Epilepsy: A Cause of Seizures in Dogs

When Jack (our long coat chihuahua) was about two he had his first seizure. It was a warm spring day and he had just come in from outside. I heard a commotion in the kitchen as the other dogs crowded around him. He was on his side in a twisted heap convulsing. I was horrified. At first I thought he had been stung by a bee. I picked him up and he was stiff and drooling. I immediately called the vet. By the time I got off the phone he was completely fine. I took him into the vet’s office that afternoon expecting the worse. She examined him and ran some blood tests. She explained to me that a seizure is not uncommon in dogs and it was probably nothing to be alarmed about. His blood work was normal and I hoped he would not have another episode. But he did.

“Epilepsy is a disorder of recurring seizures. Seizures are described as an uncoordinated firing of the neurons usually within a portion of the brain called the cerebrum. The mechanisms of why these neurons do not function normally in epileptic dogs is not understood, but it is similar to the causes in humans.” This according to Dr. Race Foster DVM in his article from Pet Education.com.

Jack plays peekabooJack continued having seizures, infrequently at first. Our vet told us to note the dates and circumstances of his episodes. He seemed to be worse as the seasons changed. He also was affected by stress. A house full of company could easily set him off. He also had an occasional seizure at night. But for the most part we could not find a pattern. When Jack was five the vet put him on phenobarbital twice a day. He will be on this medication for the rest of his life. This greatly reduced his seizures but he still occasionally will have one.

Living with a dog with epilepsy is always a concern. We have learned to not panic and just do the best we can. I always remove him from the other dogs and find a quiet place until it subsides. The duration is less than five minutes. Jack is otherwise a completely normal healthy dog. He is very happy, active and playful.

“A single mild seizure is not an emergency and rarely indicates the need for long term treatment,” Dr. Foster explains in his article. It is important to discuss the episode with your vet. I have read many articles on epilepsy through the years and this one is very informative. The important thing is, not to worry, but seek your vet’s advice. As with people this disease is not uncommon and one can live a perfectly normal life with proper medication.

Jack is seven years old now and doing just fine. We have learned to live our lives around his medication schedule. He continues to be otherwise very healthy. One seizure in a dog does not mean that dog is epileptic. Always consult your vet. But if your dog is diagnosed with epilepsy, do some research and don’t worry. Your dog can still live a long, happy life.


dog brain diagramADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
Anatomy and Physiology of Animals/Nervous System
The canine brain
Epilepsy in Dogs
Understanding Your Pet’s Epilepsy
Petplan Common Illnesses – Dog Epilepsy (video)
Wikipedia’s Dog Anatomy

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