Canine Epilepsy

Canine Epilepsy is diagnosed in dogs that have frequent seizures. These seizures are caused by the brain sending abnormal nerve signals to the muscles throughout the body. These abnormal brain signals sent to the muscles cause the dog’s convulsions, which is most often the symptom that the owner sees, causing them to carry the dog to the veterinarian.

At the veterinarian clinic, the veterinarian will take a history of the seizures the dog owner has witnessed. He, or she, will need to know as many details as the dog owner can remember, such as what the dog was doing right before the seizure occurred. The veterinarian will also ask about the dog’s family history, as this disease can be hereditary. After taking the dog’s history, the veterinarian will begin diagnostic testing procedures. The procedures are not necessarily used to diagnose the dog with epilepsy, but they are used to rule out other conditions that could be causing the seizures. Diagnostic testing procedures often include a complete neurological exam, a complete blood count, a chemistry panel, a urine analysis, a bile acid test and a thyroid panel. The veterinarian may also order a MRI or CT scan of the brain, a spinal tap, and antibody titer or toxin tests.

After diagnosing the dog with Canine Epilepsy, the veterinarian will begin treatment. The treatment route prescribed by the vet is supposed to allow the dog to live as normal a life as possible. This is done by controlling the seizures with the least amount of side effects. Treatment of Canine Epilepsy is by medicating the dog with antiepileptic drugs. These drugs do not cure the dog; they just control the seizures and will have to be given to the dog for the rest of its life. Finding the right drug or combination of drugs may vary for each dog and the correct one is found by patiently trying them until the right one is used along with the dose that is best for the dog.

Antiepileptic drugs used to treat Canine Epilepsy include Sodium Bromide, Potassium Bromide, Phenobarbital, Gabapenten, Felbamate, Primidone, Diazepam and Pentobarbital. Sodium Bromide is available in liquid and capsule form and is given twice a day. Side effects can be sedation, ataxia, increased urination and rare skin disorders. Potassium Bromide is used with dogs that have liver disease, is given once daily. Side effects can be drowsiness, increase appetite, stumbling and sometimes skin disorders. Phenobarbital is available in pill, capsule or liquid and is given twice per day. Side effects can be drowsiness, lethargy, excessive urination, thirst and hunger as well as restlessness. Felbamate and Gabapenten are given every 8 hours to dogs who are resistant to Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide. Side effects are very uncommon, but this drug therapy is expensive. Primidone is available in tablet and oral suspension and must be given every 8 hours. Side effects can include anxiety, agitation, depression, increased urination and hunger, staggering, sedation, increased heart rate, skin disorders, and liver disease. Diazepam, also know as Valium, is given when a seizure is occurring. It is not given daily to prevent seizures. Side effects can be drowsiness, stumbling, excitability, aggression or strange behavior. Pentobarbital is available in capsule, injectable, elixir and rectal suppository forms. This medication is used at the veterinarian clinic and is usually injected in the vein. Side effects can include a decreased in body temperature and slow breathing rate.

The prognosis of a dog with Epilepsy is very good as long as the dog owner follows the veterinarian’s prescribed care exactly. Staying on schedule is necessary for a positive outcome. If the owner and veterinarian work together and each does what they are supposed to do, the dog will live a long life, hopefully with few seizures interrupting it.

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