Living With An Epilectic Dog


If your dog has recently been diagnosed as having epilepsy you may be concerned about the future. Discuss your concerns with your vet - it is important that you fully understand the goals of treatment right from the start.

Why has my dog got epilepsy?
Often there is no apparent reason why your dog should have developed epilepsy. In some breeds of dog, most notably the German Shepherd, epilepsy is inherited and is most often seen in males. Sometimes epilepsy is the result of minor damage to the brain caused by a blow to the head or as a result of oxygen starvation during a difficult birth. Usually the seizures start many years after the damage had occurred, so it is not easy to make a connection between the two events.

Is there a treatment for epilepsy?
It is usually not possible to remove the cause of the seizures so your vet will use medication to control the seizures. It is important to realise that this treatment will not cure the disease but merely manage the signs - even a well-controlled epileptic will have occasional seizures. Treatment for epilepsy is decided on an individual basis and it may take some time to find the best combination and dose of drugs for your pet. You must have patience when managing an epileptic pet.

When can treatment start?
If your dog has only had one seizure your vet may advise that you monitor it at home before starting any treatment. The drugs used to treat epilepsy often do not stop the seizures altogether, but will make them less frequent. Therefore, it is important to know how often the seizures occur without treatment to be sure that the treatment is having a positive effect. Once your dog starts on treatment it is likely that this will have to be continued for the rest of his life. Treatment must be given regularly and at roughly the same time every day. If you stop the drugs suddenly it may cause your dog to seizure. It often takes a few months to get the dose of drug just right for your dog. During this time, your vet will keep in regular contact with you and may need to take a number of blood samples from your dog to check that the blood levels of the drug are not too high or too low.

Will my dog get better?
It is rare for epileptic dogs to stop having seizures altogether. Drugs may control the seizures so that they do not affect your dog's lifestyle but, in most cases, if you stopped treatment the seizures would come back. However, provided your dog is checked regularly by your vet to make sure that the drugs are not causing any side-effects, there is a good chance that your dog will live a full and happy life.

How difficult is treatment?
Most dogs with epilepsy can be controlled by drugs which are given every day by mouth. When your dog starts on treatment your vet will probably check them regularly over the first few weeks to monitor the frequency of their seizures and any side-effects of treatment. Once things have settled down check-ups will probably be scheduled around twice a year. Your vet may want to take blood tests at this appointment so don't feed your dog before the appointment. Check with your vet whether they would like to see your dog before or after they have received their medication for the day.
Your vet may ask you to record a diary detailing all the seizures your pet has had. Keep this record up-to-date and take it with you every time you visit your vet.

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