Read time: 7 mins
21 Dec 2019
Being a pet parent is a lot of fun, but it's also a big responsibility. And if you find out your pup is unwell, it's only natural to feel worried – especially if you receive a diagnosis of a condition like epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a condition that causes abnormal electrical activity in the brain, resulting in sudden behaviour and movement changes. If you notice your pup has two or more of these seizures up to 24 hours apart, it could be a sign that they're epileptic. Your vet can confirm the diagnosis and prescribe medication to help reduce the number and intensity of seizures, as well as advising other holistic things you can do too.
Rest assured, there are things you can do to manage your pooch's epilepsy. It's worth knowing that your four-legged family member isn’t in pain during a seizure and also realising that you’re not alone in coping with this illness. Epilepsy is one of the most common chronic neurological illnesses in dogs with around dogs living with it. You'll work out ways to help your dog – like moving things out the way and turning out the lights when they experience a fit.
Being aware of the key signs of epilepsy in dogs can help your pooch to receive an early diagnosis. The sooner you’re aware of it and address it with your Vet, the better chance you have of managing it. According to The Kennel Club, a Vet might suspect that your dog has epilepsy if they have at least two unprovoked epileptic seizures more than 24 hours apart.
If you’re struggling to determine if your dog is having a seizure there are three main characteristics to look out for:
• Loss of voluntary control (usually jerking or shaking movements)
• Irregular attacks that start and finish suddenly
• Attacks that appear similar each time and follow the same pattern
It is also advised that you record your dog’s attack if possible, this can help your Vet to determine exactly what kind of seizure is occurring and why. The cause of the seizure might not necessarily be due to epilepsy.
There are a number of reasons why epilepsy in dogs can occur. The causes can be classified by three different types of epilepsy, including:
Structural epilepsy is caused by an underlying problem occurring in the brain, for example a tumour or disease.
Reactive seizures occur due to temporary changes in brain function. They are often caused by metabolic problems, including low blood sugar or kidney and liver failure. They can also be triggered by things like toxin exposure, as the dog’s body goes into shock. Reactive seizures usually subside when the overriding issue is treated.
Idiopathic epilepsy is defined as epilepsy that occurs with no known cause. Whilst it can be attributed to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, the direct cause is difficult to determine.
This type of epilepsy is more-often seen in young dogs, from around 6 months to 7 years old, however it can occur at any age. Diagnosis of this type of epilepsy usually occurs when structural and reactive epilepsy have been ruled out.
• Medication / Missed medication
Fits in dogs can be triggered by human foods (such as chocolate) which are toxic for your four-legged family members. While you should never give your dog these foods, if they get their paws on some and have a seizure, it doesn't necessarily mean they're epileptic.
Concerns have been raised about rosemary, but there’s no definitive research around it. A highly concentrated form of the herb, rosemary extract, is sometimes used as a preservative in dog foods, which is where the concern stems from. It's been speculated that the stimulating effect it has on the nervous system can make the seizures worse. But dried and fresh versions are considered harmless as they’re nowhere near as strong.
If you haven’t already consulted your Vet, this should be the first course of action. Your Vet will help determine exactly what is causing seizures in your pooch, as well as prescribing medication and lifestyle changes.
The next big thing to consider is making sure that you are doing everything you can to make your dog as comfortable as possible when they are having a seizure. This can be a really traumatic experience for both of you, but it is unfortunately an inevitable part of an epilepsy diagnosis. Here are some actions to take during a seizure.
In the midst of an attack, seizures can get really intense and this could result in injury for you and your dog if they were to, for example, swing their head back and hit you.
If it is safe to do so at the beginning of a seizure place your dog somewhere comfortable, such as on a carpeted floor or rug, and make sure any furniture or objects are well away from them.
As well as anything that you think may have triggered it, this is really helpful for your Vet and can help to create a detailed care plan.
If the seizure lasts more than five minutes or is part of a group of seizures (known as cluster seizures).
Remember that the seizure is not painful for your dog
It is likely that they will be extremely tired and disoriented afterwards, making them in much need of some TLC, so be on hand to give them lots of comfort and cuddles.
Keeping your dog on a consistent diet is essential to support the effectiveness of their drugs. Butternut Box meals are perfectly balanced and portioned for your particular dog. When you sign up, we'll ask you all about your dog – from their age and breed to any long-term illnesses they might have.
Our system (expertly built by Vets and Nutritionists) calculates exactly what your dog needs and then we send you meal-sized pouches containing all the required calories and nutrients. Happily, they're drool-inducing, too, so even poorly pups will be tempted to tuck in.
While your vet is establishing the most effective dosage for your epileptic pooch, it’s a good idea to bone-up on potential side effects. Phenobarbitone and potassium bromide are common treatments for epilepsy. Both of which have been known to increase appetite and thirst in dogs.
By choosing Butternut Box, you can help your dog avoid overeating and potentially gaining weight. We combine human-quality meat with freshly prepared veg, lentils & minerals, making our meals nutrient-dense and satisfying. For an added bonus, our recipes are gently cooked, meaning that they are slightly moist which can keep the lid on thirst, as well as being easy to digest.
We do include dried rosemary in some of our meals to take advantage of its herbal properties. It has traditionally been thought to improve circulation and boost the immune system, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also makes our meals extra tasty.
However, as our recipes are checked (and double-checked) by our Vets and Nutritionists, you can be assured they’re safe for dogs with epilepsy. If you prefer to err on the side of caution, choose our recipes which have no added rosemary, such as Chicken You Out, Pork This Way, Pork of the Town, Ready Steady Veggie and Plant Get Enough.