Inside the Canine Brain: Part II Part II: Seizure Diagnostics and Lifestyle Management
Seizures can occur due to an extensive list of causes: metabolic imbalances, toxins, brain tumors, infectious diseases, brain trauma and scarring, immune-mediated diseases, stroke and congenital abnormalities (birth defects). Sometimes, dogs have episodes that look like seizures but are actually collapsing episodes not directly related to the brain. Testing is necessary to narrow down the list of differentials.
Previous health history, as well as the history surrounding the seizure-like event, is always important for correct diagnosis and treatment. Age and breed of the dog are also considered. A routine baseline of data is recommended for any dog exhibiting seizure-like activity. This includes a physical exam, blood work, and urinalysis. Additional testing may be warranted. If no cause for the seizures can be identified after testing is complete, and the dog is normal between seizure events, then epilepsy is diagnosed. Epilepsy is a genetically inherited brain disorder.
Epilepsy is most commonly diagnosed in these breeds: Collies, Cocker spaniels, Basset hounds, Schnauzers, and Golden and Labrador retrievers.
]Epilepsy often needs managing with medication, which can get expensive. Insurance can help to pay for medical treatment should your dog become ill, so it's a good idea to have it just in case you need it. Anticonvulsant medications are used to suppress seizure activity. There are a few medications available, and it's not uncommon for more than one medication to be needed. No matter which drug(s) are used, most dogs will need adjustments to their medications as they age or as other health conditions develop. Dogs on seizure medications also require routine exams and blood work for best seizure control and to minimize side effects from medication. Do not suddenly discontinue seizure medications without discussing with your regular veterinarian. Dogs who suffer from seizures can live a quality lifestyle if the seizures can be effectively managed and minimized. This means decreased frequency and length of seizures. It can take several weeks before the efficacy of an anticonvulsant medication can be determined; meanwhile, the medication must be given at consistent intervals without missing doses. External factors can also trigger seizure events in dogs that are otherwise well regulated.
Recommended lifestyle adjustments for dogs with seizures or epilepsy:
- Low stress lifestyle and daily routines
- Seizure safe environments
- Video monitoring systems in the home for when the pet is alone
- Dietary management to promote brain health and decrease risk of other health issues
- An alert collar or bell to indicate when your pet is having a seizure