Epilepsy in dogs is a neurological disorder in dogs characterized by seizures. It can either be genetically inherited or caused by abnormal nerve activities in the brain which trigger uncontrollable movement of the limbs and trembling of the body muscles. Dog epilepsy is a very common condition found in all breeds of dogs affecting an estimated of 0.5 to 5.7% of the general dog population.
Types of Epilepsy in Dogs
Generally, there are three types of canine epilepsy: idiopathic epilepsy ( also known as the primary, symptomatic epilepsy (also known as the secondary) and the reactive canine epilepsy.
Idiopathic epilepsy in dogs
Idiopathic epilepsy, the most common type of epilepsy, is simply a seizure occurring spontaneously or without any certain cause. This type of canine epilepsy is identified for its early occurrence. It can be depicted by the first sign of seizure between the age of 6 months and 5 years. Idiopathic epilepsy was coined by the experts to describe this condition since the true cause is unknown.
Symptomatic epilepsy in dogs
Symptomatic epilepsy in dogs, on the other hand, is labeled as symptomatic since the cause is known. This type of canine epilepsy is linked by experts to tumors detected in the brain. The seizure is just a secondary effect and often occurs after an extremely distressing experience or trauma.
Reactive dog epilepsy
Reactive dog epilepsy is called as such since seizures are linked to problems in the metabolic system. Complications like liver and kidney failure and low blood sugar content are usually related to this condition.
Types of Seizures
Epileptic seizure: These are normally described as a sudden attack or spasm caused by an abnormal and uncontrolled electrical discharge in the brain. This causes dogs to tremble, wobble and experience convulsive jerking of the body parts. In the main, two types of seizures are known which vary in degree of intensity and periods of time of occurrence. The two types of seizures are generalized and partial.
Generalized seizures: Sometimes called grand mal, are seizures affecting the entire body muscles all at once. These involve both sides of the brain and are usually associated with primary epilepsy.
Epilepsy in dogs symptoms
There are two stages of a seizure, the tonic, and clonic phases. A dog may experience the following reaction during the tonic phase:
- Loss of consciousness
- Contraction of facial muscles
- The body lying in an awkward position
- Respiration pauses
The tonic phase normally lasts 10-30 seconds before the clonic phase starts. The dog may experience the following reaction during the clonic phase:
- Rigid extension of limbs
- Violent muscle contractions
- Pupil enlargement
- Uncontrolled drooling, urination, and defecation
However, it should be noted that not all tonic phases are followed by clonic phases.
On the other hand, partial seizures, sometimes called petit mal, are limited to one area of the body. It is a very rare case and is usually identified by precise clinical signs. This type of seizure is closely linked to secondary epilepsy. It is also possible for this type to develop to a generalized seizure.
In this condition, a dog may experience the following reaction that will last for a couple of seconds:
- Movement of one limb
- Blank staring
- Abnormal rotation of eyes
- Facial twitches
- Bending of the body to one side
Aside from the two main types of seizures mentioned above, other types of seizures are also known. These are complex partial seizures indicated by strange or odd behavior repeated on each seizure (e.g fly biting, cowering, frantic running, hostile actions, abdominal distress, biting itself), cluster seizures depicted by multiple seizures in a brief span of time and with short period of consciousness in between, and status epilepticus which is characterized by continuous seizure that lasts half an hour or longer.
Treatment for Canine Epilepsy
Just like human epilepsy, canine epilepsy has no cure, however, with proper medication, it can be controlled. Consulting a veterinarian is highly advisable and in most cases, dogs will be prescribed with some anti-epileptic drug such as Phenobarbital or Potassium bromide. Acupuncture and gold bead implants are alternative treatments that dog owners can also try. A change in diet may also lessen the occurrence of canine epilepsy. Preservatives present in foods can be the main cause of seizures.
Dogs with epilepsy can still enjoy and experience a normal life. It is by establishing a pattern and by devising a plan of the dog owner together with the guidance of a vet that would lead to a successful management and control of epilepsy in dogs.