Epilepsy is a
common neurologic problem in dogs causing periodic seizures.
In general, epilepsy is not considered a life-threatening condition.
There are 3 forms of epilepsy:
Epilepsy (idiopathic epilepsy) - of unknown origin, believed to
be hereditary in some breeds - including Cocker Spaniels.
Males are more often affected. Age of onset can vary from
6 months to 4 years.
Epilepsy - due to brain trauma, illness or disease. Often
does not manifest until months or years after the injury.
Can affect dogs of either sex and any age or breed.
Epilepsy - manifests in young puppies between 8 and 16 weeks of
age and can be difficult to control. Pups with Juvenile
epilepsy may out-grow the problem by 6-8 months of age.
Certain breeds, including Cockers, are considered "at risk" for
this form of epilepsy.
**Most cases of seizures in puppies
are due to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This can occur
if a puppy has not eaten recently and engages in a period of
prolonged activity. Small or weak puppies are more at risk
for hypoglycemia. If hypoglycemia is diagnosed, the
puppy will be given a solution of sugar and water or corn
syrup to level
out the blood sugar.
not always caused by epilepsy. Other causes of seizures
include vaccine reactions, brain tumors, systemic infection, toxins, liver or
kidney disease, severe worm infestation, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), meningitis, trauma
or a variety of nutritional deficiencies (calcium, potassium, sodium
or thiamin). You should always seek veterinary help
immediately if you believe your dog has had a seizure.
Determining the cause of your dog's seizures may require blood
tests, X-rays, ultrasound exams, urine tests, a CT scan, an MRI, an
EEG (records activity in the brain) and/or cerebrospinal fluid
Dogs with mild
and infrequent seizures (once a month or less) may not require
treatment. Seizure medications can have serious side effects,
so many veterinarians prefer not to use these medicines unless the
dog is suffering from frequent, severe seizures.
Most pets with
epilepsy can lead a reasonably normal life and will still be
excellent companions and family pets. Unfortunately, those
pets that do not respond to drug therapy, that experience frequent
seizures, cluster seizures or status epilepticus, have a more
- Abnormal Behavior
- before a seizure the dog may appear nervous, agitated, fearful, disoriented,
may seek your attention or may hide.
- Seizure Activity
- most common during the night or morning (times of rest).
May last 30 seconds to 2 minutes. The pet may exhibit any
or all of the following:
a seizure the dog may seek your attention, may hide or
stiffens - severe rigidity
Release of bladder and/or bowels
Chomping the jaw
Seizure cluster or status epilepticus - seizure clusters are
numerous seizures one after another with very little time in
between; status epilepticus is continuous seizures.
Both of these conditions require veterinary treatment to
stop the seizures. Can be life-threatening.
- Post Seizure
- Depending on the dog and the severity of the seizure, the dog
may run in circles, pace, whine, bark, stagger, appear confused,
fearful, restless, excited, lethargic or depressed and may be
temporarily blind. Other behaviors may include screaming,
chewing on air, snapping if touched and ducking the head. This
behavior may continue for a few minutes or several hours.
and/or feces smeared on the floor or on your dog
listed above for "after seizing"
- Call your
- Do not let
the dog bump or roll into anything
- Be sure
the dog is away from stairs and is not on furniture or in any
position that would allow him to fall and hurt himself
- Stay calm and
do not raise your
- Keep your
hands and fingers away from the dog's mouth
- Be prepared for vomiting, defecation or
your dog when you are gone and at night
- Do not let
an epileptic dog swim
Phenobarbital is the most
commonly prescribed anticonvulsant medicine for seizure disorders. This
medicine helps to raise the seizure threshold within the brain. The dog
may still have seizures while on this medication, but the frequency and severity
of seizures should be reduced. Side effects
of Phenobarbital may include central nervous system depression,
obesity, excessive thirst, and excessive urination. These problems
generally diminish once the dog gets used to the drug.
will need to check the Phenobarbital levels in your dog's blood
after 2-3 weeks of treatment to be sure the dosage is correct.
Treatment with this medication is usually continued for the life of
the dog with a yearly check-up of the Phenobarbital levels and liver
function. If your dog's seizures are not controlled by
Phenobarbital alone, your veterinarian may suggest using potassium
bromide too. This combination may provide better seizure
is often used to treat seizure clusters or status epilepticus.
This drug is not considered to be an effective medication for
controlling chronic cases of epilepsy because its effect is
Some pets may
eventually be able to stop taking seizure medications, but this
should always be done with veterinary supervision. If your pet
has been taking anticonvulsants, he will be dependent on this
medication and not receiving it could trigger severe seizures.
The medication should be gradually decreased over time, not stopped
abruptly. In this way the animal can be gradually weaned from
the medication without triggering a recurrence of seizures.
Always consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your
pet s medication.
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