In this article, we will study what epilepsy is in dogs. In order to better understand this disease and its consequences on your dog's health, we will look at its causes, symptoms and treatments.
We will also see that it is quite possible to live with an epileptic dog by adopting a few good gestures.
What is epilepsy and what causes it?
In order to better understand epilepsy, we must first define what a convulsion is. A seizure is a neurological manifestation that proves that your pet is suffering at the cerebral level. Now that we know what a convulsion is, we can understand what epilepsy is in dogs.
It is characterized by convulsions that appear suddenly. The animal may lose consciousness but this is not always the case. The duration of the seizure can vary from a few seconds to a few minutes. Generally, the seizures pass on their own.
There are several forms of epilepsy in dogs, the so-called true or primary epilepsy and the symptomatic or secondary epilepsy.
True (or primary) epilepsy: In this form of canine epilepsy, the dog has no symptoms before the seizure. There is no evidence of a disorder in the brain. Only the fact that you are present at the seizure will help the veterinarian to make a diagnosis.
Indeed, it is very rare that the veterinarian sees a dog in a seizure because in general, by the time you get to the office, the seizure is over. You will therefore have an essential role in describing the symptoms. It is important to know that some breeds are predisposed to epilepsy even if all dogs can be affected: Dachshund, Poodle, Labrador, German Shepherd, Boxer...
Symptomatic (or secondary) epilepsy: In this form, the seizures have underlying causes that it is important to discover. Seizures can be classified in two forms:
• Extracerebral convulsive seizures which are manifested by metabolic disorders such as hypoglycemia, hypocalcemia or which may be due to poisoning by rat poison for example.
• Epileptic seizures of cerebral origin which can be due to tumors, trauma or diseases causing neurological problems such as squared disease.
What are the symptoms of epilepsy?
Generalized convulsive seizures: these are the most impressive seizures for the owner. The seizure usually comes on very suddenly. The dog stops what he is doing, then he is anxious, agitated, starts to shake and falls on his side.
Sometimes some dogs scream. Once the dog has fallen, it stiffens, in fact it is its muscles that stiffen. The whole body of the dog shows contractions and twitches, the eyes are usually tilted, the dog urinates on itself and sometimes stools too.
The animal bites its tongue, drools, does not control its chewing muscles at all (this is why it is important to never put your hands near its mouth during the seizure because a bite would be possible). Once the seizure is over, which can last several minutes, the dog slowly gets up. He is uncertain and feverish on his limbs.
The seizures may recur at different frequencies, but if treatment is not instituted, they may become increasingly violent and longer.
Non-convulsive generalized seizures: in this case, the seizure is much less impressive than the previous one. It lasts less than two minutes and the dog does not lose consciousness. He just seems worried and some twitching may appear. The seizure passes by itself.
How is epilepsy diagnosed in a dog?
If you observe any of the above symptoms, it is important to go see your veterinarian. It is very important that you write down everything you see. Indeed, it is rare that the veterinarian attends the crisis, so it will be up to you to explain everything that seems abnormal to you.
After hearing what you have said, the veterinarian will do a complete neurological examination, a skull X-ray and a blood test to see if there is an underlying cause for the epilepsy.
What treatments are available to manage your dog's epilepsy?
If your pet has primary epilepsy, it will not be cured. The goal of treatment is to reduce the duration, frequency and especially the severity of the seizures. The veterinarian will find the cause of your dog's epilepsy and will then suggest a treatment.
Don't be surprised if he doesn't give you a treatment at the first seizure of your pet, it is essential to identify the causes beforehand. The treatment will be given to the animal for life. The veterinarian will prescribe anti-epileptic drugs. It is important to quickly put a treatment in place, once the cause is identified because the earlier it is taken, the easier the seizure will be to manage and prevent.
It will be necessary to do regular blood tests in order to verify that your dog's organs are tolerating the treatment well. The treatment can cause side effects, so if you notice a change after the start of the treatment, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian.
How to manage an epileptic seizure?
If you feel your dog is going to have a seizure, it is important to check several things to make sure he is as safe as possible:
Make sure he can't hurt himself by bumping or falling. To do this, remove anything at his height that could hurt him. If you have stairs, secure them with barriers. Think and I know that it is not easy during these moments to calculate the time that the crisis lasts. This will be a very important clue for your vet.
It is important that it is calm during the crisis. Put your dog in the dark, avoid making noise. You can stay close to your dog, it will soothe him to know that you are next to him, but above all, do not make any noise, nor make any sudden movements.
In case of a big crisis, never try to pull on your dog's tongue to get it out. He could bite you without meaning to. Don't worry, he won't swallow his tongue. If the seizures are repeated in close succession (3 in 30 minutes for example), call your veterinarian so that he can help you manage the seizure from a distance or take him to your veterinarian if he advises you to do so.
My dog has epilepsy, can she have babies?
This can be risky and tricky to manage. Epilepsy in dogs can be hereditary, so there is an increased risk that the baby will be affected. In addition, the treatments given to the epileptic dog can have consequences on the fetus. It is therefore not recommended to breed a bitch with epilepsy. It is better to have her spayed or neutered to avoid pregnancy. It is important to know that spaying will also have a beneficial effect on the bitch because seizures can be caused by hormonal changes in unspayed bitches.
Can I take my dog with epilepsy on a trip?
Going on vacation or on a trip is a change for your companion and like any change, it will be stressful for your dog. Therefore, you will have to take some precautions: It is important that you have your dog under your eyes to monitor him, so avoid anything that is in the hold of a plane or boat, prefer the car or train. Plan your dog's treatment in case of an attack. It is a good idea to locate veterinary clinics near the place where you are going on vacation in case of need. Plan his basket, his food, his usual toys if he has any so that he has as many reference points as possible. The food is essential, do not change it, it could cause intestinal discomfort that could affect the effectiveness of his treatment.
The return from vacation
Yes, your dog was also on vacation, it was great, you walked a lot, you played a lot, but now it's time to go home and go back to work. It will be a change for your dog again. It is therefore preferable to begin to accustom your companion a few days before returning from vacation to his old rhythm. This will be less brutal for him and may avoid new crises.
Loving and educating your pet also means protecting it against the hazards of life. This is why we strongly recommend that you take out health insurance as soon as possible. This will save you astronomical veterinary fees in case of accident or illness.