Can Dogs Live with Epilepsy?

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Introduction

You've heard of epilepsy in people - you might even know someone who is epileptic. If you're familiar with the signs, symptoms, and effects of epilepsy, then you know it can be a scary condition. But, did you know that your dog can be epileptic, too? Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that can affect your pup's life pretty seriously, so it's important that you have all the body cues, treatment information, and veterinary advice you can get. 

If you're unsure how to tell if your dog is suffering from something serious like epilepsy and want to make sure that you're  not missing out on body cues, signs, and other tell-tale information that can keep you in the loop - worry not, we've got tonnes of doggo epilepsy information that you need right here!

Signs that Your Dog May Be Epileptic

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in pooches that causes them to have sudden, uncontrolled seizures that often are reoccurring. These physical attacks can come suddenly, but often, there are signs leading up to them that can help indicate that your pooch might be about to suffer from an attack. We've listed out some of the signs that can help you keep an eye on your dog's attacks, as well as advice on how to live with and manage your dog's epilepsy. 

Typically, your dog can suffer from a few different types of seizures that all point toward epilepsy. Classified by scientists as partial, generalized, and focal seizures, all are equally scary, however, they all have different signs and symptoms associated with them that your dog can give off. Generalized seizures can affect your pup's entire brain and their entire body, and can look like your dog is jerking or twitching and even make your dog lose consciousness. 

Partial seizures and focal seizures affect small parts of the brain and can show up in a couple of different ways. Typically, they will eventually turn into generalized seizures, though. With these types of seizures, only parts of your dog's body will be affected - think a limb, one side of the face, etc. These can be harder to determine and difficult to diagnose, as well. 

While it can be hard to catch a seizure before it happens, there are some signs that you can watch out for to try to diminish the effects of the seizure. For example, your dog may experience a focal onset where they seem dazed, confused, worried, or frightened. They might have muscle rigidity, seek help from you from visual disturbances, and they also may be unable to control their urination and bowel movements. 

Body Language

There are lots of body language cues your dog will give you to alert you that they're suffering from epilepsy. While there are tons to watch out for, some of the most basic will be:
  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Whining
  • Cowering
  • Panting
  • Ears drop
  • Pacing
  • Sniffing
  • Weakness

Other Signs

There are, of course, dozens of other more specific signs that can point to your dog suffering from seizures, or indicators that he's about to have one. Keep an eye on things like:
  • Hiding
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Muscle contraction
  • Stress/anxiety
  • Worry
  • Focal onset
  • Visual disturbances
  • Fright
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Incontinence

History of Epilepsy in Pups

Historically, epilepsy and seizures have been thought to be a very common neurological problem seen in dogs. Veterinarians throughout the world recognize that dogs can be epileptic and have done thousands of case studies and research projects to further this point. According to many of these case studies, treating dogs with anticonvulsants, other medicines, and cautionary treatments may be beneficial. 

Case studies have also proven that epilepsy can develop from other ailments. Take one case study on a labrador named Milo, who was presented for seizures, according to VCA Animals Specialists in Southern California. After several seizures, Milo was brought in for analysis, and after urine and blood testing, along with dozens of other tests, it was determined that Milo's epilepsy had developed due to a brain tumor, causing his seizures in the first place.

The Science Behind Epilepsy

Understanding the science behind epilepsy isn't just important for treatment, it's also important to help you learn about the signs your dog may be showing you and how to prevent seizures from happening.

Typically seizures happen in three components - pre-ictal, ictal, and post-ictal - and all of these phases have their own unique signs and symptoms. 

The Pre-ictal phase is typically called "aura" and can be incredibly confusing for your pup. In this phase, your dog will experience altered neurological behaviors, be frightened, see things that aren't there, hide, and be incredibly nervous or anxious. 

In the actual ictal phase, when the seizure is happening, your pup will likely writhe and twitch, lose consciousness, lose control of his bowels, or lose mental awareness. 

In the post-ictal phase, your dog will be confused, disorientated, and likely pace, be restless, or go blind temporarily. Essentially, during a seizure, there will be bursts of electrical activity in the brain, like in an electrical storm. How your pup will be affected will depend on the part of the brain the seizure is affecting.

How to Train Your Dog to Deal with Epilepsy

Training your dog to deal with his diagnosis can involve teaching yourself how to deal with it, too. His lifestyle - and yours - will be different. Treating your dog's epilepsy will largely involve outpatient practices like check-ups, medicines, and monitoring. your doggo's everyday behaviors. 

Keeping your dog up to date on treatments will be top priority, and you'll have to make sure your dog is comfortable with taking his medicines every day, and they must be comfortable with having their blood drawn. Make sure to reward your dog dramatically after a procedure like this to promote a positive link with these treatments. 

Ensure that you're monitoring your pup's weight closely, too. It's important to keep his diet strict and his exercise regular, all while keeping an eye on his behavior to watch for seizures. While it can be hard to prevent epilepsy and seizures, try to train your pup to avoid salty treats with potassium bromide, as it can lead to more seizures. 

How to React When Your Dog Has a Seizure

  • Call your vet immediately!
  • Don't move your dog during the actual seizure.
  • If possible, place newspapers or towels around or underneath him in case he has uncontrollable bowel movements or urination.
  • Comfort your pup by putting your hands on him, but stay away from his mouth.
  • Keep your hands away from his mouth, he might convulse and accidentally bite.
  • Take your dog to the vet immediately following the event.

Does Your Dog Suffer from Epilepsy? Tell Us.