Epilepsy in dogs animalclinicennet

Epilepsy in dogsDog epilepsy is a condition in which the nerve cells in the brain become overly excited, causing them to convulse. Veterinarians differentiate primary epilepsy from secondary epilepsy. The first epilepsy is a hereditary disease that occurs in certain breeds such as the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Collie and Beagle. The nerve cells are more easily excitable, which eventually leads to the convulsions. In secondary epilepsy in dogs, another underlying disease is responsible for the epileptic convulsions, such as encephalitis, liver disease, kidney disease or poisoning.

The classic epilepsy is noticeable by the dog lying on its side, unresponsive and showing stretching spasms and rowing with the legs. The dog may leak urine and feces, salivate, and roll its eyes. How long such an epileptic convulsion lasts in a dog always depends on the dog's state of health. Often the dogs are confused, disoriented and exhausted after a seizure. Untypical convulsions are manifested by twitching of a limb, muscle or conspicuous behavior, including behaviors such as snapping at non-existent flies, running in circles, staring into the air or barking at non-existent people or objects.

epilepsy in dogs veterinary clinic net

Causes of epilepsy

Veterinarians distinguish between different causes of epilepsy in dogs. Primary epilepsy in dogs is present when all other possible causes have been ruled out. Secondary epilepsy in dogs can be triggered by diseases of the internal organs, such as kidney or liver disorders or problems with the cardiovascular system. In young dogs, there may be a so-called malformation of the hepatic vessels, called a shunt in technical language. Toxins are not sufficiently filtered out of the body, accumulate in the brain and eventually lead to convulsions. Infectious diseases and poisoning can cause the same symptoms, the same is true for disturbances in the animal's salt and water balance. Convulsions also trigger diseases of the brain, while other possible causes of epilepsy in dogs are deformities, injuries, inflammations or tumors.

A so-called idiopathic epilepsy is present when all causes of epilepsy have been ruled out. The cause of the convulsions lies in the nerve cells of the brain itself. The nerve cells are more easily excitable due to a hereditary defect. Are thereby too fast strongly irritated. As a result, the dog suffers an epileptic seizure. At the first seizure, most dogs are between one and five years old. In general, it is recommended that dogs that have epilepsy should not be bred, as the disease can be passed on to other dogs.

How epilepsy manifests itself?

Regardless of their cause, epilepsies in dogs are manifested by seizures of varying severity. The seizure can be detected by a change in behavior, for example if the dog is anxious, restless or very affectionate. In the case of a so-called aura, it would be advisable to have a calming effect on the dogs, as this can weaken the subsequent seizure.

In a classic seizure, the dog lies on its side, stiffly stretches its legs and rows them, its eyes are twisted and it no longer responds to the commands. The dog may also excrete very large amounts of saliva, urine, and feces during an epileptic seizure. In partial epileptic seizures, the muscles often twitch in the face or individual limbs, and the dog may also twist its head or neck. There are also more complex forms of partial seizures, whereby the dog then tends to behavioral changes, such as fear, crying, snapping at imaginary flies and so on.

Diagnoses in epilepsy

The veterinarian diagnoses the disease by ruling out other possible causes of seizures. First, he performs a detailed neurological examination to determine whether the dog is also prone to neurological disorders between his seizures. Blood and X-ray examinations are performed to rule out organic diseases, such as kidney or liver disorders or even poisoning. Further diagnostic methods such as ultrasound, ECG or urine tests are often necessary to determine the cause of epilepsy.

Now, if the veterinarian has not found a cause for the epilepsy, he will rule out a disease of the brain, performing this examination under anesthesia. To determine the cause of epilepsy in dogs, the veterinarian may take cerebrospinal fluid and perform magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. A measurement of the brain waves is possible in some clinics. Once the examination is complete, the veterinarian can ame that the dog has primary epilepsy.

Treatment of epilepsy

Epilepsy in dogs is treated according to its cause, such as a seizure or other underlying disease such as a liver or kidney disorder, poisoning or infection. The seizures usually do not occur anymore. In case of idiopathic epilepsy, the cause of the seizure is in the nerve cells of the brain, then a so-called antiepileptic drug a drug against epilepsy is prescribed. The drug phenobarbital reaches an effective level in the dog's blood, but the effect becomes apparent after 2-3 weeks. In the first few days there may still be side effects, fatigue, sluggishness and the dog eats and drinks more than usual. However, these effects wear off after a few days.

It is crucial that the veterinarian adjusts the necessary dose of antiepileptic drugs individually for each dog with epilepsy, therefore frequent control examinations are necessary, during which he measures the phenobarbital level in the dog's blood, among other things. If there is no improvement with this therapy, the medication can be combined with other antiepileptic drugs. With this agent, it also takes a few weeks for it to be present in the blood in sufficient concentration. One should perform regular blood tests on the animal.

In order for the veterinarian to quickly help the dog with epilepsy during a seizure, he prescribes medications to be given to the dog as suppositories or tubes during the seizure to reduce the seizure. In the case of a seizure, nothing else should be done, because the dog can bite the owner in a seizure without any bad intentions. In addition, objects should be moved out of the way where the dog can hurt itself.

One should keep a seizure calendar to determine afterwards if the treatment for canine epilepsy is working.

Prognosis of epilepsy in dogs

The prognosis of epilepsy always depends on the cause of the seizure. The prognosis for primary epilepsy in dogs, in which the nerve cells in the brain are hereditarily more easily excitable and this manifests itself in convulsions, can be established more quickly the earlier the disease is treated. The more often the dog has a convulsion, the more nerve cells are affected in the next epileptic convulsion, this manifests itself in more frequent and stronger convulsions.

A lifelong therapy is necessary in case of a primary epilepsy and the goal is that the dog shows less weak seizures and the consequences are less pronounced because of this. The dog gains significantly in quality of life and can live seizure-free under treatment with phenobarbital, but unfortunately this does not work equally well in every dog. The sooner you find out the cause of the disease, for example a kidney or liver disorder, the better the prognosis of epilepsy in dogs.

Preventive measures

There are hardly any measures to prevent epilepsy in dogs, because in many dog breeds epilepsy is hereditary. It would be advisable not to breed with affected dogs. Secondary epilepsy in dogs is caused by another underlying disease, and it is not possible to avoid these underlying diseases such as kidney or liver dysfunction.

When to see the vet?

It would be advisable at the first symptoms of epilepsy to present the dog to a veterinarian. Above all, a seizure represents a life-threatening condition for the dog, especially if it does not stop convulsing. The earlier the veterinarian starts epilepsy therapy, the better the prognosis for the dog.

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