Canine Epilepsy

Disclaimer: This piece isn’t of medical diagnosis/prognosis and shouldn’t be used as such. My opinion via my own research.

I own the rights to this image. Dogs pictured doesn’t have Epilepsy.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Epilepsy before, but do you know what it actually is?

Google Definition:a Neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

Is it genetic?

Well many studies have confirmed that Epilepsy is inherited, therefore dogs with “Idiopathic” Epilepsy shouldn’t be bred from. There are also certain breeds that are predisposed to Epilepsy (based on data analysis)

Known instigators of Epilepsy (Non-Idiopathic):

  • Eating poison
  • Liver disease
  • Low or high blood sugar
  • Kidney disease
  • Electrolyte problems
  • Anemia
  • Head injury
  • Encephalitis
  • Strokes
  • Brain cancer

Common Types of Epileptic Fits (Seizures)

Automatisms – repetitive motor activity that resembles movement under voluntary control, such as lip smacking, licking or chewing

Atonic seizure – a sudden loss of muscle tone lasting several seconds or more, not following a tonic or myoclonic event

Cluster seizures – a group of seizures within a shorter than normal interval; clinically defined as 2 or more seizures within a 24-hour period

Focal seizure – seizures originating from only part of the brain and therefore also only affecting part of the body

Generalized seizure – seizures originating from both hemispheres of the brain

Idiopathic epilepsy – epilepsy without an identifiable structural cause, typically assumed to be genetic.

Interictal period – the time between seizures

Myoclonic seizure – sudden, brief contractions of a muscle or group of muscles

Postictal period – the time immediately following a seizure, where behavioral changes may be observed

Refractory epilepsy – seizures that occur even during treatment with therapeutic doses of antiepileptic medication, i.e. the medication stops being effective

Status epilepticus – a serious condition where seizures follow closely on one another without a break, or where a single seizure lasts more than 5 minutes

Tonic seizure– a sustained increase in muscle tone (i.e. stiffening) lasting up to several minutes

Tonic-clonic seizure – a seizure where the tonic phase is followed by shorter, clonic (jerking) movements.

These breeds are as follows:

Turvuren , Sheltie, Beagle, Labrador/Golden Retriever, Keeshond, Viszla, Finish Splitz, Bernese Mountain Dog, Irish Wolfhound and English Springer Spaniel. If you do have these breeds and your dog has Epilepsy, can you please contact me? #Research

How do they treat it?

Well usually AEDs (Anti-Epileptic Drugs) are prescribed, most common one of which is Pentobarbital which is a first generation AED, It is one of the drugs most used in veterinary patients, because it is effective, relatively inexpensive, well-tolerated, and easily dosed. Serious side effects include blood cell loss (cytopenias) and liver toxicity and even death(excess dose). Other side effects include sedation, ataxia, and increased appetite and water consumption.  Dogs can also develop tolerance to phenobarbital over time, and are susceptible to withdrawal effects as physical dependence can develop.

Can you do anything naturally?

Well in order to get a grip on this naturally, you’d need to understand the individual dogs epilepsy, know the triggers etc if they’re Environmental factors to rectify then get them removed. Assess the diet and remove anything that may contribute, generically you’d want to keep blood sugar levels at an optimum level. You can also feed whole food supplements that promote gut health and have an anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidants for example.

Ketogenic Diets- A common go to for epileptic dogs.

So there was a study done that claimed a Ketogenic Diet rich in MCTs (Medium Chain TAG) has shown reductions in the frequency and severity of seizures over time , this study also states that the MCTs provide their benefit if the dog is in a state of Ketosis by improving the Ketones being produced (Ketones are produced when the body is Using fats for energy) if your dog isn’t in Ketosis then the MCTs won’t perform their alleged benefits. It’s worth pointing out that Ketogenic Diets were first forumlated in the 1920’s by the Mayo Clinic to combat Epilepsy in Children.

Many owners who have a dog with Epilepsy have been using Organic Coconut Oil with great success, this is a great source for MCTs. Some are even mixing Coconut Oil with CBD Oil with further success. (Seek Veterinary Advice as the VMD do frown upon CBD oils for Pets).

Is it really that simple?

Unfortunately not, many factors are at play here, MCTs are just one factor that could benefit, it’s also not a guaranteed fix, you have to tackle Epilepsy on a case by case basis. Here’s some examples of what factors you’d typically have to consider: Breed, How Many Meals A Day, Calorie Restriction , Environmental Factors, Mental/Physical condition, Any Chemical Treatments being taken , Sufficient Hydration and various others.

Just because your feeding a dog a ketogenic diet it’s not a “get out of jail free card” when it comes to Epilepsy, it also doesn’t mean they’ll go into Ketosis which is a great importance to that study linked above. You’d need to do DIY ketone blood tests to confirm this, and address the diet to achieve Ketosis which I’d Personally suggest never doing yourself! This needs Veterinary Hands , a Homeopathic Epileptic Specialist preferred.

How ever, sticking to the ketogenic diet principles for a dog will be a great benefit in respect of their over all health, as their blood sugar levels reduce as your not feeding high levels of carbohydrates, this also reduces pancreatic stress therefore the risks of Pancreatitis can reduce IF your feeding the correct levels and correct fats as an energy source. Sticking to the ketogenic diet principles isn’t the same as coaching your dog into Ketosis , a dogs primative diet is ketogenic when your feeding Species Appropriate Foods.

Species Appropriate Foods: Meat, Bones, Organs, Fats and Plant Matter, the right plant matter such as Dark Leafy Greens, Herbs, Berries etc basically the type dogs would come across in the wild either through self selection or what they’d encounter in the stomachs of their prey.

Studies such as This One has shown Epilepsy is influenced by blood sugar levels, it’s important to keep your dogs from going into Hypo or Hyperglycaemia (Low /High Blood Sugar Levels). These spikes up or down can trigger seizures in epilepsy. Therefore management of blood sugar levels are important therefore I’d never suggest removing carbohydrates from a dogs diet entirely but keep them minimal, again levels of would be a case by case basis.

Another but not the only Factor: Magnesium intake is also something to have sufficient levels because magnesium has shown to improve the body’s ability to utilise glucose therefore can have a direct role on Hypo/Hyperglycaemia. As this leads to insulin resistance and even excess urinary loss. This also applies to diabetic dogs. (a Study)

I hope this link has cleared up the basics of Epilepsy

Michael K A Bennett- BCCSDip.HthNut

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