How to Live With a Dog That Has Epilepsy

by Betty Lewis
If your dog has epilepsy, his tags should indicate so.

If your dog has epilepsy, his tags should indicate so.

Janie Airey/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Epilepsy manifests in frightening ways, causing your pooch to experience sudden, uncontrolled seizures. Living with a dog who has epilepsy can be a daunting prospect, but with the vet's help and a little planning, Pal can live a fairly normal life. Common sense and medicine can make canine epilepsy manageable.

Canine Epilepsy

Any dog can experience a random seizure. But seizures that repeat over time, are labeled epilepsy. Sometimes seizures have a cause, such as a stroke or tumor, making the epilepsy symptomatic, or secondary. If the seizures have no identifiable cause, the epilepsy is idiopathic. According to the Canine Epilepsy Network website, many dogs with idiopathic epilepsy have inherited epilepsy, caused by a mutated gene passed on by their parents. These dogs often begin experiencing seizures between 1 and 3 years of age. Breeds prone to epilepsy include the keeshond, golden retriever, Labrador retriever, beagle, Shetland sheepdog and Belgian tervuren.

Becoming Familiar With Seizures

Most dogs with epilepsy experience generalized grand mal seizures. Before a grand mal seizure, a dog often has a prodrome phase, when he becomes anxious and upset, perhaps looking for extra attention. He moves from the prodrome phase into a seizure, when he stiffens and falls, jerking and losing bowel and bladder control. The seizure, also called the tonic phase, usually lasts less than a couple of minutes and the dog isn't conscious for the episode. It's not uncommon for the dog to drool and make noise in the tonic phase. The seizure is followed by the post-ictal phase, when he recovers from his episode. He may seem disoriented and become unsteady on his feet and ravenous. The post-ictal phase often lasts several hours.

During the Seizure

Understanding the phases of a seizure helps you help Pal. Not all dogs go through all of the phases; sometimes a dog slips into a seizure while he's sleeping. Your pup might be light- or sound-sensitive while he's in this state; so dimming the lights and minimizing noise such as the television or phones may help. A blowing fan or a damp towel will cool your dog after the seizure. If Pal gets disoriented in his post-ictal phase, keep him in a safe place so he doesn't fall or run into something that will injure him. If he experiences his seizure for longer than two minutes, call your vet immediately. A continuous seizure is an emergency situation.

Basic Medical Care

Medical care is a reality of living with an epileptic dog. One size does not fit all when it comes to determining the ultimate cost of caring for a dog with epilepsy. If Pal has idiopathic epilepsy, he'll likely be given an anticonvulsant to control seizures. Potassium bromide and phenobarbital are the two most common drugs used to treat the condition and are easy to administer. Pal will also need periodic blood testing, probably every 6 to 12 months, to ensure he's receiving the proper dose and that his organs are functioning properly. Some dogs gain weight in response to the medication, so you'll want to keep an eye on Pal's waistline.

Other Things to Do

Journaling Pal's seizures will help the vet understand his condition and assist in his treatment. Write down when the seizure began and ended, as well as the circumstances at the time, including what he did that day, what and when he ate, and any medication he took. You can seizure-proof your home for Pal's safety, perhaps even creating a sanctuary room for him, free of objects or furniture that may potentially harm him. Pal may have to give up water activities, because swimming or water sports are potentially dangerous for him. If you must take him out on water, give him a doggie life vest. Finally, make sure you have your vet's phone number handy just in case.

Photo Credits

  • Janie Airey/Digital Vision/Getty Images

About the Author

Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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