The first seizure is terrifying. Nobody is prepared for witnessing a seizure in a beloved pet. When the tests have been run and the diagnosis is idiopathic epilepsy (the catch-all term for seizures of undetermined origin) there are questions – many questions – about life with an epileptic dog. Here are some things you need to know: Epilepsy is not a death sentence. Dogs rarely die from the seizures themselves. Depending on the dosage and type of medication, complications can develop with the liver. Regular monitoring of blood levels and precise dosage of medication can reduce the risk significantly. Medication does not preclude the dog from living a normal life. There are dogs that play flyball, herd sheep and title in agility all while on medication for seizure control. Keep a log of pertinent details about your dog’s seizures. Include the date, time, approximate duration, observations of the dog before, during and after the seizure, current medication dosages and anything you can think of that might have triggered the seizure.
My log included phases of the moon, for example, until I discovered that there appeared to be no correlation for my dog. I included information about when she was in season, as I was concerned that there may be some hormonal influence. The log is important to share with your veterinarian and it can help you with the occasional “reality check” if you feel that the seizures are more or less frequent than in the past. Stay as calm as possible for your dog during and immediately following a seizure. Many dogs react to the panic of the owners once they regain consciousness. It will be less stressful for all concerned if you can minimize any appearance of chaos during a seizure. Be on the lookout for odd things that may trigger a seizure. One of my dogs had seizures when she was stressed and exposed to pine pollen. Once I removed the pine pollen from the equation (that is, I stopped walking her in the forest) she stopped having seizures entirely. Another dog with severe cluster seizures seemed to show marked improvement a couple of years following her spay surgery. Other dogs are triggered by sounds, smells or experiences. You will be your dog’s best advocate if you can seek out possible influences that could trigger a seizure. Always medicate on time. Yes, that means that you have to rearrange your life somewhat, but it is vital, especially with certain drugs like Phenobarbital, that you medicate exactly as directed by your vet. Keep an open line of communication with your vet to determine when dosages may need to be adjusted. This is where the log you keep will come in extremely valuable. Find an epilepsy buddy. Join an e-mail list for canine epilepsy and find one or two people with dogs who have similarities to yours. One word of caution – don’t believe everything you read on the list. I found a few buddies on the list and maintain private conversations with them. Since idiopathic epilepsy actually has many different causes, it is best to find someone with circumstances as similar to yours as possible to compare notes.
Otherwise you will be on a wild goose chase and drive yourself and your vet crazy. One great resource with links to a good epilepsy group is http://www.canine-epilepsy.com. You can get helpful hints and reliable information about the proper way on how to take good care of an epileptic dog from this website. It is advisable to always rely on reliable information only when it comes to the health and safety of your pet.