What is epilepsy?
It is a condition of recurring seizures wherein uncoordinated firing of the neurons in the cerebrum takes place. In dogs, it is not fully understood but it has some similarities with the causes in human beings. Neurotransmitters are chemically imbalanced so the nerves are uncoordinated. husky german shepherd mix An epileptic dog will show uncoordinated firing of the neurons within his brain. These are called seizures, also known as fits or convulsions. It usually starts in dogs at the age of 6 months to 5 years.
Different types of Epilepsy:
1. Idiopathic Epilepsy- The cause is unknown, it may be inherited.
2. Secondary Epilepsy – Normally, a vet will run some tests to rule out possible toxic, or physiological causes before he makes his diagnosis as the dog having idiopathic version. There are many types of seizures seen in dogs and often, the owner is not aware of his pet’s condition. Epileptic seizure is the abnormal brain activity manifested in the part of the brain called the cerebral cortex. These abnormalities that cause convulsions vary from petit mal to generalized, full body grand mal.
4 stages of seizure:
1. The Prodome – It lasts from minutes to hours and sometimes days before the actual convulsion. The dog will show changes in his behavior or mood.
2. The Aura – The owner will notice the initial signs during this stage. Some pet dogs will begin trembling, salivating, licking, pacing, wandering aimlessly, hiding, urinating, or whining. Some other dogs may show stranger behaviors like excessive barking and attempts to get the owner’s attention.
3. The Ictus – This is the actual seizure stage, wherein the dog may lose consciousness, gnash his teeth, thrashing about his legs and head, crying, drooling, losing bladder and bowel control, and paddling his feet like he is running. Some stranger types of seizures in dogs will make the dog suddenly go blank and just stare into space, while others will frantically run in circles. The ones with partial seizures will experience twitching in one area of his body only, it could be in one leg, his face, in his hips, or in the shoulder.
4. The Ictal – It happens just after a convulsion. The dog will act like he’s doped, drunk, deaf, or blind. Some dogs may endlessly pace, or drink lots of water. Others pass out and sleep.
Causes of seizures
Seizures can be caused by many conditions: Liver disorders Brain tumors Congenital defects Low sugar (hypoglycemia) or conditions like diabetes mellitus Fever or hyperthermia Heart problems, difficulty breathing, or anemia Kidney disorders Brain damage resulting from trauma or poor blood flow to the brain Infections like canine distemper Low calcium in females that are nursing young Toxins such as antifreeze, chocolate, or lead Primary / idiopathic epilepsy Certain medications the dog is taking What triggers a seizure?
It is unknown but a lot of dogs experience convulsions when excited. Very often, the dog seizures while playing, or when children have just returned from school. One dog had seizures after visiting the vet hospital. Other dogs have seizures while asleep. Do not confuse this with dreaming since it is not uncommon for dogs to shake or bark while asleep. You can awaken a dreaming dog, but not a dog having seizures.
How is epilepsy diagnosed?
Firstly, the vet will obtain detailed history. Neurologic, physical exams, and laboratory tests are then be performed. Sometimes x-rays are also taken. If the vet cannot identify the cause of the convulsion, the condition is then diagnosed as idiopathic. No test is yet available to diagnose epilepsy per se, the tests simply rule out the other causes of convulsions.
What type of facts about your dog can you hand to your vet to help make the diagnosis?
It is useful if you, the pet owner, can provide your vet answers to the following questions: How does your pet look like when he is having convulsions? How frequently do convulsions happen? What is duration of each convulsion? Observe both sides of your dog if there are symptoms that appear on one side only. Does one side appear much worse? Does your pet dog has hyperthermia? Has he been exposed to poisonous substance? Has your pet undergone any traumatic experience lately or many years ago? Is your pet updated on vaccinations? Has your pet been boarded lately or with other dogs? Has your pet been sick? In the past weeks, has he been running loose? When and what does he eat? Has he been acting strange lately or did you notice any changes in behavior? Do the convulsions happen in related pattern to certain activities such as eating, sleeping, or exercise? Does your pet exhibit unalike signs right before or right after convulsions?
Do some dogs have more tendency of having epilepsy?
Usually, epilepsy begins to show at 6 months to 5 years of age, typically at 2-3 years. It happens in all dog breeds, that includes the mixed breeds. Epilepsy can be familial, it can be passed on through generations. The Golden Retrievers, Labrador, Cockers, Dachshunds, German Shepherd, Collies, Poodles, Irish Setters, St. Bernards, Beagles, Malamutes and Huskies, Springers are some of the dog breeds with high tendency to have epilepsy. Since epilepsy can be inherited, the dogs which has it should not be used to breed.