Epilepsy in dogs is a frightening scene for a pet owner. It is characterized by sudden and recurrent episodes of seizures with the mouth foaming with saliva and the eyes rolled back in the sockets. Epileptic dogs have difficulty in controlling their muscles and may urinate and howl involuntarily.
Treatment is generally needed for epileptic dogs experiencing more than one seizure attack per month. The treatment process is designed based on the underlying cause of the epilepsy in dogs, and if ever the cause is unknown, epileptic dog treatment uses various medications to reduce the frequency of seizure attacks an epileptic dog will usually experience.
What causes Epilepsy in Dogs?
A number of conditions can cause epileptic attacks to happen, some of these are:
- Head trauma which damages the brain tissues.
- Small tumors which interrupt the normal nerve impulses. These can either be non-cancerous or cancerous tumors.
- Heat stroke
- Acute parasitic infection which damages the nervous system and brain of the dog.
- Exposure to certain chemicals such as mercury, aluminum, copper and lead. Some grooming products, collars and flea sprays may trigger allergic reactions resulting to fits or epilepsy.
- Lyme disease caused by deer tick bites which may affect a dog’s central nervous system resulting to seizures.
- Low level of blood sugar
When the cause of the epilepsy in dogs is not known, it is classified as idiopathic epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy is an inherited type of epilepsy which runs in the family with a history of epilepsy. The condition tends to be more common in some dog breeds such as the Labrador Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, Dachshund, Saint Bernard, Tervueren, Wire-haired Terrier, Dalmatians, Keeshond, Siberian Husky, German Shepherd, Miniature Schnauzer, Poodle, Golden Retriever, Collie and Irish Setter. Idiopathic epilepsy is assumed after the veterinarian has conducted different tests and has figured out that the epilepsy is not caused by the abovementioned conditions.
Symptoms of epilepsy in dogs
The main symptom of epilepsy in dogs is seizures and it is broken down into different stages, which are:
- Prodome Stage
The prodome stage may last from several minutes to hours and is characterized by mood and behavioral changes in the epileptic dog. This stage may even last for days prior to the epileptic attacks.
- Pre-Seizure or Aura Stage
The epileptic dog will start licking, shaking, vomiting, pacing, whining, hiding or urinating during the pre-seizure stage. These signs are associated with increased salivation and other strange activities like biting people and objects nearby, excessive barking, nibbling their own limbs, and seeking their owner’s attention.
- Ictus Stage
This is the actual epileptic seizure and may last for a few seconds or minutes. Epileptic dogs may gnash their teeth, salivate excessively, paddle their feet and fall on one side of their body. They even become unconscious and tend to stop breathing for about 30 seconds. It is also the stage when dogs urinate or defecate involuntarily and kick their limbs due to uncontrollable muscle activity.
- Post-Ictal Stage
The post-ictal stage follows right after an epileptic seizure wherein the epileptic dog becomes disoriented and unaware of what is happening. His movements are somewhat uncoordinated and he may seem blind, stumbling into the objects that are on his way. Some dogs drink lots of water and eat plenty of foods after an epileptic seizure, while some just sleep and pass out. The post-ictal stage lasts for several minutes to hours.
Treatment for epilepsy in dogs
Epilepsy in dogs treatments are targeted primarily to the root cause of epilepsy. In case the root cause of epilepsy is undetermined, treatment is targeted in controlling the episodes of dog seizures with the use of numerous anti-epileptic medications. It is important to realize that stopping medications in between doses will make dog seizures to get worse. Random blood analysis is required for dogs treated with anti-epileptic medication to ensure that blood chemistry is properly balanced. This is because most medications are eliminated from their body through the liver and blood analysis helps assess liver function.
What to do during Epileptic Seizures of my dog?
Witnessing a dog suffering from an epileptic attack is a frightening sight for any pet owner. But several things can be done to during this time.
- Stay calm
- Keep your hands away from the dog’s mouth to prevent injury due to accidental biting during an epileptic seizure attack.
- Remove any items or objects on the area where the dog is having a seizure to prevent him from getting injured. Place the dog on the floor rather than the bed or table where he may fall down.
- Keep the surroundings as quite as possible by switching off the TV or loud music, dim the lights, and escort the children away from the dog having an epileptic attack.
- Speak to the dog with a reassuring voice while gently stroking his hip or side.
- Jot down all the important details about the epileptic attack such as the date, time and duration of the epileptic seizure; pre and post seizure symptoms; as well as any possible triggering events like excessive playing, exercising, fireworks, unusual foods or strange products. Mention all these things when speaking to the vet.
Regardless of what causes epilepsy in dogs, the condition requires immediate medical treatment and compassionate pet owners to help their epileptic dogs deal with the problem.