Epilepsy is a condition characterized by recurrent symptomatic seizures that can affect all living animals from humans to our pets. Seizures are defined as uncoordinated muscle spasms as the result of neurons firing uncontrollably in the brain, usually the cerebellum. Dogs with epilepsy will generally start to show symptoms around 2 to 3 years of age but the condition may start any time between 6 months and 5 years of age. While research continues to attempt to discover the causes and mechanism of epilepsy, there are still many mysteries associated with the condition. A dog suffering from epilepsy will exhibit random fits or convulsions known as seizures.
The causes of seizures are variable and may not always be attributed to epilepsy. There may be some congenital defects or an associated disease like diabetes or hypoglycemia. Moreover, seizures may be caused by low oxygen levels in the blood, anemia, kidney disorders, brain tumors, poisoning, liver disease and even certain medications. As a result, veterinarians must carefully rule out the various other causes of seizures before diagnosing epilepsy. Diagnosing epilepsy in dogs requires that your veterinarian takes a detailed history and performs a thorough physical and neurological exam. This process includes a number of laboratory tests, x-rays, and other brain scans. When the cause of the seizures cannot be identified, epilepsy is diagnosed.
There are a number of treatments for epilepsy in dogs, although none of them are curative. Because the causes of epileptic seizures cannot be identified, it is nearly impossible to completely cure the disorder. As such, dog epilepsy treatments are symptomatic and aimed at controlling the seizures to provide your dog with the best possible quality of life. Oral medications are usually the first course of treatment and these include Phenobarbital and potassium bromide. Every dog will respond differently to epilepsy medications so it may take some time for your vet to find the ideal treatment. In very severe cases, where your dog’s epilepsy includes prolonged seizures, intravenous drugs, such as valium, may be required.