Epilepsy In Dogs

Epileptic Dog

Canine Epilepsy (The Basics)

What is a dog Seizure?

Any involuntary or uncontrolled muscular contractions in dogs may represent a seizure. Canine Seizures are classified into several categories. About 5% of dogs and 1% of cats will seizure at least once in their lifetime. Generalized dog seizures are the most common. The entire body is involved in stiffness and possibly stiffness/contraction cycles (tonic/clonic action). The animal usually loses consciousness, vocalizes, falls over, and may urinate or defecate.

The dog seizure is typically followed by a period during which the animal appears disoriented, even blind. This period may last only a few minutes or may last several hours. Fainting animals are usually up and normal within seconds after the spell.

Causes of Canine Epilpesy – Seizures and Diagnostics.

Seizures may be caused by situations within the brain (such as trauma, tumour, or infection) or by situations centred outside the brain (such as low blood sugar, circulating metabolic toxins, hypothyroidism, or external poisons). The first step is to rule out situations centered outside the brain, accomplished with blood testing.

Dogs less than One Year old

Seizures are usually caused by infections of the brain. Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid, obtained by a tap under anesthesia, would be important.

Animals between Ages 1 and 5

In these animals, usually no cause can be found and the term canine epilepsy, which simply means seizure disorder, is applied. If canine seizures are occurring frequently enough, medication is used to suppress them. Schnauzers, Basset hounds, Collies, and Cocker spaniels have epilepsy two to three times as often as other breeds.

Animals over 5 Years old

in this group, canine seizures are usually caused by a tumour growing off the skull and pressing on the brain (a meningioma).

Dog Epilepsy is the name given to seizure disorders for which no cause can be found. It is not a unique disease in and of itself. In dogs, epilepsy is a common diagnosis but in cats most of the time a complete work up (including a CSF tap and imaging study of the brain) leads to a diagnosis. Medication to Suppress Seizures: The drugs of choice are either : Phenobarbital or Potassium Bromide or Both together.

Treatment of any dog seizure disorder is aimed at suppressing the seizure with medication.


When to Begin Treatment:

  • When seizures occur in clusters, which occur one after the other.
  • When isolated seizures occur once every 6 weeks or more.
  • When special circumstances exist e.g. upsets family.
  • Some breeds are difficult to control and treatments is started sooner

Antiepileptic Drugs use in dogs

1) Phenobarbitone

Clinical reports suggest that 60 – 80 per cent of of epileptic dogs can be controlled on Phenobarbitone alone. For this reason it is usually recommended as the drug of first choice in the management of canine and feline epilepsy. This medication is a long-acting barbiturate capable of suppressing seizure activity in the brain. Bloods Phenobarbitone concentrations are taken and the dosage adjusted as necessary. If pets are still seizuring with adequate serum levels then alternative therapy or additional therapy may be needed. Side effects: a low number of dogs show liver disease, sedation, thirst and weight gain on the treatment. Periodic testing the liver enzymes and bile acids is important on patients on long term epileptic therapy.

What if Phenobarbital Doesn’t Work ?

1) Potassium Bromide to treat canine epilepsy

For such cases, Potassium Bromide becomes the next best choice- the medication takes 2 -3 weeks to reach the required blood levels to be effective. Between 25% and 30% of epileptic dogs are still uncontrolled despite excellent blood levels of Phenobarbital and/or potassium bromide, and there is a long list of anti-seizure drugs available for people. At home Valium or Diazapam is the usual treatment vets use for patients that are fitting in certain cases owners are given injectable Valium to be given as an enema at home to control difficult seizures. This is not routine but is practical and works.

At home – Diazapam is the usual treatment vets use for patients that are fitting – in certain cases – owners are given injectable Valium to be given as an enema at home to control difficult seizures. This is not routine but is practical and works .

3) Newer drug Imepitoin (Pexion) 10mg/kg bd instead of phenobarb works much quicker or as an add on !!  Great product.  Can be used as a first choice medication for canine epilepsy.  Less side effects, and expensive.

4) Levetriracetam – (Kepra) or Kbr if liver failure.)

IN the emergency situation

Treatments of Canine Epilepsy

We do not generally treat after a single  seizure episode!

After a second seizure the patient is called epileptic.

WE treat canine epilepsy and feline epilepsy if

  1. Cluster seizures
  2. A seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
  3. If the recovery from a seizure takes very long
  4. More than 2 seizures in 6 months

Outcome of epilepsy treatments in dogs

  1. life long therapy often
  2. 50% decrease in the number of seizures
  3. Does not completely stop the dog fitting
  4. Seizures are usually not painful
  5. Dogs with epilepsy are slightly more anxious

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