Epilepsy in Dogs
Today we discuss Epilepsy in dogs and I share my personal experience of fostering a rescue Jack Russell who suffered from this condition. When Uri came to stay with me, he had been picked up as a stray. We had no information about his health except that he was severely underweight. It was when Uri was under general anaesthetic (being neutered) that he had his first seizure. The vet let him home when his condition stabilised. However, it was a total shock, and very distressing to witness Uri having a seizure for the first time. I literally froze and had no idea what to do.
If your dog has just been diagnosed with Epilepsy, don’t panic. Uri’s Epilepsy was regulated by medication and he went on to have a full and happy life. Read his story further down this post.
About Canine Epilepsy
Canine Epilepsy is a common neurological disease which affects dogs. The condition can be hereditary or caused by a head trauma or brain disorder. Dogs can have one seizure which never happens again. It is only the recurring seizures which are investigated before an Epilepsy diagnosis is given.
This is an excellent article on Canine Epilepsy from The American Kennel Club, Canine Health Foundation.
What Does A Seizure Look Like?
I know this is hard to read, but it might be helpful, so I have given a brief description.
- A dog will fall on his side and make jerking movements.
- The dogs eyes will be dazed and unfocused.
- He/she may foam at the mouth.
- There may be a loss of bowel or bladder control.
- Most seizures last less than three minutes (but can last longer).
- After a fit the dog can return to normal completely or seem dazed for a few hours.
What To Do If Your Dog Has A Seizure
- Keep calm
- Don’t try to move the dog.
- Remove any nearby hazards which could cause an injury.
- Video the seizure if you can. (This seems a bizarre thing to do but it will be invaluable to a vet.)
- Ring your vet for advice.
Signs To Spot Before A Seizure Takes Place
Sometimes a dog will experience ‘different’ behaviour before a seizure occurs.
Look out for these signs :-
This is called the Pre-ictal or aura phase.
If you recognise these signs calmy lead the dog to a comfortable, safe environment and stay close by.
Control Of Canine Epilepsy
A dog who is diagnosed with epilepsy will be prescribed medication, probably for life. It can take time to achieve the correct dose in the beginning. Once medication is contolled and given daily, the dog can live a happy and fulfilling life. If fits return, an adjustment of medication may be required.
Never breed from an epileptic dog, this condition will be passed down to puppies.
Regular blood tests will be needed to ensure that medication is at the correct level and to check effects on the dog’s general health.
A Personal Journey With A Dog Suffering From Epilepsy
Uri had been with us for a few days so it was off to the vets for the snip, a requirement before he could be rehomed.
Not long after we dropped him off the vet rang. ‘Uri’s had a reaction to the anaesthetic, we nearly lost him but he’s fitting continuously ‘
Huge questions came to mind….Was Uri rejected and thrown out by his previous owner because he was epileptic or did the reaction to the anaesthetic cause the seizure? Also, should he have been operated on whilst painfully underweight?
We would never have the answers.
We bought Uri home, still fitting every few hours and heavily medicated. It was heart breaking to watch, we couldn’t do anything but make sure he didn’t hurt himself and be there to comfort him when he came round. His eyes were full of bewilderment and shock. Where was the dog who had been scaling six-foot walls a few days ago? Eventually the fits were less frequent and the vet was able to reduce his medication. After a week Uri was back to his old self, he wasn’t going to let epilepsy get him down.
I was now concerned that Uri would be so much harder to rehome with a medical condition and a monthly prescription bill to pay. We were prepared to keep Uri if the right home never came around.
We started the path of building Uri up to a decent weight, calming his behaviour and getting the medication just right. His epileptic fits had stopped for now and he was loving his new life.
Uri was with us for nine months, a couple enquired about him who were just perfect. Uri was going to the life he deserved. We catch up often, he has excelled at all his training classes, enjoys hiking with his mum and dad and remains as healthy as possible. I shed many, many tears the day that Uri left for his new home but I knew that the life he would now have would be ideal for him and I had a space to help another homeless dog.
Sometimes dog fostering can be hard.
(Photo below, sent to me by Uri’s new Mum and Dad)
- Many dogs have just one seizure, this does not indicate epilepsy.
- Epilepsy cannot be cured, but can be controlled by medication.
- Seizures are difficult to witness but the dog doesn’t feel pain.
- Epileptic dogs can have long and happy lives.
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