CAUSE & TREATMENT
Epileptic seizures may
be inherited or acquired but are increasing proportionate to
increased use of vaccines and medicines. What precipitates a
seizure, how to recognize onset, types of seizure,
traditional and alternative epilepsy treatment and
2010 - Seizures, often called convulsions, are a neurological malfunction; an
uncoordinated firing of neurons in the brain due to injury, hereditary factors,
toxins, metabolic or electrolyte imbalances.
and secondary. Primary or idiopathic epilepsy is considered
true inherited epilepsy, an inherited biochemical
defect of neurons leading to abnormal electrical brain
activity. Diagnosis can only be based on pedigree knowledge and
whether the condition exists in statistically significant
numbers of close relatives. Secondary or acquired epilepsy
is believed related to a cause; i.e. injury or disease.
Types of seizures
are divided into generalized
(Grand Mal, mild, or petite), cluster, and status
epilipticus. Generalized seizures are dramatic and
thankfully short in duration, usually lasting less than a minute
during which time the dog looses consciousness, becomes rigid,
the legs paddle, the body may become rigid, breathing may stop
(clearing throat and quick careful rib cage depression may
jumpstart), pupils dilate, and the dog may urinate or defecate.
Petite Mal or partial seizures may be brief, hardly noticeable,
or dramatic. Examples are a few seconds of lost consciousness
or disorientation, staring, upward rotation of eyes, twitching,
or in complex partial seizures, chewing, licking, whining or
barking, bizarre behavior such as snapping at imaginary flies,
cowering or hiding, or pacing in circles.
seizures are characterized by two or more seizures within a few
minutes or hours but with the patient regaining consciousness
between the seizures. A single seizure or even a cluster
seizure of short duration is rarely life-threatening but
frequent seizures may lead to status epilepticus.
is defined as one continuous seizure lasting several minutes or
two or more individual seizures without full recovery of consciousness between seizures. This is a medical emergency requiring
prompt treatment since continuous seizure activity lasting over
30 minutes can cause life-threatening abnormalities and brain
Treatment for seizures in
dogs are similar to
those for humans.
While treating the seizure treats the disease, seizures must be
regarded as just one symptom of a disease process. There may no
definitive diagnosis in dogs as neurological tests can be
prohibitively expensive. The goal however, is to determine
whether the seizures are due to idiopathic (inherited) epilepsy
or represents some form of active disease. It is the latter
which requires the most effort to diagnose, eliminate, and
restore normal brain activity. Whether single, cluster or
status epilpticus seizures, the treatment objective is to
quickly stop the seizure, provide support for the dog, control
frequency and/or prevent future seizures. This initially
involves immediate veterinary care to administer anti-seizure
medication. When the dog has recovered and patient information
has been established, the veterinarian may dispense one of the
for at-home rectal administration by the owner. Diazepam is a
safe treatment for cluster seizures in dogs with idiopathic
epilepsy and is usually the treatment of choice for emergency
treatment of seizures because it is safe, takes effect quickly,
and is effective against many types of seizures. Although vets
may inject diazepam by vein, most owners are not able to so and
giving it by mouth is extremely difficult when the dog is
actively seizing. Diazepam inserted rectally offers safer,
better results and is ideal for home treatment of cluster
is an inexpensive and effective
preventative. Many vets feel it is better to start at a higher
maintenance dose and then reduce dosage to achieve a steady
blood level. Possible toxicity can be assessed by tests and
adjust with dosage.
immediately effective but requires a few days to achieve the
steroid-like effect and to determine whether the sedation effect
is too strong in that dog. The sedation effect will usually
decrease within a couple of weeks as the dog develops tolerance
to the medication. Phenobarbital seems to act through increasing
GABA neuron activity, an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the
central nervous system. Most neurologists feel that 80% of all
seizure disorders can be controlled by Phenobarbital.
Potassium bromide (KBr) is
another effective anticonvulsant which has recently been
re-discovered. KBr is usually used along with phenobarbital
therapy that fails to completely control seizures. KBr is
believed to control 75% of seizures that can’t be prevented with
phenobarbital alone. It must be made by a compounding
pharmacist who can dispense in capsules or liquid form.
There are other medications which your vet
may discuss, bearing in mind all drugs have some side effects.
Your vet may also suggest acupuncture, ocular pressure to stop
or reduce seizure severity, and nutritional support such as
vitamin B6, magnesium, and manganese but these are supportive
therapies used in conjunction with medication.
Ocular Pressure is something
you can try. It is not a veterinary-recommended procedure
but there has been some informal testing. At the first
definitive sign of imminent seizure, gently apply pressure to
the closed eyelids for 10 to 20 seconds and release, noting
whether twitching, spasmodic trembling or jerking subsides.
Ocular pressure is believed to release a calming chemical,
almost like administering valium. The response can be
quite dramatic or it may prove ineffective. Release for an
equal time while talking calmly and soothing the dog. If
the dog is having a Grand Mal seizure use extreme caution as you
could damage the eyes or get bitten unless you have someone to
help hold the dog. Repeat up to 5 or 6 times until dog is
completely relaxed and can be transported to the veterinarian.
Seizure Indications and
There is a
period during which the dog may sense that a seizure is
immanent. Some dogs will show signs an observant owner will
learn to recognize but on occasion, there is be no warning at
all. Seizures more often occur in early morning or late
evening. Rage Syndrome, in which a normally gentle dog
attacks the closest object or person, has been reported as most
often occurring when the dog awakes from a deep sleep.
Seizures are divided into the
ictus (the actual seizure event), the post-ictal phase
(during which the dog may be agitated, pace restlessly, seem
hungry, or fall into an exhausted sleep) and the inter-ictal
phase (the time between seizures which may be days or months
during which the animal appears perfectly normal).
Age of Onset.
Idiopathic (genetic) epilepsy
generally shows up between one and three years of age and is
most common (or most diagnosed) in purebred dogs and cats.
Acquired epilepsy can occur at any age but it may be hard to
pinpoint a causative injury that occurred six months to a year
earlier. Because of the delay factor following injury, acquired
epilepsy is rarely seen before a year of age unless there is a
known relationship to administration of rabies vaccine.
Rabies vaccine induced
seizures are so
common that there are 51,000 online references to the connection
between rabies vaccine and seizures. Significantly, none are
veterinary university or vaccine manufacturer sites. Breeder
should not be in denial about the hereditary aspect of epilepsy
but “acquired/injury” definitely include rabies vaccine reaction
and the potential as a causative factor in subsequent seizures.
Rabies is a viral infection that attacks the central nervous
system. Symptoms of rabies infection include seizure. (Psuedorabies,
a highly contagious, usually fatal
disease can affect many species but is unrelated to rabies.)
Click for more information on
rabies vaccine induced seizures.
Because active seizures (as
opposed to an isolated incidence) signifies systemic disease,
such seizures tend to occur with greater frequency in diseased
animals and when the immune system is overburdened or becomes
less active with advancing age. Active seizure disease is most
common prior to a year of age when growth stress and vaccine
challenges occur or after six years of age when the immune
system begins to weaken.
Inherited or Acquired
Determining inherited epilepsy is complex. When genetic, it
appears to involve six gene pairs, thus it is more complicated
than hip dysplasia. If breeders note greater than 6% in their
bloodline, they should investigate environmental factors but if
nothing can be detected, they must consider it hereditary.
Statistics show that colony-bred beagles have an incidence of
5.9%, based upon random breeding selection and matings so a
higher percentage in a breeding program indicates more than
chance occurrences of seizures.
Diagnosing the cause of
may include urinalysis,
CBC, Chemistry Profile plus serum cholinesterase and serum bile
acid concentrations, heartworm and internal parasite tests, plus
chest and abdominal radiographs if there are any suspicious
findings and in dogs over six years of age. If such tests reveal
no cause related to epilepsy, the vet and patient should
consider diagnostic tests such as spinal tap, EEG and MRI
There is concern that every time a dog has
a seizure, the central nervous system pathway becomes more
established and increases odds of subsequent seizures. This
suggests that early intervention and prevention aids ultimate
control of seizures but some professionals believe
anticonvulsants should not be used until the seizure frequency
is such that a determination can be made re whether the
anticonvulsant is working. Everyone agrees that treatment should
be started in cases of severe seizures or when there is a
cluster pattern with multiple seizures.
such as Heartgard or Heartgard Plus, Program and Advantage
appear to lower the seizure threshold and make seizure disorders
more difficult to control. Exposure to organophosphate
insecticides should be limited. Interceptor and Filaribits
appear to be safe for epileptic dogs. Of the newer flea control
products, Frontline (Top Spot) appears to be safe for dogs with
Dr. Jean Dodds, well known
veterinarian and researcher, suggests that hypothyroidism may be
a contributing factor to seizures and neurologic manifestations,
listing seizure as one clinical sign of hypothyroidism.
Don’t hesitate to search for
human epilepsy and seizures as in this case, advances will be
more rapid due to the human ability to verbalize symptoms, onset
of seizure, etc. Interestingly, dogs are able to recognize when
a seizure is imminent in their owners, just one more amazing
ability for which service dogs are trained.
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* None of the statements contained herein as regards human or animal health have been evaluated by the FDA. Information is provided for educational purposes only. We are required to advise you to always check with a licensed veterinarian or medical doctor. Information or products offered are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness, disease, or condition, whether animal or human. This disclaimer is due to FDA restrictions designed to protect you, the consumer. It does NOT protect you from vaccines or prescription drugs.
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