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The 4 Stages of Canine Seizures

March 12th, 2013 2 comments

My Yellow Lab, Cory, was probably born with a genetic predilection which made him prone to seizures. Since I had never owned a Lab before, I did not understand what was going on when Cory, at about 3 months of age, woke up one day from a nap and could not walk without his legs crossing over themselves. Since he bounced back quickly, I assumed that his legs had gone to sleep, as mine sometimes do when I have slept on them in such as way as to temporarily block the flow of blood to a nerve, causing tingling and numbness.

Another time, when he was about 12 months old, Cory had an episode where he stood as if he had turned to stone, with his eyes fixed in a stare, and drool running out of his mouth. Although we were out camping, we were able to call a veterinarian in a local town who suggested that he was probably just tired out from all the exercise he got that day. Again, he snapped out of it after a few minutes and he was also fine the next day, and so I still had not connected the dots to consider that maybe what we were seeing was early evidence that his brain was not communicating with his body for brief periods of time.

Stage 1: The Pre-ictal Phase

It turns out that Cory was, in those early years, experiencing the first stage of a typical seizure called the prodome, or pre-ictal phase.  In this early stage of a seizure, some dogs become clingy to their humans, while others try to hide, as if they believe that canine-eating monsters have landed in a spaceship nearby. It took 3 years for Cory’s seizures to develop past this initial phase.

Stage 2: The Aura

The second stage of a full seizure is called the aura, which is where the pre-ictal symptoms increase in intensity. This is the point just before the convulsions begin. The dog may become restless and start pacing in this stage.

Stage 3: The Ictal Phase

The aura is immediately followed by the third, or ictal phase, where the spasms begin, resulting in a disruption of brain activity that causes a jumble of mixed signals throughout the dog’s body. Most seizures last for 1 to 5 minutes. Any seizure which lasts longer than 5 minutes may require medical intervention.

During this phase, most dogs fall onto their side and are either rigid or they paddle their legs uncontrollably while convulsing. There are times when some dogs will lose control of their bladders or bowels during this phase. I suggest that the best thing you can do in this stage of the seizure is to turn off the lights and maintain a sense of calm, while keeping the room as quite as you can.

Screaming and panic on your part will only make things much worse for your dog. Some people have found that giving rescue remedy during the pre-ictal or aura phase will help to reduce the intensity and duration of the ictal phase. If your dog has already been diagnosed as having epilepsy, you will probably have received some syringes of valium from your veterinarian, which you can administer if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes; or goes into status, which is where one seizure quickly follows another.

Stage 4: The Post-Ictal Phase

Once the ictal phase has ended, the next stage can last from several minutes to several days. This is known as the post-ictal phase, which for some dog owners is the most difficult stage of all, depending upon how long this stage lasts. The dog may appear to be drugged or drunk, running around in frantic circles, or some dogs actually become temporarily blind, and will bump into walls.

You must understand that a seizure takes a tremendous amount of energy, and the dog’s body will be depleted of glucose. I recommend that you allow the dog to lick a spoonful of honey on top of some natural, preservative-free vanilla ice cream, which will help to quickly restore the blood sugar levels. It might also be helpful to help the dog learn that a seizure has a positive outcome, (i.e., ice cream), which may eventually help to reduce the dog’s anxiety in the earlier stages of the seizure. As soon as it is safe to do so, you can then allow the dog resume its normal routine.

Foods that Can Cause Seizures in Dogs

March 11th, 2013 No comments

When I was a young girl growing up in Alaska, our family dog was a lovely, white toy poodle named Mitzi. Mom claimed that Mitzi occasionally had seizures. They were infrequent enough that I was fortunate to never have had to witness one. One day I came home from school and Mom said that Mitzi had one of the seizures again that day, after “getting into” the chocolates. We did not have the internet in those days and so it took years for me to make the connection between chocolate consumption and canine seizures. Today, almost everyone knows that chocolate can cause not only seizures, but other serious neurological disorders in dogs. I’m happy to say that Mitzi lived to an old age and that she did not die as a result of her sweet tooth.

But this made me wonder about other foods that might be harmful to dogs. What a relief it would be to find that the reason for a dog’s seizure or other illness could be something as simple as what he eats! Although it is by no means a complete list, what follows is a list of common foods that can cause health problems in dogs.

Cat Food

For those households which are home to both dogs and cats, beware of letting the dogs get into the cat’s food on a regular basis, because it is too high in protein and fats for dogs to eat, resulting in potential digestive problems. Cat food is also denser in calories than dog diets, so it can lead to obesity in dogs.  I used to let Cory “lick the kitty’s plate,” which won’t hurt anything if the kitty has eaten well, but just keep in mind that cats and dogs have their own unique nutritional needs and they should not be allowed to eat the same food.

Raw Fish

Here in the Pacific Northwest, salmon and other raw fish can carry a fluke which in turn carries a bacteria, which can cause seizures and death if consumed raw. By cooking the fish, the danger is completely eliminated, although you must be careful to get all the bones out of the cooked fish before allowing your dog to eat it. I’ve been told that freezing the fish at a certain temperature will also kill the fluke & eliminate the problem, but I’m not comfortable with taking any kind of a chance when it comes to the health and well being of my dog, since I do not know if my freezer can get to the correct temperature or how long the fish would need to be frozen to make the raw fish safe to consume.


Nutmeg is a spice which I have seen in recipes for homemade dog food and treats, but it is a food which dogs should actually never eat. Nutmeg has been known to cause seizures, tremors and even hallucinations in dogs.

Apple Seeds

Apple seeds and other pits from peaches, cherries and plums contain the poison cyanide, which can also cause seizures, obstruct the small intestines and cause painful inflammation for dogs. Although horses can eat their apples whole, core and all, dogs should never be allowed to eat the apple cores.

Grapes and Raisins

I first learned, via the internet, that grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure, seizures and even death in dogs at about the time I was reading a training book for dogs that actually advocated giving raisins as treats!  I contacted the author with my concerns and she was quite defensive. I was concerned enough to follow the internet links about this frightening claim, and I found it to be confirmed by Snopes as being true.

Other foods that are commonly on the list of what not to allow your dog to eat include:

  • macadamia nuts
  • onions
  • egg whites (the whole egg is just fine for the dog)
  • some of the species of wild mushrooms

Early signs that your dog is having an adverse reaction are vomiting and hyperactivity, followed after about a day by lethargy and depression.  If your dog has consumed anything on the list above, and exhibits any such behavior, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

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Treatment Options for Canine Epilepsy

March 11th, 2013 1 comment

If your dog is having seizures, and the diagnosis is idiopathic epilepsy, then you will want to know what your treatment options are as soon as possible. After Cory’s first grand mal seizure (which I describe in detail in Chapter 1 of Cory’s Story), I was terrified and wanted the veterinarian to put Cory on drugs immediately. We live in a society where medications are quite often the first place we turn to whenever something goes wrong with a body, be it human or canine.

Patience & Vigilance

I am so glad that Cory’s vet did not acquiesce to my pleas; but instead, he gently told me that in some cases, the drugs cause more harm for the dog than good. He told me to start a “seizure diary” where I listed all of the information I could about each of Cory’s seizures, including the date, time of day, what Cory had just been doing, and even the phase of the moon. As I look back over that seizure diary, I do see hints that there were certain triggers that seemed to be present for many of Cory’s seizures.

It was frustrating, however, because there was no black and white cause and effect. While swimming in a lake for hours often led to a seizure for Cory, it did not always lead to one. In any case, keeping a diary gave me a tool, and it helped me feel like I was doing something for Cory. I kept it up all of his life with the hope that one day I would find the clue that would pinpoint the reason for his seizures.

Anti-Epileptic Drugs

Along the way I spent hours reading everything I could find about other people’s experiences with canine epilepsy. I wanted to know what drugs were available, what the side effects were and how effective they were. One must keep in mind that the purpose of treatment for canine epilepsy is to reduce the frequency and intensity of the seizures, and that in many cases the seizures will continue in spite of the treatment.

At that time, Phenobarbital was usually prescribed by veterinarians as the first drug of choice to treat seizures. If that did not sufficiently reduce the frequency of the seizures, then Potassium bromide was usually added; although I did see instances where Potassium bromide was also used alone. For some dogs, these drugs (independently, or in combination) were effective enough to reduce the seizures, although I did not often see where the seizures were eliminated entirely.

Another drug, valium, was often prescribed in order to immediately treat a dog where the seizure lasts for 5 minutes or more, or when the seizures would come in clusters. Valium is usually administered by an owner rectally, rather than by injection. During Cory’s entire life, once he was diagnosed with epilepsy, I carried several vials of valium everywhere we went.

Change of Diet

I was fortunate to have been made aware of the connection between feeding a raw, natural diet and the reduction of seizures before we got to the point where we needed to start Cory on anti-epileptic drugs. Although it seems strange to include a dog’s diet in an article about treatment for canine epilepsy, it was exactly this that led to our success in controlling the seizures.

As I’ve shared Cory’s Story with others, including some veterinarians, I’ve been told that Cory must have had an allergy to the commercial dog food I’d been feeding him, and it was not the raw, natural diet that helped him, but rather the elimination of the dog food that was an allergen for him. I cannot agree with that assumption, however, because there was not an immediate cessation of the seizures when I began feeding the raw diet to Cory; in fact, it took five years for them to stop completely. If the cause of Cory’s seizures had simply been an allergy, then once he stopped eating commercial dog food I would have expected that his seizures would have also stopped.

Gold Bead Implants

Other treatment options which I would have considered for Cory, if not for the fact that we got such great results from the diet change, include Gold Bead Implants, which involves placement of gold beads into acupuncture points, which must be done by a highly trained specialist. I heard happy accounts from relieved owners of many dogs with epilepsy who received complete relief from seizures once this treatment was received.

Homeopathic Remedies

I also sought the expertise of a holistic veterinarian who prescribed homeopathic remedies for Cory. Although I used them for years, I also stopped using them from time to time, and I cannot say with any assurance that I saw a difference in the frequency or severity of Cory’s seizures. I did see dramatically positive results with the homeopathic remedy arnicaid, which I would give to Cory when he was a senior and would be experiencing muscle aches and pains, so I cannot rule out homeopathy altogether; it’s just that I’m not sure it had any effect on Cory’s seizures.

Common Causes of Seizures in Dogs

March 11th, 2013 1 comment

If your dog has a seizure, the first thing you’ll want to do is find out what might be the cause.  The purpose of this article is to give you a few of the common causes, because the treatment will be dependent upon the reason for the fit, (as they are called in England), or seizure, as we call them in the United States.  Both terms refer to the state where the brain temporarily loses control of the body.

Environmental Toxins

The environment contains many toxins which can cause seizures in dogs. If your dog has a seizure the first thing you will want to do is take a look at where the dog has been.  Do you see poisons such as rat bait?  How about leaked antifreeze?  Have you recently put a flea collar on your dog or used flea powder or insecticides in your home?  If you find any of these culprits, you may have good news, because most dogs can fully recover, with quick medical intervention and treatment, if the reason for the seizure is found to be an environmental toxin.

Brain Tumors

A diagnostic test, such as an MRI or CAT scan, can determine whether or not your dog has an abnormal growth on the brain.  Brain tumors, especially those in the cerebrum, can be a common reason for seizures in older dogs, but they are rarely the cause of seizures in younger dogs.  The highest incidence is found among the short-nosed breeds such as the Pug, Boxer, Bulldog, and Boston Terrier.

Tick-induced Diseases

Dog seizures can be attributed to several poisons that can be transmitted by ticks, such as Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  Check your dog’s body to see if there are any ticks.  Fortunately, with early treatment such as antibiotics, most of these conditions are reversible, and the dog will make a full recovery from a tick-induced disease.


Distemper, a virus, can cause seizures as the disease progresses.  Puppies are especially susceptible to distemper, around the age of about 3 months, when their bodies no longer have the protection of the antibodies which they received from their mother.  This debilitating disease is preventable if the dog receives a vaccination at about 8 weeks of age.  Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, discharge from the eyes and nose, followed by a dry cough, diarrhea and dehydration. Distemper must be treated by a veterinarian; in fact the very life of the dog can depend upon how quickly the dog receives medical intervention. Although antibiotics have no effect on the distemper virus itself, they are used to prevent secondary bacterial infections.  Anticonvulsants or sedatives are used to control seizures.  The best prevention against canine distemper is vaccination.

Ideopathic Epilepsy

Perhaps the most common cause of dog seizures is idiopathic epilepsy. If everything mentioned above is ruled out, idiopathic epilepsy is usually the diagnosis.  It is attributed to either a genetic or congenital disorder, causing the dog’s neurological system to be vulnerable to a chaotic electrical discharge of neurons in the brain, resulting in seizures.

Jasper’s Story: Updated May 2012

May 14th, 2012 No comments

A year later…

We have been achieving much longer seizure breaks (up to 12 weeks!), BUT unfortunately the severity and lengths of the Grand Mal seizures have increased as well.
By September 2011 we decided it was time to medicate our boy. Thanks to my fantastic canine Epilepsy support group EPIL I learnt a lot about different Anti Epileptic Drugs/ AEDs.

We decided to try the AED with the least side effects first: Levetiracetam = generic brand of Keppra. It is usually very successful as an add on to other AEDs such as Phenobarbitol/ PB and/ or Potassium Bromide/ KBr. It also does not effect the liver, as it gets filtered through the kidneys. So this was a test, which unfortunately did not work out.

In march 2012 we started Jasper on PB, while slowly weaning him off the Keppra. We want to see HOW the PB on its own will help his seizures.
Next week Jasper will have his first blood tests for PB level and also liver bile acid test. This is very important to do at least every 6 months. If there is any compromise to his liver we can catch it in time. We will also start him on Milk Thistle, which is a great liver supplement.

Fingers and paws crossed this medication will give our boy a well deserved break…and us too. I encourage anybody with an epileptic dog to join Epil-K9’s website:

Not only will you learn more from this group then any Vet or Neurologist can ever tell you…they are a great bunch of compassionate caring people.

Kirsy & Jasper



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Cory’s Story Wins “Best Dog Blog” and more…

January 28th, 2011 No comments

I’m thrilled to announce that has won four awards!

  • Best Dog Blog
  • Best Informational Web Site
  • Best Dog Product
  • Best Dog Web Site

We now get to proudly display our badges. Thanks to everyone for your awesome support!

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Going on Vacation

January 14th, 2011 No comments

Hi everyone!

I wanted to give you a heads-up that we are taking a family vacation to Mexico, starting today, and we’ll be returning on January 22nd in the evening. So, all orders of the hardcopy of Cory’s Story won’t be shipped out until Monday, January 24th.

In the meantime, the next post in continuation of Mika’s Story is scheduled to publish on January 16th at 11:53 a.m., PST. Be sure to check back often for more updates to Mika’s Story, Kaydee’s Story and even more stories that are in the works as we speak…

If you need to get in touch with us for any reason, please use the Contact Us page and we’ll do our best to respond as soon as possible.

Thanks everyone, enjoy your week!

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Introducing a New Guest Author and Story: Madenia and Mika!

January 10th, 2011 No comments

I’m thrilled to introduce another guest author who will be sharing her story of switching her dog to raw food: Madenia and her dog Mika!

Madenia and Mika are from Cape Town, South Africa. Mika, a female malamute, made the switch to raw food 10  months ago. Look for Mika’s Story, starting tomorrow, right here!

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The Different Types of Canine Seizures

December 23rd, 2010 2 comments

One of the most common things I hear from people, when I explain that my dog is epileptic, is “Oh, I didn’t know that dogs could have that disease!”  How I wish it weren’t true!  Dogs can and do have seizures. There are many causes of seizures, such as epilepsy (which is often an inherited disease with no known physical cause), brain tumors, toxins, or illness such as distemper or tick induced diseases, to name just a few. The purpose of this article is to briefly visit some of the most common symptoms of a dog seizure. It is possible for a dog with a seizure disorder to experience all of these symptoms at different times.

What just happened to my dog?  Was that a seizure?

The following symptoms are associated with these various kinds of seizures.

ABSENCE SEIZURES a/k/a PETIT MAL SEIZURES. These seizures are the most difficult to assess, because nothing dramatic happens; you just get the sense that your dog is somehow “off.”  These seizures are also sometimes called “focal seizures” because the dog has a blank stare and may lose control of its bladder or bowels. If this is the only kind of seizure your dog experiences, you will likely not recognize it as a seizure.

PARTIAL SEIZURES. These occur when your dog has seizure activity in only one part of the body, such as in the face or just on one side of the body.  Typical symptoms are ataxia (i.e., the dog will try to walk but is unable to because the legs cross themselves causing stumbling, as if the legs have had their blood supply cut off putting them to sleep) or muscle spasms. The dog may fall over on its side and lie still until the seizure passes.

COMPLEX PARTIAL SEIZURES.  The behavior of the dog is suddenly erratic. He may run around the house as if being chased by an unseen demon, or he may appear to be frightened or even frantic and then fall down. Some dogs may find themselves stuck in a corner, unable to get out.  He may bite at the air as if he sees flies, or stand rock solid with his eyes fixed on nothing and drool.  He may stare into space as if he can see into the next dimension, and be unresponsive to your voice or even your touch. Dogs who experience these kinds of seizures will be unable to hear or see you while they are in the midst of the seizure. Complex partial seizures can escalate into Grand Mal seizures, or they can just as easily leave without a trace, and the dog will appear as if nothing happened, leaving you wondering if you can trust your own senses as to what you think you just witnessed.

GRAND MAL SEIZURES, a/k/a TONIC-CLONIC SEIZURES. These are the seizures that can be mistaken for a heart attack or a stroke, but there can be no question that something horrible is happening to the dog. The dog loses complete control of its body, falls to the ground and may lose consciousness. The dog may actually stop breathing for a few seconds. When breathing resumes, the dog’s body will convulse and the dog may lose control of its bladder or bowels. These kinds of seizures involve the entire body, whereas partial seizures affect just one part or side of the dog’s body. These seizures can become either STATUS EPILEPTICUS or CLUSTER SEIZURES. The status epilepticus seizure is a GRAND MAL that is not over after five minutes, and it can be life-threatening. Dogs experiencing cluster seizures will come out of one seizure for a time, only to have another a short time later.

After the seizure is over, depending upon its intensity, a dog may appear to be drugged, confused or very tired. If the dog did not lose bladder or bowel control during the seizure, he may need to relieve himself urgently. Some dogs experience temporary blindness, and pacing is also common following a seizure. Many dogs will be ravenous or thirsty because the massive neural and physical activity during a seizure releases hormones and consumes glucose.

Once you have determined that your dog did have a seizure, it is important to get the dog in to see a veterinarian in order to have a full examination done. The exam should include a full panel blood work-up to check for a possible thyroid imbalance, hypoglycemia, low serum calcium levels in the blood, tick borne diseases such as Lyme or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever disease, distemper, and kidney or liver diseases. If everything is ruled out, then you will likely get a diagnosis of Idiopathic Epilepsy, which usually has a genetic link in the dog’s ancestral chain, and should be brought to the attention of the breeder, if known. With proper canine nutrition and under the care of a veterinarian who is experienced in treating epilepsy, the odds are in your favor that your dog will be able to live a long and happy life despite the seizure disorder.

[BIG ANNOUNCEMENT] We Want YOU to Blog Your Dog’s Story

December 9th, 2010 No comments

As you know, Cory’s Story is about how our yellow lab, Cory, was cured of epilepsy by switching him from commercial dog food to a raw, grain-free, species-appropriate diet. Even though Cory has passed away, his story lives on, serving as a beacon of hope for all dogs plagued by epilepsy or other diseases. Cory’s Story proves that no matter what, there is hope. This Website started out as a blog about Cory’s life, and has since evolved into a resource for canine epilepsy. Now, it’s going to take the next step in its evolution.

We have received many emails from readers of Cory’s Story, thanking us for helping to convince them to make the switch to raw food. And we know that there are many, many more people who are making the switch every day and seeing the benefits for their dogs. Each of these dogs has a story; and now, we are going to make it possible for you to share your dog’s story with the world, right here on

If you’ve ever wanted your own dog blog, this is your chance. We’ll set you up with your own author account and you’ll be able to make posts that follow your dog’s journey through the switch to raw dog food. You’ll be able to post pictures of your dog and share your story with the thousands of followers of Cory’s Story. In doing so, we’ll show the world first-hand evidence of the benefits of raw feeding–and together we’ll fulfill our mission to make the information available that we learned, which cured our dog of epilepsy, to all dog owners; so that every dog in the world has a chance to live a happier, healthier life.

So, are you ready to share your dog’s story with the world? Send me an email at with the following information:

1. Your name
2. Your dog’s name
3. Type of dog
4. Have you made the switch to raw food? (Yes, no, recently, very soon)

This is an exciting opportunity and we are absolutely thrilled to get started. Hope to hear from you soon!

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