Epilepsy—the word may conjure scary images of jerking limbs and frothy mouths; the reality is epilepsy is a disorder that is manageable with the right combination of medication, diet and/or exercise. There are many variants that cause this seizure disorder, such as genetics, infection, the presence of a tumor or disease (liver or hypoglycemia). Dogs may average a seizure a week or one every few years. In eighty percent of reported cases, there is no physical reason for the seizures. What does an owner look for when suspecting they live with an epileptic dog? How does it affect a dog’s quality of life?
Breeds Prone to Epilepsy
According to the Canine Epilepsy Network, there are some studies indicating that 4% of dogs live with epilepsy. Although no dog is immune to the disorder there are certain breeds that are more apt to be diagnosed with epilepsy. Those dogs with a genetic likelihood of developing epilepsy will start showing symptoms between the ages of ten months to three years. Dachshunds, Beagles, German Shepherds, Keeshonds and Collies are at the top of the list for breeds prone to seizure disorder.
Seizures are unique and vary from dog to dog. A dog may be outside playing, fall to the side and begin jerking uncontrollably. He may become increasingly vocal or possibly lose control of his bodily functions. However, a seizure is more likely to occur while the dog is asleep. Seizures last anywhere from 30-90 seconds and could take up to a full twenty-four hours to recover from. While recovering, the dog may wander aimlessly, appear to be disoriented, or may have increased thirst or hunger.
Some owners believe that diet and holistic treatments greatly reduce the number of seizures a dog has. Nutritional deficiencies are what some believe cause seizures. These sources recommend a balanced diet free from processed ingredients found in most low end dog foods. They claim a healthy diet will nourish the brain, healing the lesions that bring on the seizures. Other owners who ascribe to the nutritional theory have taken their dogs off a commercial diet completely. They’ve switched to home cooked meals, or a completely raw diet. Eating a diet high in fats, high in Omegas 3 and 6 and low in fillers found in most commercial dog foods have shown –through pet owner’s testimonies– a marked decrease in seizure activity.
Health conscious owners are reluctant to put their dogs on any type of anti seizure medication, often looking for cleaner, healthier ways to live with epilepsy. Acupuncture, the ancient art of needle placement, has been used for quite a few years as a safer alternative to Phenobarbital. Herbal alternatives such as Chamomile, Milk Thistle and Valerian root are also suggested. Before an owner begins any holistic treatment, consult a veterinarian who practices holistic medicine. They will be able to offer safe alternatives and guide an owner to safe herbal practices.
Epilepsy is not a death sentence. A dog diagnosed with a seizure disorder doesn’t require disruption to their routine, just a little extra love and patience.
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