Epilepsy in Dogs

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Epilepsy in dogs causes brain seizures.  When epilepsy is due to a blow to the head, infections of the brain, or the encephalitis of distemper, it is said to be acquired.  When it is due to birth trauma, or when the cause is unknown, or a malformation of the brain, such as hydrocephalus, then it is said to be congenital.  Congenital epilepsy can be an inherited trait.  Poodles, German Shepherds, St. Bernards, and Beagles have hereditary predisposition for seizures of unknown cause.

When a dog is knocked unconscious, after receiving a blow to the head, it may have seizures begin three to four months later.

Post encephalitic seizures appear three to four weeks after the onset of the disease.  Distemper is characterized by attacks which begin with champing, tongue chewing, shaking of the head and blinking of the eyes, foaming at the mouth, and then a dazed look and a return to normal.

Attacks must be recurrent and similar to establish a diagnosis of epilepsy.  An epileptic seizure has three phases.  The first phase is called Aura.  It is recognized by the onset of restlessness and sudden apprehension.  There may be bizarre behavior, such as snapping at the air or sniffing in the corner.

Most seizures begin with chewing, champing, foaming at the mouth, head shaking and eye flickering.  In the rigid phase, the dog collapses, throws his head back, slobbers, and twitches at the face.  The pupils dilate.  When the rigid phase passes, he makes running movements with his legs, like paddling.  The dog may lose control of his bladder or bowels.

In the post seizure phase, the dog recovers, but remains wobbly and confused.  A second seizure can occur, if overstimulated by a loud noise or rough handling.

The first two phases pass in about three minutes.  The post seizure state can last for several hours.  A true epileptic seizure is over with in less than five minutes.

Stimuli that can trigger a seizure are excitement, fatigue, bright lights, anxiety, loud noises, fever, over breathing and estrus.

Not all epileptic seizures are typical.

Your vet will ask for a description of the attack, and he will need to know if other attacks follow the same pattern.  This will help him make a diagnosis.

Treatment of epilepsy consists of drugs to control or prevent epileptic seizures.  Dosages and rates of action are variable.  Drugs take several days to build up in the dog’s system.  During this time, your dog may have another seizure.  This does not mean that the medicines are not working.

Drugs that are used to treat epilepsy are Phenobarbital, Dilantin, Primidone, and Valium.  Continuous seizures are stopped by giving Valium intravenously.

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