Diagnosing Canine Epilepsy

Canine epilepsy is a condition which is identified by the presentation of recurrent seizures. It is occurs when there is irregular electrical activity in the brain. When electrical activity of the brain is abnormal, the messaging center in the brain becomes confused and the nervous system does not know how to react. This, in turn, results in the loss of muscle control and is identified as a seizure.

Causes of Epilepsy in Dogs

Canine epilepsy has two forms: idiopathic and symptomatic.

When canine epilepsy is idiopathic, there is no cause which can be linked to the cause of abnormal brain function. The only dysfunction is the appearance of seizures. This type of epilepsy appears to be inherited and takes precedence in certain breeds, such as dachshunds and retrievers.

However, when canine epilepsy is symptomatic, it means that it is occurring as the direct result of an underlying condition. Any underlying condition which affects the brain or its activity can result in seizures. Some of the causes of symptomatic epilepsy include:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Distemper
  • Tumors of the brain
  • Vaccinations
  • Infestation of worms or parasites

Signs of Dog Epilepsy

Because the symptoms of canine epilepsy are severe and disheartening, they are commonly recognized as seizures. However, because the reason for the seizures is not always clear, it is important to take accurate notes of your dog’s behavior during seizures so that it can be reported.  

  • Loss of coordination
  • Spacey look in the eyes
  • Eyes rolling back in the head
  • Loss of bowels
  • Excessive salivation
  • Consistent thrusting motions of the arms and legs
  • Biting
  • Growling
  • Yelping

Seizures can range in time from just a few seconds to several minutes or more. After a seizure has ended, your dog will usually appear unresponsive and somewhat comatose. You will need to take special care in the aftermath to make sure that your dog does not harm himself.

Diagnosis of Epilepsy in Dogs

Epilepsy is diagnosed by using a combination of the symptoms present, the medical history of your dog and his ancestor’s history of seizures. The true diagnosis consists of finding out what has caused the seizures to occur.

In order to do this, several elements of testing may be required. Blood tests, fecal examinations and urine samples can help to identify sugar levels and any parasitic infestation which could be attributing to loss of oxygen to the brain.

If the reason for the seizures is not immediately clear, a more in depth look may be required. A CAT scan of the brain may be needed to get a more concise idea of exactly what is occurring in the brain. The use of a CAT scan can help to monitor the electrical activity of the brain and sometimes find out exactly why the brain is not functioning correctly.

Treatment for a Dog with Epilepsy

Treatment of canine epilepsy consists of detecting the cause, making your dog comfortable and less prone to seizure activity.

If an underlying condition has been determined, treatment of that condition is imperative to the conclusion of seizures. However, if permanent brain and nerve damaged has occurred as a result of the seizures, a complete elimination of the seizures may not be viable.

Several medications can be administered to your dog to help reduce the frequency or the severity of the seizures. Some of those medications include:

  • Valium
  • Neurontin
  • Potassium Bromide

Prognosis of Epilepsy in Canines

Canine epilepsy is typically not fatal. However, if a seizure lasts for a very long time, the process can not only cause immense fatigue in your dog, but it can also create a loss of oxygen to the brain and irreversible brain damage. Typically the only time epilepsy will lead to death is when the brain has been deprived of oxygen for too long.