Archive for April, 2013

What to Say to Your Kids About Canine Epilepsy

April 15th, 2013 No comments

When a dog falls into an epileptic seizure, it can be quite an alarming sight. A formerly friendly dog might begin to snap or foam at the mouth; the dog’s legs may stick out straight and rigid, and then begin to kick. While an adult may witness this behavior and understand what it means, it can be quite disturbing for a child. If you have a son or daughter and your dog has epilepsy, it’s a good idea to speak to your child about the condition so he or she will know what to expect. 

Explain the Mechanisms

Seizures are caused by electrical malfunctions in the brain. When this happens, your dog’s brain momentarily loses the ability to control the muscles, which causes the physical part of the seizure. Older children might want an explanation of epilepsy, while younger children only need to know that the dog’s brain is having problems. Reassure them that what is happening is natural, if unfortunate.

Teach Them to Watch For the Aura

Dogs seldom have seizures with no warning. Most dogs have an aura for a few minutes or even a few hours before the seizure comes on. For example, a normally aloof dog may insist on lots of cuddles or petting. A typically outgoing dog might try to hide. Part of learning to deal constructively with your dog’s seizures is learning when they are about to happen, and this is true for anyone.

dog with kids

What to Do

Children are like anyone else: they hate to feel helpless. Feeling helpless and not knowing what to do can make anyone upset, so let your kids know what they should do if your dog has a seizure.

For example, let them know that even the friendliest dog might accidentally bite them during a seizure because it is not in control of its jaws. That means that if a dog starts to have a seizure, the child needs to take a big step backwards. Then he or she should find a trusted adult. This keeps the dog and the child safe from harm, and it enables a grownup to take over.

Give the Dog Space Afterwards

Following a seizure, the dog is likely to be a bit shaky. If your child has a very affectionate relationship with your pet, he or she might be tempted to swamp the dog with affection. Teach the child to sit still after a dog has experienced a seizure and wait for the animal to approach on its own.

This can be difficult for an impatient and loving child, but be firm. A dog that is still shaky on its feet after a seizure will not necessarily be helped by a lot of physical contact.


If you have children and a dog that has seizures, it is very important for your kids to know what to do if the dog has a seizure in front of them. They should be armed with more knowledge rather than less, so be clear about what needs to be done.

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The Most Common Types of Canine Seizures

April 11th, 2013 No comments

Dog owners must sometimes contend with canine seizure disorders, which can be frightening and confusing. Seizure disorders, generally known as “epilepsy,” fit into two major groups: idiopathic (also called “primary” or “true” epilepsy) and secondary. 

The Two General Types of Epilepsy

Idiopathic epilepsy is the most common. It’s an inherited condition, while secondary epilepsy can have a wide range of causes. Both can cause seizures (involuntary contractions of the skeletal muscles), which are described below. 

Unfortunately, primary epilepsy is prevalent in some of the most common and beloved dog breeds, such as Beagles, Dachshunds, Collies, Cocker Spaniels, Dalmatians, and Golden and Labrador Retrievers. Scientists are not entirely sure how primary epilepsy develops, but it appears to be caused by faulty electrical signals in the brain, and may result from cross-breeding to maintain purebred bloodlines. It is most common in purebreds under five years and lasts for life, although it can be effectively treated.

Secondary epilepsy, on the other hand, can develop in dogs of any age and can be chronic or temporary. Seizures caused by anything except genetically inherited conditions are considered secondary epilepsy, so they can have many sources. The range of causes may include physical damage to the brain, brain tumors, thyroid disorders, poisoning (pesticides, chocolate, or lead, for example), and infections.

The Various Kinds of Seizures 

Both the primary and secondary forms of epilepsy are characterized by the same array of seizure types.

The most common is the “Generalized Seizure,” which in humans is known as “Grand Mal.” These seizures involve loss of control over the entire body and often unconsciousness.

Less common and less serious is the “Focal Seizure” (also called “Petit Mal” or “Partial Seizure”), which involves the loss of function in a single isolated area and little or no loss of consciousness. The “Complex Partial Seizure” is a type of Focal Seizure that results in a recurring behavior: the dog will remain conscious but behaves in a disturbing or repetitive manner. This may include aggression, jaw-snapping, compulsive scratching, or hysterical barking and running. In people, this type of seizure may be expressed in the form of hallucinations and extreme anxiety.

Some types of seizure can be more frequent or longer lasting. “Cluster Seizures” occur when a dog experiences multiple seizures (usually of the Generalized type) within a short period of time. This is usually defined as more than three seizures in a single 24-hour period. If a dog seems to be suffering from continual seizures without regaining consciousness or muscle control, this is called “Status Epilepticus.” Either is a sign of extremely serious problems that require immediate attention.

Although serious and frightening for owners, seizures are not a death sentence. Both types of epilepsy and all types of seizures are cause for concern, but they are not necessarily cause for despair. Idiopathic epilepsy is quite manageable, and secondary epilepsy is often caused by other factors that are treatable or temporary.

Properly cared for, a dog with these conditions can still live a normal life. Speedy attention from a veterinarian is the critical factor.

The 5 Best Questions to Ask Your Vet about Canine Epilepsy

April 7th, 2013 No comments

If you think your pet has canine epilepsy, it would be wise to schedule an appointment with a local veterinarian as soon as possible. Particularly if you learn about the condition when your dog has a grand mal epileptic fit, the prospect can be terrifying.

Below are the five best questions to ask your veterinarian about canine epilepsy and how the answers can prove useful to you 

1. Are some breeds of dogs more prone to the condition than others?

By getting the answer to this question, you can get a sense of the odds that your animal has canine epilepsy. In addition, you may conduct some independent study on the disease to learn about the symptoms, treatments, and appropriate care for your dog. An owner with a store of information about the condition will be better prepared to deal with it. 

2. Does a dog with canine epilepsy have a shorter lifespan than one without the condition? 

This question opens you to learning the facts about living with a dog that has canine epilepsy. The vet will likely assure you that your pet can have a normal lifespan with proper management of the condition. You can ask what he or she can do to keep the dog as healthy as possible and extend its life. The vet will have information about proper diet and healthy activities for a dog with canine epilepsy. 

3. What can I do to help my dog if it has an epileptic seizure? 

The answer to this question will give you all the practical information you’ll need to care for your dog on a daily basis. Ideally, the vet will have specific instructions about what do to keep the dog from harming itself on surrounding objects (furniture, toys, etc.) during a seizure. In addition, the vet should give you a clear idea of how long a canine epileptic seizure lasts.

4. Which medications can I give my dog to control its epilepsy? 

Your vet will have various suggestions for medications to help a dog that has canine epilepsy. Also, he or she can inform you about where to purchase these medicines. Your vet may be able to provide certain medications at the clinic; others may require a referral. The vet may also be able to counsel you about the advisability of ordering certain medications online. 

5. Is there a definitive test that will tell me whether my dog has canine epilepsy?

A vet can answer this question and may even be able to administer the test. If your vet can’t test the dog, he or she will likely be able to refer you and your pet to a clinic that does perform the test. If the dog definitely has canine epilepsy, you can get started with any treatments or medications suitable to address the condition. Plus, you can begin to establish an appropriate diet for your dog as well as give him or her the proper amount of exercise. A dog owner can only take action if he or she knows the facts.

How To Document Your Dog’s Seizures

April 3rd, 2013 No comments

Idiopathic epilepsy can vary greatly from one dog to the next. Veterinarians often recommend that owners keep a detailed log of epileptic events. A log can help your vet understand how the disease is developing in your dog. It can also help the doctor customize a treatment plan for your animal.


Journals, notebooks, and legal pads make great logs. If you keep a handwritten log, make sure a pen or pencil is always handy. Many journals have pockets for storage. Savvy owners may use date books or calendars. This is a great way to enter information each day.

Some people would rather enter information on an electronic spreadsheet. The important thing is that it remains easily accessible. It needs to be readily available when a seizure occurs, or its accuracy may suffer.


Apart from completeness, details are the most important aspect of keeping a log. Any seizure activity should be recorded, of course, but your veterinarian will most likely ask you to give medication at the same time each day. Writing down when you do that is a great way to remember when and how much medication your dog receives.

Giving medication at the exact same time every day may be impossible for some pet owners. Keeping a log of when you do administer medicine helps you keep track. This can also help a veterinarian understand if a seizure occurs when medication is given late or early. Some people will mark down in their log book only that a seizure has occurred. Capturing as many details as possible is the best way to keep a record.

The log should also note if there is anything unusual about a seizure event. How long did it last? Did it appear to be a cluster seizure? Was the dog injured during the attack? If any aura or post-seizure activity is observed, that should be recorded too. Note how quickly or slowly the dog took to recover. You should also record any details regarding possible drug interactions or side effects.

The Importance of Keeping a Log

Since epilepsy is different with each animal, the same drug schedule for one dog may not work for another. The importance of keeping a log can’t be overstated. It helps veterinarians to customize a drug schedule for each individual case.

Ultimately, the lowest possible drug schedule is desired. For one thing, phenobarbital can be hard on the liver. Potassium bromide may be administered too. Recording a dog’s reaction to different types of medication is important to understand how to manage the condition. A veterinarian will adjust dosages according to the information you record in the log book.

Sometimes, a dog’s dosages may need to be increased after a certain period of time. This happens when additional seizure activity is recorded on a previously well-managed drug schedule. The most important thing to remember is to be very detailed when keeping a log. A veterinarian will appreciate a meticulous log, because it guide the successful management of epilepsy in your dog.

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