Dogs who suffer repeated seizures over a period of time are considered epileptic. For most dogs, when the cause is unknown -- and this is fairly common -- or the underlying causes cannot be treated, vets prescribe medication to control the seizures. Some specific diets can help dogs who suffer from epilepsy. The condition can be lifelong. Any hedge you can get against it, including a specialized diet, is worth consulting your vet about.
Dr Dennis O'Brien, professor of neurology, small animal medicine and surgery at the University of Missouri Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, in his article "Understanding Your Pet's Epilepsy," says epileptic dogs need a balanced diet of quality food. According to O'Brien, you can provide it by feeding top quality commercial dog food; dogs fed cheaper brands or mainly table scraps may need to take a supplement for optimum health. Cosult the dogs' veterinarian about this.
Little reliable evidence to suggest links between epilepsy and food sensitivity or allergies. But Dr. Susan Wynn, former nutrition resident at the University of Tennessee and clinical nutrition teacher and speaker, believes a hypoallergenic diet is worth trying if a quality diet isn't helping to reduce seizures, especially if a dog also has food sensitivity symptoms like itchy skin. With a hypoallergenic diet, dogs are limited to ingredients they haven't eaten before and therefore haven't developed a sensitivity to. If sensitivity symptoms improve after three to four weeks, the vet introduces other ingredients, one at a time, to identify problem foods.
Liver damage can be a side effect of long-term use of phenobarbital, one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for controlling seizures in dogs. The liver-cleanse diet may help in reversing liver damage. It was formulated by Dr. W. Jean Dodds, an acclaimed research scientist and veterinarian who has worked for a number of government health agencies. With the liver cleanse diet, dogs eat cooked white potato and sweet potato, along with lightly cooked white fish such as cod, halibut or smelt. A specific amino acid in white, low-fat fish can help heal the liver. Dogs with liver disease are better suited to three or four feedings a day. Dodds recommends adding the food supplement Missing Link to one meal each day to make sure the dogs' nutritional needs are fully met. When considering trying any new diet it is important to first discuss it with the epileptic dogs' veterinarians.
Another side effect of phenobarbital can be excessive thirst and appetite. If dogs experience this effect, their food intake will need to be controlled to prevent them becoming overweight and putting stress on their heart and other organs.
Potassium bromide helps to control seizures in dogs. It's administered once a day, as dogs' bodies take a long time to eliminate this drug. Avoid treating your dog with salty foods when he's taking bromide, as the amount of salt in the diet affects the speed at which bromide eliminates from their bodies.
Some people, especially children, have been helped by a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet called the ketogenic diet. In the absence of clinical trial to test the safety or effectiveness of this diet with dogs, Dr. W. B. Thomas, associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences of the University of Tennessee, in his paper "Does the Ketogenic Diet Work for Dogs?" advises against using the ketogenic diet with epileptic dogs, as excess dietary fat can lead to weight gain and may precipitate pancreatitis -- inflammation of the pancreas -- which is a common and serious disease in dogs.