Dog health - A guide to epilepsy

Epilepsy is a chronic condition that causes repeated seizures, and is the most common neurological disorder in dogs. Unfortunately, there is no cure for epilepsy, but with the treatment options and medication available, dogs can live normal, happy lives. Petplan investigates epilepsy in dogs, and how owners can care for their canine friends...

What is canine epilepsy?

Canine epilepsy is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. It can be related to breed type, or hereditary factors.

You can tell whether a dog is having an epileptic fit from the following signs:

An epileptic fits or seizures can be triggered by lack of sleep, stress, or certain foods and medication, but not all fits have triggers. Fits usually last a couple of seconds or minutes, and stop by themselves.

Caring for dogs with epilepsy

If your dog has a seizure, it’s important to stay calm. The majority of seizures don’t last long, and your dog will not be aware that it is happening.

Move any furniture or objects out of the way so your dog can’t hurt himself, and never put anything in your dog’s mouth – including your hands.

Record how often your dog seizures, what may have caused it, and how long it lasts so you can inform the vet.

Treatment for canine epilepsy

If your dog has multiple or frequent fits, the vet will prescribe long-term, anti-epileptic medication reduce the frequency of the seizures. You will need to take your dog for regular check-ups to monitor his or her progress.

Anti-Epileptic treatments are usually well tolerated but sometimes they can cause drowsiness, wobbliness, increased appetite and/or thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea, weight gain or behavioural changes, amongst others. Always consult a vet if you are worried about side effects of the treatment.

Not all dogs will receive treatment for epilepsy however and the decision to medicate will depend on the severity and frequency of the seizures. However, this should always be a decision for your vet.

Other causes of seizures in dogs

Aside from epilepsy, dog seizures can also be caused by poison or toxins, brain tumours, problems with the blood or organs, trauma, or genetic abnormalities.

The most important thing is to get a correct diagnosis. Epilepsy can be tricky to diagnose as there is no specific test for epilepsy and therefore the diagnosis is made by excluding other causes.

Do you have a dog with epilepsy? What are your tips for caring for your pet? Let us know in the comments below...