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.

The Best Way to Stop a Dog Seizure

March 10th, 2013 No comments

Just as in humans, a seizure in a dog is an episode when abnormal electrical triggers fire in the brain. As the effects of this electrical triggering spread, it affects the dog’s mental and physical functions, causing jerky movement and loss of physical control. If your dog is epileptic or has another condition characterized by seizures, it is important to be able to identify the seizure and handle it in the way that is best for your dog.

In dogs, a seizure typically starts with an aura, which is a set of pre-seizure behaviors. A dog in the aura stage often acts in a way that is totally the opposite of its normal behavior. Dogs that are usually sweet might become withdrawn and snappish; dogs that are laid back may become strangely anxious; and dogs that tend to be aloof might start to demand affection.

An aura can last for up to an hour before the seizure. Suddenly, your dog will collapse, with all four legs rigidly extended. Then the dog will kick its legs or move spasmodically, and he or she might bite at nothing. The dog may also lose control of its bowels and bladder. The seizure may last for several minutes, and leave your dog shaky and disoriented. The confusion following a seizure may last for several hours.

When your dog has a seizure, try to move it to a place where it will not do any harm. Pull it away from anything that could get knocked over and fall on top of it. Try to keep your hands away from the dog’s mouth, because he or she will lose control over the biting reflex during the seizure.

Talk soothingly to your pet, especially if it seems to respond to your voice. Dogs are acutely tuned into the way we say things; you must do everything you can to keep your dog calm. If you can help the dog stay calm, you can reduce the amount of agitation and potential physical damage it suffers during this unpleasant experience.

One way to help a dog move out of the seizure stage is to apply ice to his or her lower back, just above the tail. Keep a sealed plastic bag of cold ice in your refrigerator at all times so you can apply it when your dog starts to have a seizure. The cold pack can help your dog come out of a seizure very quickly. It also reduces or completely eliminates the post-seizure haze.

If your dog has a seizure, it is essential to contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. This is important even if your dog experiences seizures on a regular basis, because you can never know when actual damage has occurred. If your dog has never had a seizure, you will find it even more imperative to talk to a professional.

Remember that seizures can result from many things, including poison and kidney failure, so consult a professional after your dog has had a seizure!

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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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Two Heartwarming Emails I Received: Podge and Coco’s Stories

May 12th, 2011 No comments


Every now and then someone writes to me after reading “An Owner’s Guide to Canine Epilepsy” or “Cory’s Story”. I received two wonderful e-mails this week that I wanted to share with you. The first was from a woman named Terri who is the founder of American Cocker Spaniel Rescue in Spanaway, Washington. She told me about becoming a foster to a darling little chocolate cocker named Coco who had been found abandoned in the woods. She said, “Coco had the most violent seizures imaginable – he would wake me up, out of a dead sleep….it sounded as though someone was banging on the inside of his crate with a hammer. They were just awful. It broke my heart every time he had a seizure.”

Terri’s story about Coco had a surprising ending. Although Terri found a permanent home for him, she stayed in his life, babysitting him whenever his people went on vacation. Eventually Coco’s vet diagnosed him with a brain tumor, estimating that he might live only 6 to 9 months. Coco made it another 12 months before it was clear to everyone that his quality of life was no longer acceptable. He was senile, stumbled and fell down, was deaf and blind and he stopped eating and drinking for 2 days. The surprising ending is that Terri offered to have Coco put down while his family was away! She took him to the vet and held him in her arms as he was helped to cross to the Rainbow Bridge. She told me that she cried so hard she could not hold up her pounding head. She said, “Coco was such a great dog and it’s just not fair that he was plagued with seizures…..If I love to be 170 years old, I will never, ever forget dear Coco.”

Coco and Dad

Coco and Dad

Then Terri thanked me for writing Cory’s Story and making the Owner’s Guide available as a free download for anyone. She said “I know for a fact that it will be very helpful to many people.” I read those words with tears running down my face, having shared a sacred moment with another dog guardian who knows first hand just how scary and heart-breaking it is to live with and to love a dog with a seizure disorder. I was deeply moved by Terri’s offer to be the one to take Coco to the vet for his last earthly journey, when he wasn’t even her dog! Having gone through that experience of being with Cory when he crossed to the bridge, I can tell you that it is one of the most wrenching things a person can go through. I told Terri that I believe she is one of the rare Earth angels we hear about from time to time.

The next day I got an e-mail from Gail in North Wales. She told me about her border collie bitch “Podge” who started having seizures just 4 months ago, when Podge was 3 years old. She began her message to me by saying, “Can I thank you for taking the trouble to put Cory’s story on line, as it gives owners hope. Too many times in the past few weeks I speak to people whose dogs have been put down because of epilepsy.” She went on to tell me about how Podge’s seizures escalated to the point that even a trip to the vet and a valium injection didn’t help. Podge was having about 4 seizures a day and paced relentlessly. Gail said, “mentally I said goodbye, because I couldn’t watch her suffer.” “To take my mind off her discomfort I started to search the internet for clues and when I read the first chapter of Cory’s Story I realized I wasn’t alone in the sheer panic and the helplessness, just willing our lovely dog to survive and get better!”



Gail took action, realizing that there were things she could do for Podge! She came to terms with the fact that her dog had epilepsy, (not a blood sugar issue as she kept telling herself). She got Podge in to see a vet who put her on anti-epileptic drugs and she modified her diet so as to provide Podge with fresh cooked vegetable and meat casseroles, replacing her tinned dog food. Gail reported positive results and has hope that she may be able to get Podge off of the anti-epileptic drug eventually, if her new diet can control the seizures as well as it did for Cory.

I encouraged Gail to take a look at replacing the cooked meals with raw meaty bone meals eventually, which I believe will provide Podge with the maximum nutritional benefits. Gail said she will do that and promised to give me an update some day.

I cannot describe the pleasure I get when I hear from people like Terri and Gail, knowing that Cory’s Story has helped them in some way. Cory was a very special dog and it was his life’s purpose to share his experience, through my writing, so that other dogs would have the


Podge looking yonder

opportunity to live healthier (dare I even dream “seizure-free”?) lives.


March 11th, 2011 No comments

The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has become aware of a human drug recall for Phenobarbital tablets. Phenobarbital is often prescribed by veterinarians for treating seizures in animals.

On February 5, 2011, Qualitest Pharmaceuticals voluntarily recalled several lots of Phenobarbital 32.4 mg and Hydrocodone Bitartrate and Acetaminophen Tablets 10 mg/500 mg due to a label mix-up between the two drug products. Hydrocodone Bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets were incorrectly labeled as Phenobarbital tablets 32.4 mg. As a result of this mix-up, pets may unintentionally be given Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen tablets instead of the intended drug, Phenobarbital.

As of March 10, 2011, the Center for Veterinary Medicine had received 3 serious adverse event reports involving dogs treated with Phenobarbital tablets manufactured by Qualitest Pharmaceuticals. One report cited two of the three affected lot numbers for the recalled product. The remaining two reports did not provide the lot numbers.

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Basic Guide to Canine Epilepsy Now Available Right Here!

February 24th, 2011 No comments

When my dog, Cory, had his first seizure, almost 11 years ago, I was terrified. When the vet told me that it was not good practice to put a dog on anti epileptic drugs after only one seizure, I started my research to get all the information I could find about canine epilepsy. At that time, there were not many resources available, and I spent a good portion of many days looking for help.

Along the way I started writing articles about what I learned about canine epilepsy based upon notes that I made as I learned about the causes and treatments for it, and as I saw how my own dog’s seizures were affected by the information I learned as I applied it.

My beloved Cory passed away in September of 2010. I wanted to share what I learned at his side during the 10 years we journeyed though the quagmire of canine epilepsy, so that Cory would be known as a dog whose life experiences helped other dogs and their humans. With that in mind, I have organized my articles into a little book about canine epilepsy which is a guide for someone who, like me 11 years ago, is looking for basic information. I have made this available for free to everyone, with the hope that it will offer helpful information from someone who has finished the journey.

You can download it by entering your name and email address in the box over on the right sidebar. I would love to know what you think of it! Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Sandra DeMers

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Kaydee’s Story: 30 Days Seizure FREE!

February 17th, 2011 No comments

happy KaydeeFebruary 14 was not only Valentines Day but marks the day Kaydee has been seizure FREE for thirty days!

After her last episode God and I had a little talk — well a MAJOR talk. I was feeling depressed, overwhelmed, my hope was being torn into bits and I screamed at God (yes I really did) “OKAY, where do I go from here?” I began pouring my heart out to Him. I have learned the hard way that when your family, your friends fail you, God is always there to hear your cries! I cried and I cried till I could cry no more. Then I began to pray. I prayed for His guidance and when I lifted up my tear streaked face I knew what had to be done first.

Eliminate the common denominator. Even though the neurologist tossed aside my theory as being irrelevant, I knew I needed to rearrange my office. Now Kaydee can no longer lay upon the offending bed, but only her bed. The toddler bed that I bought at a resale shop. And yes, this is where she now sleeps! Second, anytime we leave the house the bedroom door is shut to keep her away from the other offending bed. If I have to go somewhere while Brent takes his nap, I call him as I am coming home so they are BOTH AWAKE when I walk through the back door. Or if he needs to leave to run an errand during the day while I’m working again the bedroom door is shut.

Next it was recommended by her nutritionist and approved by her holistic vet to start giving her a product called Brain Vitale: Product Contains: Acetyl L-Carnitine 500 mg; GlyceroPhosphoCholine (GPC) 200 mg; Inositol 200 mg; Phosphatidylserine 120 mg; GinkgoSelectTM PhytosomeTM 90 mg [Ginkgo biloba (leaves) and Glycine (soybeans)].

I do not know if this product is really working or if eliminating access to the beds… perhaps both. But what I do know is that God is seeing me through and teaching me that through HIM ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. My HOPE again is restored.

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Kaydee’s Story: Two days later…

February 16th, 2011 No comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is a continuation of our guest author series. Kaydee’s Story follows Kaydee and her health as she switches to a raw food diet.

The day after our trip to Purdue Kaydee pretty much slept all day and some of the next. The trip had really wiped her out! We even kept her covered up with her blankie which is not a normal thing for her.

KaydeeTwo days later I had an appointment late in the afternoon at the hair salon. I was gone only for an hour and a half. When I arrived home I felt a knot begin to form as I reached the back door… no Kaydee to greet me. I opened the door and walked in… still no Kaydee to greet me. Panic was starting to grip at my heart as I am rounding the corner from the kitchen to the living room. There she is!! All wiggles and waggles. I see her. She jumps up standing on her hind legs to greet me but her right front leg starts to bend and then I see her go …. I grab her holding her upright she is trying to fight this monster… she tries to give me kisses her legs wanting to go stiff… she’s fighting not wanting it to take over… still wanting to give mommy “hello” kisses. All the while I’m telling her “it’s okay, good girl.”

Brent came out of the bedroom from his daily nap and hurried to get the ice pack and honey. He couldn’t find the ice pack and only came back with the honey where he put a glob on his finger and placed it on Kaydee’s tongue. Now for some reason today Brent decided he was going to keep his finger on her tongue — why? Because he is always afraid she will swallow her tongue. I have told him repeatedly, the vets have told him that she WILL NOT SWALLOW her tongue.

I quickly grabbed his hand and pulled it away from Kaydee glaring at him. I asked him where the ice bag was. He just looked at me with that deer-in-the-headlight-look and said “I can’t find it.“ I let go of Kaydee — she was laying in an upright position just shaking. But at that fine line it could go either way of stopping or going to a full blown seizure.

I found the ice pack where it is ALWAYS at, in the door of the freezer and placed it on Kaydee’s back. Within a few minutes she is responding to the ice pack. She is still shaking but this was more like she is shaking from being cold. She tried to break away but I held her there for a minute longer. She wanted away from the ice pack. Still shaking I let her go and as I told her “good girl” she turned to look at me, her eyes softly glowing with her ears kinda flopped back and now her little butt wiggle waggling as if to say “mommy I love you.” She was okay again!

I am noticing when I can get the ice pack on Kaydee’s back QUICKLY the seizure does not last very long. My friend has used this method on her Boston Terrier and she is seeing a small but yet significant shortened seizure.

Below is info I found regarding the ice pack and placement.

*** excerpt from Canine Guardian Angels ***

It is as simple as applying a bag of ice to the lower-midsection of your dog’s back (the small of the back), and holding the bag firmly in position until the seizure ends. The exact area on the back is between the 10th thoracic (chest) and 4th lumbar (lower back) vertebrae (bones in the spine); what this means is that the top of the ice bag should rest just above the middle of your dog’s back, following along the spine, and drape down to the lower-midsection of the back.

To see a very good diagram of where the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae meet on a dog’s spine, go to:

The ice bag should rest between the middle of the thoracic vertebrae and the middle of the lumbar vertebrae. With a properly sized ice bag, you should not have to worry about being too exact: aim for the middle of the back, and the correct area will be covered. Application of ice to other areas of the body (head, neck, legs and other areas of the spine) was not found to be effective. Ice bags on the middle of the back was the only area found to work.

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