Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders

Primary or idiopathic epilepsy is the major cause of recurrent seizures in dogs between 1 and 5 years of age. Since no obvious evidence of brain injury is found in primary epilepsy, the probable cause of seizures may be related to a pre-existing or hereditary chemical or functional defect in the brain. The typical seizure due to primary epilepsy is a one to two minute generalized convulsion characterized by collapse, stiffening and/or paddling of the limbs, jaw-chomping, salivation, occasional loss of urine and/or feces, and unconsciousness (no response to calling, touching, etc.). Bear in mind, however, that primary epilepsy may be milder in nature and that not all of the above signs may be seen. A seizure event is typically followed by a "post-ictal" or post-seizure period characterized by incoordination, exhaustion, and disorientation. This period may last for minutes or hours and should not be confused with the actual seizure.

Sweet tired dog on wood floor

Successful management of your pet's epilepsy requires close monitoring by both you and us. Careful and prompt drug level monitoring will provide long-term benefits in terms of seizure control and prevention of undesirable drug side effects. An acceptable quality of life for your pet and for you is our ultimate goal. We hope this overview will help you reach this goal. 

Diagnostic Work-up for Idiopathic Epilepsy in Dogs 

It is important to rule out other causes of seizures before concluding that a dog has primary epilepsy. Specific treatments are chosen based on whether your pet has primary epilepsy or secondary epilepsy (epilepsy due to another cause). For this reason, baseline laboratory tests are usually performed at the onset of epilepsy. It is also important to observe your pet in the periods between seizures (the interictal period) for evidence of neurological problems (change in behavior, circling, paw knuckling, etc.). Blood tests assessing liver and kidney function are also strongly advisable before starting an antiepileptic drug since the liver and kidney are responsible for breaking down and removing these drugs from the body. Brain imaging (CT or MRI) may be necessary if neurological signs are present between seizures of if the seizures are responding poorly to antiepileptic drug therapy (both Phenobarbital and potassium bromide).