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Canine Epilepsy Treatment (Part 1)

Hello everyone! Last week it was my pleasure to bring you a 5-part series on causes of dog seizures. This week I’d like to talk about some of the treatments available for dog seizures.

If your dog starts having seizures it is important to get him in for an evaluation by a veterinarian as soon as possible.  If the reason for the seizures is a diagnosis of epilepsy, the following are some of the ways that the seizures can be treated.  It is important to understand that epilepsy is not the cause of all dog seizures, however.  For example, certain kinds of brain tumors or an injury to the dog’s brain can cause seizures, as can certain toxins in the environment.  In such cases, treatment for epilepsy will be completely ineffective.

The purpose of this article is to explore treatment options so that you will have a better understanding of them once your veterinarian has determined that the cause of your dog’s seizures is epilepsy.  Generally no treatment is recommended unless the seizures are occurring at least once a month.  You should keep in mind that the purpose of treatment is to reduce the frequency and intensity of the seizures, and that in many cases the seizures will continue in spite of the treatment, so don’t give up and don’t get discouraged.

  • Anti-Epileptic Drugs, or “AED’s” are usually the first choice of treatment options, with Phenobarbitol and Potassium bromide being the two most commonly prescribed drugs, sometimes independently and sometimes together, if administering just one of them does not produce sufficient seizure control.  Diazepam (a/k/a Valium) is used for treatment if the seizures go into what is called “status epilepticus” or “cluster seizures” which is where the seizure goes on for more than about 5 minutes, or one seizure quickly follows another.  In my research for this article I was surprised to find that Primidone is still on the list of potential treatment options; however, because of the high concentration of liver enzymes that have been reported and other side effects such as lethargy and excessive hunger and thirst, I was always told that this drug should never be considered, and I knew it by the nickname of “Primadon’t” among my fellow owners of epileptic dogs.  There have been studies done in the past 5 to 10 years that have shown that Neurontin (a/k/a gabapentin) can also be useful, and anyone considering using AED’s should do further research about these studies.  The caution about using AED’s is that they can cause liver enzymes to become elevated, and dogs on these drugs need to have regular chemistry panels done to be sure that their livers are not being damaged.

Stay tuned for Part 2 soon!