brain function, convulsions or ictus. Seizures can happen at any time during the day or night. The most common times a seizure occurs in dogs is upon waking up, falling asleep and while excited to play with some kind of a new dog toy or play outdoors. Common causes are brain trauma, toxins, brain tumors, liver disease, kidney failure, Lyme disease, parasites, immune disorders, meningitis, infections and genetics. The following guide helps you learn how to prevent seizures in epileptic dogs.
Is it Painful?
While watching your dog experience a seizure can be scary and heart wrenching for a pet owner, it does not cause pain to your dog. Your dog may awake from the seizure scared and anxious, most likely feeling a little confused. Once your dog has experienced a seizure, contact your veterinarian immediately. Schedule a visit as soon as you can so the cause of the seizure can be determined.
Once you reach the animal hospital your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination of your dog. The exam may include a urine tests, blood test, physical exam, MRI, electrocardiogram, CT scan and Spinal fluid analysis. Be prepared to answer a series of questions relating to your dogs history, health, and possible exposure to toxins or past events that may have caused brain trauma. At times, veterinarians may not be able to pinpoint the exact cause of the epilepsy. In this case, your veterinarian will advise you of further action that may be necessary.
Prescription Prevention Options
Veterinarians will determine if your dog is in need of medical treatment and may provide prescription medication to lessen the frequency of seizures. The medications that are most commonly provided to dogs with epilepsy are potassium bromide and Phenobarbital. It is wise to discuss this medication with your veterinarian and make sure it is absolutely necessary because it is a lifelong commitment. Once your dog begins taking the medication they have to be on the medication for the remainder of their lifetime. This commitment may become costly after a long period of time. If you abruptly stop providing your dog with his medication you will put him at risk to developing health issues and increasing the intensity and frequency of his seizures.
Natural Prevention Options
Many pet owners want to know what they can do to prevent the seizures from happening again. The fact that anti-seizure medications are a lifelong commitment scares some pet owners and causes worry of the long term affect to their dog’s health. Some pet owners prefer to seek out more natural preventative measures. Although natural products may help, it is still wise to consult your veterinarian regarding your plan to provide your dog with a natural healing treatment. Some natural herbs used to prevent seizures can interact with prescription medications, causing them to be less effective.
Herbs used in treating epilepsy in dogs include ostrea concha, uncaria, buthus martensi, passionflower, valerian, gastrodia and kava. Your veterinarian will map out a protocol therapy for your dog to follow. Most natural preventative herbs do not lead to side effects and usually result in improved overall health. According to Dr. Shawn Messonnier, an award-winning author and doctor of veterinary medicine practicing in Plano Texas, Some dogs that stay on their natural remedy prevention protocol do not experience another seizure for the rest of their lifetime.
Whether you choose prescription or natural preventative medication for your dog’s seizures, a pet owner will want to do as much as they can to make their dog feel more comfortable. This may include providing a safe environment in case of reoccurring seizures.
Providing a Safe Environment
Since seizures seem to happen out of the blue you will want to provide a safe home environment for your dog. This means making your home as safe as possible. During a seizure your dog may involuntarily fall onto his side and convulse or paddle his legs until the seizure stops. If your dog is near a tall book shelf or table that is filled with vases, glass or heavy object they may fall on top of your dog during his seizure. You will want to remove heavy or fragile items from table tops and book shelves just in case. The harm that the objects can cause by falling on top of your dog while he is experiencing a seizure, include injury to his head, spine, limbs and body. This can cause additional trauma, physical damage and stress to your dog. If you do not want to remove items from your table tops, you can find inventive ways to secure them. Using a Velcro strip under a vase and securing it to a table top is a common fix to the situation.
Other Preventative Measures
It is wise to right down exactly what your dog was doing before they experienced a seizure. Keeping a log of unusual behavior and where the seizure happens will help your veterinarian determine the possible cause that leads to the seizure. Also, if you become aware that the seizure happens at the same time everyday or in anticipation of an event such as meal time, you can take preventative measures. For example, if your dog gets so excited when he sees you preparing his food that it propels him into a seizure, you should find a way to avoid this same situation. Instead of preparing his food in front of him, try to prepare it while he sleeps in another room. Or, you can allow him to eat as he wishes throughout the day by providing food in his bowl at all times. Only quietly fill the bowl when he is out of the room or outdoors where he can’t observe you preparing his meal.
Pet owners who have dogs that suffer from seizures should be comforted knowing that there are preventative measures available. Providing a safe environment for your dog, providing anti-seizure medication and natural remedy protocols are all beneficial ways to prevent seizures in epileptic dogs.
References and further reading:
- Epilepsy Foundation: http://www.epilepsy.com/get-help/staying-safe/seizure-dogs
- VCA Animal Hospitals: http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/seizures-general-for-dogs/903
- Natural Awakenings: http://www.naturalawakeningsmag.com/Natural-Awakenings/August-2013/Preventing-Seizures/