Inside the Canine Brain: Part II
Part II: Seizure Diagnostics and Lifestyle Management
Seizures can occur due to an extensive list of causes: metabolic imbalances, toxins, brain tumors, infectious diseases, brain trauma and scarring, immune-mediated diseases, stroke and congenital abnormalities (birth defects). Sometimes, dogs have episodes that look like seizures but are actually collapsing episodes not directly related to the brain. Testing is necessary to narrow down the list of differentials.
Previous health history, as well as the history surrounding the seizure-like event, is always important for correct diagnosis and treatment. Age and breed of the dog are also considered. A routine baseline of data is recommended for any dog exhibiting seizure-like activity. This includes a physical exam, blood work, and urinalysis. Additional testing may be warranted.
If no cause for the seizures can be identified after testing is complete, and the dog is normal between seizure events, then epilepsy is diagnosed. Epilepsy is a genetically inherited brain disorder. Epilepsy is most commonly diagnosed in these breeds: Collies, Cocker spaniels, Basset hounds, Schnauzers, and Golden and Labrador retrievers.
Anticonvulsant medications are used to suppress seizure activity. There are a few medications available, and it’s not uncommon for more than one medication to be needed. No matter which drug(s) are used, most dogs will need adjustments to their medications as they age or as other health conditions develop. Dogs on seizure medications also require routine exams and blood work for best seizure control and to minimize side effects from medication. Do not suddenly discontinue seizure medications without discussing with your regular veterinarian.
Dogs who suffer from seizures can live a quality lifestyle if the seizures can be effectively managed and minimized. This means decreased frequency and length of seizures. It can take several weeks before the efficacy of an anticonvulsant medication can be determined; meanwhile, the medication must be given at consistent intervals without missing doses. External factors can also trigger seizure events in dogs that are otherwise well regulated.
Recommended lifestyle adjustments for dogs with seizures or epilepsy:
- Low stress lifestyle and daily routines
- Seizure safe environments
- Video monitoring systems in the home for when the pet is alone
- Dietary management to promote brain health and decrease risk of other health issues
- An alert collar or bell to indicate when your pet is having a seizure
Most dogs with seizures will require anticonvulsant medications for life. A gentle reminder that pet insurance is available and can help cover costs associated with chronic diseases as well as routine health care and emergency care. Please look into this option or have an alternative plan to help financially budget for quality veterinary care for all of your animals.
Amanda Burow, D.V.M. (Dr. B), is a graduate of Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Burow’s patient list includes hunting dogs of all varieties, as well as several field trial dogs and full time sporting guide dogs. In addition to practicing general veterinary medicine, she has special interest in the areas of preventive care, emergency medicine, and dermatology. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors and on the lake, staying active, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
Mud River is proud to share these tips from Dr. B with our customers. Keep in mind it is best to work with your local veterinarian to determine the needs for your animals.