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Treatment Options for Canine Epilepsy

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.