Issue Description It is characterized by recurrent unprovoked
seizures. Canine epilepsy is often genetic. Epilepsy in cats and other
pets is rarer, likely because there is no hereditary component to
epilepsy in these animals.
Causes In dogs, epilepsy is often an inherited
condition. The incidence of epilepsy/seizures in the general dog
population is estimated at between 0.5% and 5.7%. In certain breeds,
such as the Belgian Shepherd varieties, the incidence may be much
The Prodome -This stage is typically
characterized by changes in the dog's mood or behavior and can last
from minutes to hours or longer before the manifestation of the actual
seizure activity. Many dogs become 'clingy' during this stage and try
to stay close to their owners.
The Aura - When the owner first notices the initial signs
including: pacing, licking, salivating, trembling, vomiting, wandering
aimlessly, hiding, whining, etc.
The Ictus- This stage includes the actual seizure itself. It is a
period of activity in which the dog may lose consciousness, gnash
their teeth, thrash about with their head and legs, drool excessively,
paddle their feet as if running as well as losing control of their
bladders and bowels. In most dogs, a grand mal seizure should last
less than two minutes. A dog who is having a series of seizures, such
as 2 or 3 seizures within an hour or two, is said to be having
'cluster seizures' and should be taken immediately to a veterinary
clinic, no matter what time of the day or night it is.
The Post-Ictal Stage- This stage occurs immediately after the
seizure. The dog may act drunk, doped, blind or deaf. Some will seem
to pass out and just sleep. Other dogs will show signs of pacing
endlessly or drinking large amounts of water. In most dogs, this stage
lasts for 10-30 minutes, but may last longer in some dogs.
Diagnosis There are three types of epilepsy in dogs:
reactive, secondary, and primary. Reactive epileptic seizures are
caused by metabolic issues, such as low blood sugar or kidney or liver
failure. Epilepsy caused by problems such as a brain tumor, stroke, or
other trauma is known as secondary, or symptomatic, epilepsy.
In primary, or idiopathic, epilepsy, there is no known cause. This
type of epilepsy is diagnosed by eliminating other possible causes for
the seizures. Dogs with idiopathic epilepsy experience their first
seizure between the ages of one and three. However, the age of
diagnosis is only one factor in diagnosing canine epilepsy. One study
found a cause for the seizures in one-third of dogs between the ages
of one and three, indicating secondary or reactive rather than primary
When an animal who has suffered a seizure is presented to a
veterinarian, the veterinarian will do an initial work-up. This
work-up may include a physical and neurological exam, a complete blood
count, serum chemistry profile, urinalysis, bile tests, and thyroid
function tests. These tests will help the veterinarian determine
whether the animal is in fact experiencing seizures, and may help
determine a cause for the seizures if there is one. Veterinarians may
also request that dog owners keep a "seizure log" documenting the
timing, length, severity, and recovery of each seizure, as well as any
other factors that might be helpful, such as dietary or environmental
Treatment Treatments can include the drugs phenobarbital,
phenytoin, potassium bromide, levetiracetam, zonisamide, and diazepam.
Potassium bromide and phenobarbital are often paired for the treatment
of animals with epilepsy (other drugs such as gabapentin are only
recently being introduced into the treatment of animals). A
veterinarian will often prescribe Zentinol in an effort to minimize
the damaging effects of bromides on the liver enzymes.