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Learn about canine epilepsy and how you can treat seizures

Canine epilepsy is a neurological disorder of recurring, unprovoked seizures. They are caused by a disturbance in a part of the brain called the cerebrum, specifically an imbalance of neurotransmitters and neurons in the brain.

These neurons and transmitters are responsible for sending messages back and forth in the brain, enabling a dog to move parts of the body voluntarily. During an attack of epilepsy in dogs the nerves do not behave in a normal coordinated fashion resulting in a moderate to serious seizure referred to as an epileptic fit.

There are two types of seizures in canine epilepsy, called the grand mal and the petit mal. The grand mal attacks are most common. The dog suffering from a seizure will roll over to its side and make leg movements that can be described as kicking or swimming movements. The dog might urinate without being aware and/or start drooling during a canine epilepsy attack. The dog will be unaware of its owner and its surroundings.

In smaller attacks (the petit mal) the animal does not have convulsions, but will look like it has collapsed. Unless dog epilepsy results in a series of grand mal convulsions (referred to as a status epilepticus), the seizures are not life threatening. Contact your vet if your dog is suffering from a series of grand mal attacks.

How do you recognize the potential onset of epilepsy?

Before a seizure a pet suffering from dog epilepsy might seem restless, walk around aimlessly and could be seeking your attention. The animal might whine and salivate or hide in a corner. This type of behavior often occurs several minutes prior to a fit of canine epilepsy.

During a seizure your dog might fall over, and be unresponsive. The animal will be excited and could possibly drool or vomit and can show uncoordinated and unexpected muscle activity (also referred to as running). This phase could last for up to 5 minutes.

After the seizure your dog will seem disoriented, and the animal will move about oddly. The dog could be (temporarily) blind as a result of the canine epilepsy fit and should be comforted. This phase could last from a little as a few minutes to several days. Contact your vet if the animal does not seem to respond to you shortly after an onset of canine epilepsy.

On rare occasions animals suffering from epilepsy in dogs may become violent during a seizure. As such it is wise not to come into contact with the animal as it will not be aware of what's happening. Stroke the animal gently to calm it down after an attack.

What's the best treatment for an epileptic dog?

If you suspect that your canine is suffering from dog epilepsy you must tell your vet how often the attacks are occurring, when they occur and approximately how long they last. This will help the veterinarian make an accurate diagnosis. Treatment can never ÔcureÕ the animal of epilepsy, but will help reduce the number of fits.

The drug most commonly used to control canine epilepsy is a drug called Phenobarbital. Dilantin and Primidone are other popular medications used to treat epilepsy in dogs. These medications must be administered each day and are only available by prescription. They act by calming the neurons in the brain, yet don't leave the animal in a sedated state. You will hardly notice that your pet is taking dog epilepsy drugs.

As we mention above, the first step in treating any suspected condition is to bring your dog or cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible. That way you can start treatment early so the condition doesn't worsen.

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