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LIVING WITH: Epilepsy by Michelle Woodman

* Note: Head Nodding is NOT epilepsy


Seizures can be a secondary condition, of something more sinister, going on within the dogs body. Epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in the dog, an inherited disorder, but its exact cause is unknown. Other causes include liver disease, kidney failure, brain tumours, brain trauma, or toxins. When we think of toxins, we think of poisons etc and not necessarily think of the every day things that are toxic to our dogs, for example chocolate or the sweetener named Xylitol, this sweetener is found in lots of products. It is best to have full bloods tested, and see if any abnormalities show, however in most cases it may not reveal anything. You can have a MRI scan. I Personally don’t advise this, Bulldogs have a higher risk of General Anaesthetic, and it will be given to a dog that is already sick. The MRI scan is unlikely to show anything, or if it does, the chances are it will not be treatable. Therefore treat the dog as if it has Epilepsy. (unless you think your dog has eaten anything toxic to him/her)  


Epilepsy can occur in dogs aged between six months to six years old. The most common age is between 2 and 3 years old, and this is normally when you see Epilepsy start. Although you do not need a Bulldog Specialist for epilepsy, the Vet must be familiar with our breed. Our breed suffers with idiopathic Head Tremors, and Bulldog Faint, both these conditions have often been misdiagnosed as seizures. To treat dogs with seizure medications, when they are not suffering seizures, is harmful to the dog. There are many videos on You Tube that you can watch, and see that they are completely different conditions, and do not look the same as a Grand Mal seizure. Play particular attention to the dogs facial movements.    

What does a Grand Mal seizure look like ? 

The dog will fall onto his/her side. They will have uncontrollable facial spasms, and froth around the mouth. They will paddle with their legs. They are completely unaware of anything going on. You can shout and call them, they will not respond. They can often loose control of their bladder / bowels or both.  

Although this is distressing to watch, remember the dog does not know anything about it. So try to stay calm and time how many seconds the seizure last. This is just the seizure itself, and not any disorientation afterwards. This helps the vet to determine how severe the seizures are. Keep a log of the seizures, to show how frequent they are. Seizures lasting longer than 60 seconds or Cluster seizures (two seizures or more in 24 hours) are classed as severe, and can cause brain damage. Rectal Diazepam will need to be administered into the dogs bottom, during the first 60 seconds of the seizure, to help prevent brain damage. Move anything around the dog, that could cause him/her harm, whilst the dog is thrashing about. There are myths that dogs can swallow their tongue, they cannot. Do not put your hands near the dogs mouth, as they can bite down.   

After the seizure has finished. Give your dog reassurance, in a nice calm voice. Your dog is likely to be wobbly on his/her legs. They are disorientated, will knock into furniture, try to walk through walls etc. When this period is over, the dog will become restless, and pace. If you can put the dog in a quiet dark place, and you can get your dogs to rest, this is better. More often than not, it will make them more restless and pace worse. If this is the case, allow the dog to go free. Theses periods varies in severity and length, all dogs are different. The next 48 hour period, is when you are likely to see any more seizures, if they are going to have any more. During this time I would recommend you sleep downstairs, and not go out, especially if their seizures are severe.  

What is the treatment for epilepsy 

Phenobarbitual drug (lots of generics, but most common one the Vet uses is Epiphen) 

This is given twice per day (12 hours apart) It can take up to 3 weeks to get into the dogs system. This raises the phenobarbitual level, to hopefully stop seizures. After the dog has been on this dose for 3 weeks his/her bloods will need checking to see what the the therapeutic phenobarbitual range is. Most laboratories uses a calculation range of between 10 and 40. The dog level needs to be in range. Then you do nothing, and wait to see if the seizures stop. If not this drug can be increased, this must be done gradually. You keep repeating this process, until the seizures stop, or the dog therapeutic phenobarbitual range is at the higher end of the scale. These drugs can be harmful to the dogs liver. Instead of buying expensive liver tablets from the Vets. I purchase Milk Thistle, this detoxes the dogs liver, and does almost the same as the liver tablets, from the Vet. Milk Thistle can be purchased on-line, or from a Herbal Shop, it is very inexpensive.  

Potassium Bromides (lots of generics, but most common one Vet uses is Libromide)  

If the dogs seizures have not been controlled with the Phenobarbitual’s alone. Potassium Bromide’s is the next drug to add. This drug works well with the phenobabitual drug. However it can take up to 4 months to get into the dogs system. If your dog is having severe seizures, and cannot wait 4 months to benefit from this drug, the Vet can load dose this drug, to allow the dog to benefit more quickly. On Potassium Bromides, especially if load dosed, they can appear almost like they are drunk, and even stumble. Their hunger will increase dramatically. You will have to give the drug time to level out in the dogs system. Don’t overfeed the dog.  

Anti Convulsants  

(common one vet uses is Keppra. Levetiracetam is lots cheaper and can be sought from a human chemist)  

This drug controls activity in the brain. It goes into the dog system straight away. It has to be given 3 times per day, 8 hours apart.   

Once the seizures are controlled, the therapeutic phenobarbitual range/liver blood test, will only need doing yearly.  

This is the basic information for Grand Mal seizures. There are also Partial/focal seizures, which have different symptoms, all depending on what part of the brain has been effected. For More in depth information or information particular to your dogs stage. You are welcome to contact me directly.  


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