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Epilepsy in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments and Prevention

Epilepsy is a chronic disease quite common in certain breeds of dogs that is not among the prohibitive vices. Let's find out in detail its main manifestations, if there are risks of complications for the animal, what are the treatments to treat seizures related to epilepsy in dogs and if it is possible to prevent this pathology.

Epilepsy: a more common disease in certain breeds of dogs

Some of the dog breeds most at risk for epilepsy include :
  • The Boxer,
  • The Poodle,
  • The German Shepherd,
  • Labrador,
  • The Dachshund,
  • The Beagle.
There are two types of epilepsy in dogs:
  • Primary epilepsy: without an identified cause, it can occur in a dog that is not predisposed and in excellent health,
  • Secondary epilepsy: it suggests an underlying pathology. This form of epilepsy requires not only medical follow-up but also additional tests to accurately diagnose the cause of the so-called secondary epilepsy. It can have for origin :
    • An intoxication by a chemical product,
    • An infection,
    • A brain tumor,
    • Head trauma,
    • Kidney pathology.
Diagnosing these health problems in dogs as early as possible is very important so that the animal can be taken care of by a veterinarian and epileptic seizures can be avoided.

Symptoms of epilepsy in dogs in three phases

Epilepsy manifests itself by convulsive seizures, more or less frequent, sometimes very impressive. The seizure occurs when an abnormal electrical discharge occurs in the brain. In the vast majority of cases, an epileptic seizure occurs in three phases, each of which can be identified by a set of symptoms, namely :

Pre-seizure: phase number 1

The dog seems quite active and wanders around aimlessly while licking his chops insistently. Then he vomits, urinates without seeming to be aware of it and salivates a lot. He seems anxious, stressed, which manifests itself differently from one dog to another, either by complaints, an insistent search for caresses, or untimely barking. In some cases, the dog tries to get away from his owners as if he was trying to be alone.

The crisis: phase number 2

This is the phase during which the convulsive seizure takes place, which impresses and moves the owner of the epileptic animal very much.

Every muscle is suddenly very tight, the dog's limbs become stiff. This is when the dog falls to the ground. He is shaking and his legs keep moving. The fact that his head is positioned backwards is another sign of the epileptic seizure. In some cases, the tongue turns blue, the dog drools and groans. Vomiting may also start again. The dog breathes quickly, sometimes with difficulty.

Post-seizure: phase number 3

This is the phase following the epileptic seizure. The dog seems a little haggard, still lying on the ground and immobile at first. He gets up after a few seconds or minutes, sometimes after several unsuccessful attempts. Afterwards, for one to several days, the dog does not have the same confidence as before the seizure when he moves around, he even seems to be a victim of a great weakness. He drinks and eats more than usual. In some cases, the dog's eyesight changes, declining alarmingly as the dog seems to no longer see, but this loss of visual acuity is fortunately of short duration.

How is epilepsy diagnosed in dogs?

It is essential to take your dog to the veterinarian when you have witnessed an epileptic seizure, especially if the seizures are relatively long and/or frequent. It is very important that the owner of the animal has taken care to note beforehand the course of the different phases of the seizure, their duration, the symptoms. This will allow the veterinarian to determine what type of epilepsy the dog is suffering from.

After a clinical examination, the animal undergoes additional tests such as :
  • A blood test,
  • An imaging exam such as :
    • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).
    • The scanner.
It is just as frequent that a dog with epileptic seizures undergoes an electroencephalogram so that the activity of its brain can be analyzed as well as the general state of this intracranial organ.

Can epilepsy be treated in dogs?

As far as is currently known, there is no treatment that can cure primary epilepsy in dogs. However, a dog can live with primary epilepsy for a very long time if he is regularly monitored by his veterinarian. Injectable solutions are sometimes used to stop epileptic seizures that last several minutes. As for brain activity, it can be reduced with in-depth treatment. The only purpose of this medication is to reduce the frequency of seizures, which improves the comfort of life for a dog with epilepsy.

In secondary epilepsy, the underlying disease causing the seizures can be treated and the seizures can be stopped.

Epilepsy in canids: can it be prevented?

It is imperative that any pathology that may be at the origin of secondary epilepsy be treated early. This caution can really prevent the dog from suffering from it for the rest of his life. Every owner must therefore always listen to his pet, observe it, and make sure that everything is fine. Ideally, you should take your dog to the vet at least once or twice a year for a small check-up. At the slightest doubt, the specialist can carry out a health check to detect a disease.

At the same time, it is of course essential to make sure that your dog is always up to date with his vaccinations. The vaccine is very useful to protect the health of his little companion against more or less serious diseases.

Epilepsy in dogs inevitably involves considerable expense for the owner. Some people cannot have their pets treated because they do not have the financial means to do so. However, it is important to know that the sums incurred for veterinary procedures can be reimbursed at least partially by an animal health insurance company.