Epilepsy in canines is a neurological disorder where they experience more than two seizures by any type of cause. Seizures can be divided into two types generalized or focal. Generalized is when both sides of the brain are involved. This is when movements in the bilateral muscles in the brain either abnormal increase or decrease. These muscles in the brain are involuntary. To know if the patient is going into a generalized seizure instead of a focal seizure both sides of the body will be affected by the seizure.
The dog will become unaware of its environment and seem overall impaired. Along with the unawareness, there will be salvation and even involuntary urination and defecation.
Focal Seizures happen from a specific part of the brain. Unlike generalized seizures, focal seizures only affect one part of the body or one side. It can eventually affect both sides of the body and become generalized seizures. The signs displayed by abnormal motor activity, abnormal behavior, or change in their anatomic functions.
Facial twitches, vomiting, and fear are a few examples of these types of symptoms.
They’re not always a clear identifier for why the dog might have epilepsy there are at least three classifications the dog might fall under. If there are malformations of the brain or even damage that can be observed that are causing the seizures in the dog this is known as structural epilepsy. Growth/tumor in the brain, inflammation or actual trauma is a few examples of brain damages that can be the source of epilepsy.
Or dogs that have experienced strokes can lead to this neurological disease. Usually, this is an easier form to diagnose since you can detect abnormalities in the brain’s structure through tests like MRIs or cerebrospinal fluid analysis. This is usually tested after a certain age.
Dogs with no structural abnoroutinermalities in the brain and are between the aged of 1-5 usually and have repeating seizures might have idiopathic epilepsy which can also be referred to as genetic epilepsy. There aren’t any specific known reasons like toxins, illness, or brain damage that cause this kind of epilepsy. It is assumed that this condition is inherited since there is no specific source of the disorder in the dog. Certain dog breeds with genetic mutations or defects are thought to be a reason a particular dog within a certain age might have inherited epilepsy. There is no real test to diagnose this classification. There are some genetic testing coming into development to be used to test for this kind of classification.
The most common treatment for epilepsy is antiepileptic drug (AED) therapy. The main goal of AED therapy is to decrease the number of attacks a dog might experience thus improving their quality of life remembering that there is no real cure for epilepsy. The medication should be administered to your dog at the same time every day and should be continued every day. Treatment should not be stopped without speaking to the veterinarian. There will be routine check-ups (which included blood tests) with the veterinarian to make sure the patient is being given the correct dosage to deal with their seizures. Finding the correct dosage for a dog takes an extended period. The weight and how the dog reacts to the drug are taken into consideration when discussing what kind of drug and treatment to use. The first try is not always the correct dose. Blood tests are used to inspect the serum in the blood to see if the drugs are in the right balance. The effects of the drug are at a high enough level to be therapeutic to the dog’s condition while at the same time low enough that the drug does not become toxic to the dog. If the levels get too high it can become dangerous to the patient. If the levels get too low the drugs will have no effect and the dog’s seizures will not be prevented.
There is more than one type of AED therapy drug, so if one does not work for a certain patient there are more to try. Phenobarbital is a first-generation AED therapy drug. Phenobarbital is a common drug used by veterinarians. First off it’s one of the more inexpensive drugs veterinarians can prescribe. For many patients, the drug is easily tolerated and because of that easy to find the right dosage. The patients can grow a tolerance for the drug thus decreasing its effects on seizures. With that comes a physical dependence on the drug and withdrawal symptoms if the dog was taken off the drug. Not to mention the drug can be the culprit of liver damage, sedation, and increased appetite. This one drug might not be the right option for all patients luckily there is more than one option.
Second generation AED therapy drugs levetiracetam, zonisamide, felbamate, gabapentin, pregabalin, and topiramate. These are other commonly used drugs and are safer among a wider range of dosages. So it’s not as risky to reach that high level where the drug becomes a toxin to the dog. Second-generation drugs are also used on humans thus it is absorbed through multiple mechanisms in the body. Though it is not clear how effective this treatment is on dogs. It can cause mild side effects such as vomiting, sedation, and sometimes liver damage. Though these side effects are not observed often. The one drug used on humans that is not used on dogs because it can cause heart arrhythmias is lamotrigine.
Keep in mind these drugs do not stop seizures one-hundred percent, so be prepared for when seizures do occur. If the dog is in a dangerous area such as by a pool, a ledge, or near furniture the dog should be moved but do not pick them up. The only time the dog can be lifted off the ground is off the seizures do not stop and they need to be taken to the veterinary clinic or hospital. Make sure the pet is laying on its side to the saliva does not collect at the back of its throat. This prevents them from choking on their saliva. Do not no matter the situation try to give medication to them by putting a hand into their mouth during the episode. Avoid putting a hand in their mouth altogether they will not swallow their tongues. If the seizures last longer than three. minutes bring the animal to the veterinary clinic since most seizures should only last one to three minutes. Their diets must be consistent as well. It does not have a special diet but it should be consistent it will help prevent more episodes and the medication will work better. Overall if the dog lives an active healthy lifestyle they should still be able to have a good quality of life even with epilepsy.