Epilepsy in Dogs Part 2

A German Shepherd waiting for someone to play ...
Epilepsy usually occurs at play 
What type of facts about your dog can you hand to your vet to help make the diagnosis?

It is useful if you, the pet owner, can provide your vet answers to the following questions:
  • How does your pet look like when he is having convulsions?
  • How frequently do convulsions happen? What is duration of each convulsion?
  • Observe both sides of  your dog if there are symptoms that appear on one side only. Does one side appear much worse?
  • Does your pet dog has hyperthermia?
  • Has he been exposed to poisonous substance?
  • Has your pet undergone any traumatic experience lately or many years ago?
  • Is your pet updated on vaccinations?
  • Has your pet been boarded lately or with other dogs?
  • Has your pet been sick?
  • In the past weeks, has he been running loose?
  • When and what does he eat?
  • Has he been acting strange lately or did you notice any changes in behavior?
  • Do the convulsions happen in related pattern to certain activities such as eating, sleeping, or exercise?
  • Does your pet exhibit unalike signs right before or right after convulsions?

Do some dogs have more tendency of having epilepsy?

Usually, epilepsy begins to show at 6 months to 5 years of age, typically at 2-3 years. It happens in all dog breeds, that includes the mixed breeds. Epilepsy can be familial, it can be passed on through generations. The Golden Retrievers, Labrador, Cockers, Dachshunds, German Shepherd, Collies, Poodles, Irish Setters, St. Bernards, Beagles, Malamutes and Huskies, Springers are some of the dog breeds with high tendency to have epilepsy. Since epilepsy can be inherited, the dogs which has it should not be used to breed.


Treatment begins when convulsions are patterned, multiple and severe. You should know your pet dog's pattern so your vet can judge if the treatment helps. 

There is no known cure for epilepsy. The aim is to reduce the prevalence, duration, and severity of the convulsions. Oral medications are given to treat epilepsy. Dogs show nonidentical responses to the medicines. The vet may try various combinations of medications to see which is right for your pet. On the start of the medication, most dogs will feel sleepy, but eventually this wears off in a matter of weeks.

The usual drugs used to restrain epilepsy are Phenobarbital and Potassium bromide. They may be used as a single drug or in combination. They should be administered daily. Before putting the dog on phenobarbital medication, he should have his lab test. Blood levels are also regularly taken. Do not skip or discontinue the medication once it has been introduced, otherwise severe convulsions could result. Almost all dogs taking anticonvulsant will have to continue taking it for life. Some other drugs used for the treatment of epilepsy are carbamazepine, felbamate, primidone, valporic acid, chlorazepate, gabapentine, and clonazepam. Intravenous drugs like valium for fast effect are given to dogs with prolonged convulsions or also known as Status. 

Anti-epileptic drugs like phenobarbital may have side effects on liver if high dosage is required. Prior to increasing dosage, liver function test must be taken just to be sure you are on the safe side. Although liver damage is rarely seen even at high levels. It is usual for a dosage level to be effective for a period of time and then the convulsions will multiply in frequency and duration. The dosage then may be increased. On the other hand, if the dog does not exhibit seizures, the dosage may be lowered and still control the convulsions. Keep a calendar of the convulsions with the date and their duration. This will help in determining if there are adjustments needed. 

What must I do if my pet dog is having convulsions?
  1. Stay calm.
  2. Never put your hand in your dog's mouth. You may get bitten! And it does not help your dog.
  3. Put away sharp objects nearby such as tables and chairs to prevent injuries.
  4. Place the dog on the floor carefully if he is in a couch or bed to prevent falls.
  5. Clear the area of other pets and children.
  6. Watch your dog closely and get in touch with your vet if the convulsions last more than 3 minutes or if he has recurring seizures for this is a medical emergency and could be fatal.
One mild seizure is not considered an emergency and does not need long term medication. Although you should still report it to your vet. Be sure to record the date, time and duration of the seizure.
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