Canine Epilepsy

Canine Epilepsy

What is epilepsy?

There are many causes of seizures, but, when there is no identifiable cause it is known as “idiopathic” or “primary” epilepsy.

There are no definitive tests for epilepsy and any diagnosis is made with reservation. One seizure is not usually enough to confidently make a diagnosis of epilepsy. More than one seizure is usually recorded before any tentative diagnosis can be made and treatment prescribed.

Epilepsy treatments do not cure Epilepsy they are used to control the symptoms and in a lot of cases enable the dog to remain seizure free and have a normal active life

Diagnosis: A diagnosis for primary epilepsy is usually only made after other causes have been eliminated, therefore it is important for your vet to run a series of tests including blood work up and analysis of urine etc. Your vet will check for thyroid disease, liver problems, metabolic disorders, central nervous system damage, infections, and genetic disorders. If results indicate problems, other tests your vet might do include an EEG (a test that measures brain waves), a CT (computed tomography) scan, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and a cerebral spinal fluid test (a test of the fluid that surrounds the brain and the spinal column). If your vet is unable to find a cause for your dog’s seizures, he or she will diagnosis your dog with idiopathic epilepsy.

Understanding Canine Epilepsy can help owners feel more confident when dealing with a seizure

Types of seizure

Tonic-clonic or generalised seizure: This is the term used for the type of seizure where the dog falls and loses consciousness, with rhythmic twitching of limbs and sometimes loss of bowel and bladder control.

Absence: A momentary unconsciousness, the dog may lean to one side, stare blankly and seem briefly unresponsive.

Partial seizure: the movements occur in one area of the body, e.g. one limb, turning head or body to one side, facial twitches. Partial seizures can progress into a generalised tonic clonic seizure.

Complex partial seizure: seizures may be difficult to recognise, with periods of abnormal behaviour repeated during each seizure. These may include lip-smacking, snapping the air, aggression, spinning etc. The dog may not lose consciousness, there just appears to be a lack of responsiveness, which can last for varying lengths of time.

Cluster seizure: several seizures within a 24 hour period with periods of regaining consciousness in between each seizure.

Status epilepticus: a life threatening condition which involves one continuous seizure of 30 minutes or more, or several consecutive seizures with no periods of normal consciousness in between. Veterinary intervention is required immediately.

Whenever your dog has a seizure it is advisable to contact your vet for advice.

Seizures have three phases.

Phase 1 The Aura
The first phase is called the aura. During this phase, your dog’s behaviour may seem abnormal he may seem aloof nervous or restless. He may hide or he may wander aimlessly around the house. He may tremble or whine. Some dogs may dig at furniture, the floor etc. The aura phase can last from a few minutes to a few hours. Many owners learn to recognize when their dog is in this phase and can prepare for the seizure.

Phase 2 The Ictal Phase
The second phase is known as the ictal phase. Your dog will lose consciousness during this time. The dog will usually fall onto their side, their face will usually twitch and they may make noises in their throat. The dog’s feet might also paddle the air. The dog may lose control of their bladder and bowels. Most seizures usually last less than two minutes.

Phase 3 The Post-Ictal Phase
During a seizure, move anything that may cause injury out of the way, and pull the dog away from walls and furniture if possible so that the dog doesn’t hurt itself. Don’t try to restrain the dog, or put your fingers or any object in the dogs mouth as you may end up causing injury, to your dog or yourself. It may be helpful to wrap the dog in a blanket should you need to transport it to a vet if the Ictal Phase of the seizure does not cease after 5 minutes. If the seizure does not stop within 10 minutes or if the dog comes out of the seizure and goes into another one within an hour, take the dog immediately to the vet.

Advice from any internet site or book is no substitute for qualified veterinary support. Always speak to your vet if you have questions about, diagnosing, supporting and assisting your dog when it has a seizure.

Italian Greyhounds have been recorded as having Epilepsy but as yet no reliable data has been recorded as to the prevalence in the breed.