Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder in dogs, with about 0.75% of dogs being affected. Furthermore, epileptic seizures can be as impressive as those seen in humans, with falls, rapid movements and excessive salivation. Although it is a manageable condition, no one likes to see their pet suffer and we all want to be as prepared as possible to handle our dog's epileptic seizures.
Canine epilepsy: what is it?
Epilepsy is a disease that causes recurrent seizures and impairs a dog's well-being and quality of life. In turn, seizures result from abnormal electrical activity in the brain, almost like a storm in your dog's brain. This causes altered movements, behavioural changes, or even changes in consciousness. Canine epilepsy can be of 3 types: idiopathic, structural or of unknown cause.
Epileptic seizures: What causes them?
According to the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force, idiopathic epilepsy is the most common epilepsy in dogs and is due to a genetic cause. This means that some breeds are more prone to epilepsy, particularly pure breeds such as German Shepherds, Cocker spaniels, Beagles and Poodles.
Structural epilepsy is due to a diagnosed brain pathology, including vascular, inflammatory, traumatic or even neoplastic defects.
Finally, epilepsy of unknown cause is still a field of study for the veterinary community. Certain metabolic abnormalities, such as low blood sugar or toxin exposures can also cause epileptic seizures.
Epilepsy in dogs: Symptoms
Like their owners, dogs are also very individual beings. Therefore, the manifestations of a disease, such as epilepsy, can vary. However, it is useful to know the most common symptoms of this condition, as it is our responsibility to take care of our beloved pet and understand what he is trying to communicate. When suffering an epileptic seizure, your dog may:
- Run in circles
- Fall helplessly to the ground
- Have muscle spasms and stiffness
- Make repetitive, rhythmic movements
- Salivate excessively
- Lose consciousness
- Stare at a fixed point
- Drool and self-bite
- Urinate or defecate uncontrollably
Epileptic seizures in dogs: Five guidelines for dealing with a seizure
Watching your dog having a seizure is not a pleasant experience. But bear in mind that they are going through something much worse. As a pet owner, you can educate yourself to stay calm, relaxed and prepared, allowing you to act as quickly as possible in these situations to help your pet. To help you through this stressful time, here are some tips from the American Kennel Club on what to do when your dog is having an epileptic seizure:
- Stay calm.
- Gently move him to a safer place and stay close by; consider petting or gently comforting him.
- Time your dog's seizures. This will provide your veterinarian with crucial information about your dog's symptoms.
- Do not try to grab his tongue, as your dog may bite you unintentionally.
- After the seizure, be sure to visit your vet or call the emergency room. You can also cool off your dog by applying cold water or wet towels, as longer seizures put dogs at risk of overheating.
What to do to treat epileptic dogs?
Now that we have this knowledge on our side, how can we use it to help our four-legged friend?
- Epilepsy in dogs: treatment
There are a number of anti-epileptic drugs that reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures. However, complete eradication of epileptic seizures with these drugs is very rare in dogs. In addition, it is always necessary to strike a balance between seizure reduction and the quality of life of our pets, as anti-epileptic drugs have some adverse effects that may decrease your dog's well-being. Also, since anti-epileptic treatment is lifelong, you may want to consider natural treatment options to prevent the adverse effects of this treatment from being as unbearable as the epilepsy itself.
- Epilepsy in dogs: natural treatment
CBD is a remarkable constituent of the hemp plant and has recently been studied as a natural remedy for epilepsy. The results are promising and indeed show that CBD led to a significant reduction in seizure frequency. In fact, being a natural product with little or no side effects, CBD oil may be a safe option to help you control your dog's epileptic seizures by:
- reducing the frequency of seizures
- limiting the side effects of anti-epileptic drugs
- improving your dog's quality of life and comfort.