Epilepsy

In the dog

Epilepsy

What is epliepsy

It is a periodic disease, which is characterised by seizures (convulsions) with partial or complete loss of consciousness

What are the signs

Attacks usually commence without any warning, the dog falling to the ground, then undergoing a series of muscular jerks. There is extension (stiffening) of the limbs, followed by paddling and chewing movements. The eyes are fixed and staring. Loss of control can result in salivation and passing of urine and faeces. Seizure episodes generally last less than 2 minutes, although attacks of much longer duration can occur. Following an attack, the dog gets up, looks around in a dazed manner and may then run away with no idea where it is going. During an attack a dog should be left alone, as they cannot swallow their tongue. Stroking them to sooth them can make the fit worse and last longer
Attacks may occur frequently or infrequently. Milder seizures, with the dog remaining conscious, may sometimes occur

Which dogs are affected

Although it can be seen in all aged animals, idiopathic epilepsy is generally observed in dogs between I and 5 years of age. Seizure in dogs outside this age group are more commonly caused by other disease processes. Although it is seen in all breeds of dogs, there is an increased occurrence in certain breeds for example German Shepherds

What causes epilepsy

The cause of idiopathic epilepsy is still unknown although it is likely to be a familiar disease in certain lines of dog. A thorough veterinary examination including some pathology tests are required to help distinguish idiopathic epilepsy from other causes of seizures, such as nervous signs related to lead poisoning

Can we prevent seizures

As the cause of idiopathic epilepsy is unknown, there is no specific treatment to remove the cause of seizures. However, medication with appropriate drugs can either prevent, or considerably reduce, the frequency and intensity of the seizures, enabling the dog to lead a normal life. There are quite a number of drugs have been used to prevent seizures. Until recently the initial drug of choice was phenobarbitone. More recently a new drug Pexion (Imepitoin) has become popular

Pexion is has less side effects and your dog will be more themsleves but without the fits. Blood monitoring is not required with Pexion as it is in phenobarbitone

Phenobarbitone on the other hand is cheaper. Once phenobarbitone therapy is commenced, seizures may still occur for up to 2 weeks until the required levels of the medication are reached in the blood and brain. Also, according to the animal's response, the dose rate may have to be adjusted during the course of treatment

Dogs typically require medication for the duration of their life whatever teh medicine

In most epileptic dogs, control of seizures with Pexion or phenobarbitone is usually successful. However, some dogs, control may be hard to achieve with a single drug alone. When this occurs, control may be achieved by the addition of a second drug such as potassium bromide or Levetiracetam

How do we monitor treatment

To assist in monitoring the success of treatment, the frequency of seizures should be recorded on a calendar. With phenobarbitone one of the most common causes of poor control is too low a dose rate of the medication (due to large differences in response between dogs). If using this drug your veterinarian may suggest monitoring the levels of the medication in the blood. The dose rate of the medication can then be adjusted according to blood levels and degree of seizure control. Pexion is simpler from this point of view and does not require blood level monitoring due to its minimal toxicity compared to phenobarbitone

Are there side effects to the medicines

The main side effect seen with these medications used to effectively control epilepsy are sedation and unsteadiness. This is minimal with Pexion (it's selling point) compared to phenobarbitone. These side effects are generally seen at the commencement of treatment and usually disappears after a short period as the dog adapts to the medication. Phenobarbitone is also hepatotoxic so it's effects on the liver need to be monitored. This is the dose limiting factor with this drug. So blood tests to assess liver function be undertaken with phenobarbitone use

Conclusion

Although epilepsy is a frightening disorder to both the dog and the owner, treating with these specific veterinary products often provides effective control in most cases. This allows the dog to lead a full and active life when maintained on the medication