It is sad and astonishing fact that the dog shows sign of epilepsy ( seizure)like some of we human manifest. The other time normal dog became unsteady and confused. They flop to the ground and start treading water though it isn’t there. If this is the case then your four legged friend is having a seizure.
Lets look on some of the in depth issues regarding seizure.
What is seizure?
Seizure are one of the most seen and reported neurological condition in dog of Nepal. It is not a disease in itself but a sign of disease. The other term used interchangeably to denote seizure is epilepsy. A seizure may also called a convulsion or fits. In simple term it is an involuntary disturbance of normal brain function which results uncontrollable muscle activity. Epilepsy is a term used to describe repeated episode of seizure. The seizure can be single or may occur in cluster. They can be unpredictable or may occur at regular interval of time like every day or week.
What causes epileptic seizure in dogs?
There are many causes of seizure. Most of the seizures are genetic or hereditary which is also known as idiopathic epilepsy. In this type the exact cause is unknown . Other seizures are related to illness or physiological abnormality. Some of the seizure can be preventable or controlled if the underlying cause are diagnosed soon.
Some of the causes are:
Generally seizure occurs at changing brain activity like excitement while playing or feeding. In other time the dog seems perfectly normal.
Are some breeds or sex more prone to develop seizure?
Certain breed of dog are more prone to develop seizure like Labrador, Golden retriever,German Shepherd, Belgian Tervuren , Bermese mountain dog,Beagle, Vizsla.The other breed are not common in Nepal except Labrador German Shepherd and Golden retriever. So the owner of these dogs must take some extra precaution while rearing these dogs. Epilepsy appears between 10 month to 3 year of age but can be seen as young as 6 month and as old as 5 years. Similarly male dogs are more prone to show the sign of seizure than female counterpart.
What exactly happens during seizure?
Seizure has three phases
1)Pre-ictal phase( also known as aura)
In this phase dog appear nervous and hide from owner. It is a period of altered behavior. It may also start whining, shaking and salivating and became restless. This period can last from few second to few hours.
This phase can range from mild changes in mental awareness like licking lips, mild shaking, aimless staring to full loss of consciousness. In the gran mal phase( full blow seizure) there will a movement of all the muscle of body spastically(involuntary jerky muscle contraction) and erratically(not regular in pattern) . The dog fall in its side and paddle its leg as if it is in tread mill or cycling otherwise seems to be paralyzed. The head will be drawn backward( most often)In this phase salivation urination and defecation may occur. If this seizure has not stopped within 5 minute then the dog is said to be in Status epilepticus (prolonged seizure)
3) post ictal phase
It is a end of seizure period. In this phase there will be a sign of confusion disorientation, restlessness and even temporary blindness.
Is there pain during seizure and possess health risk leading to death?
Seizure is not painful despite it may seems very violent and unusual. However if you put your finger or object on dogs mouth to help him breath then it may cause more harm than good. There is a risk of being bitten by dog instead or even injuring your dog during that process. The main point to consider is to keep the dog on floor or ground and prevent from falling or hurting itself by knocking surrounding object onto itself.
A single seizure is rarely dangerous but if the dog has multiple seizures occurring in one day with short period of time which is called cluster seizure or if the seizure is continued for more than five minute (status epilepticus) then there is rise in body temperature (hyperthermia) which need immediate veterinary attention. Beside in Status epilepticus dog should be given IV anticonvulsant to stop seizure otherwise dog may die or suffer irreversible brain damage.
What are long term treatment for epilepsy?
The vet will carry out various blood work and detailed physical examination. Similarly he will take the dogs through history from the client regarding the epileptic episode for which the client has to maintain a seizure diary or journal indicating when the seizure started, how long, in what intensity and frequency to name a few. Sometime it is necessary to have referral to specialist where he carry out CT scan and MRI for definite diagnosis.
Two of the most common drug used to treat seizure is phenobarbital am potassium bromide. In case of using phonobarbital a regular blood test ( every six) month is required as it can damage the liver ( hepatotoxic)
Similarly there will be weight gain so special diet plan is needed. Consult your vet regarding feeding plan.
If potassium bromide is used we have to cut down salt from dog’s diet otherwise it can cause seizure.
Similarly new anticonvulsant drug like zomisamide and levetiracetam also shows promising result and are becoming popular choice among vets. If the dog are poorly responsive to standard treatment combination therapy is often used. Follow the instruction by vet on drug use and never adjust or change the dose by yourself as it can have negative impact on long run. Also never miss a dose and stop drug abruptly. If the drug doesn’t work then seizure may occur regularly and there may be a possibility of brain damage or death may occur in long run. The prognoses of such cases are grave and poor.
Idiopathic Epilepsy can’t be cured only controlled or managed and once anticonvulsant medication is used or started it must be given for the rest of the dog’s life.
Written by Dr Pratik Man Pradhan B.V.Sc &A.H
Mount Everest Kennel Club