Did you ever notice when you blow in a dog’s face he gets mad at you? But when you take him in a car he sticks his head out the window.” ~Steve Bluestone
Epilepsy is a condition (often chronic) characterized by recurring seizures. It is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain which causes associated symptoms such as muscle twitching, uncoordination and more.
Epilepsy in beagles is common but it is not specific to the breed. On the contrary. Dachsunds, Laboradors, Goldens, Poodles – all of these dogs seem to be genetically predisposed to the condition.
Epilepsy does not have to be a life sentence – many times it can be controlled by a very inexpensive drug, phenobarbitol. However, to the owner who witnesses their first bout of canine seizures the experience can be very frightening. We are not veterinarians and ONLY your veterinarian can assist you and your beloved pet if they have epilepsy. However, we provide this info to you as a guideline for what could be expected if your dog is diagnosed as epileptic.
There are several types of epilepsy and it is broadly divided into idiopathic and symptomatic disorders. What does that mean? Well, idiopathic epilepsy means there is no identifiable brain abnormality other than seizures. Often this is referred to as Primary Epilepsy. Secondary Epilepsy (also known as Symptomatic epilepsy is different in that there are consequences of an identifiable brain lesion or other specific cause for the seizures you dog has. Senior dogs with Cushings Syndrome often suffer from epileptic episodes and this makes Cushings Syndrome a secondary type epilepsy (more on Cushings later on this page).
Most dogs with Primary (idiopathic) epilepsy will suffer their first seizure between the ages of one and five years of age.
What a seizure looks like and how to help your dog through it
As mentioned, the first time you witness your dog having seizures it is a very scary thing – sometimes for your dog as well. If the seizure is minor (is there such a thing?) you may second guess yourself the first time you experience it – but if the seizure is major (a grand mal seizure) there really is no mistaking the event. The symptoms are unmistakeable. Sometimes your dogs entire body will convulse, he may suffer from facial twitching and he may even yelp/howl or simply fall over, flailing. Sometimes our dogs will also salivate, pant and sadly, urinate or even defecate in the midst of a seizure.
This phase will seem to last forever (usually its only seconds long) and it is always followed by a secondary phase of seizure referred to as “clonic”. Typically this consists of clamping the jaws and jerking or running movements of the legs.
Once a seizure passes, your dog may be motionless – sometimes, the seizure is so physically strenuous the dog will be “wiped out”. He may not want to get up. Or he may have residual effects of the epileptic episode. He may be disoriented, confused, he may bump into furniture, run or pace for no reason. THIS portion of the seizure can last for hours – or sometimes a day or so will go by and you’ll still feel your dog isn’t quite himself and you would be correct.
If you have a dog who suffers from epilepsy we would like to point out that there is a super site that offers a myriad of information that can be quite helpful to you. We have visited it countless times ourselves and we would like to share it with you for additional information. For more info on epilepsy, please vist: www.canine-epilepsy-guardian-angels.com