Like the very name suggests it is all about an initiative to teach one another what epilepsy
However, since pets are my forte I’d like to let all pet owners know what epilepsy in
pets is all about. Dogs, precisely, are most prone to epilepsy.
What an epileptic seizure is,
what you could do for your seizing dog or cat, how can you keep yourself ready for the episode are
some questions that you ought to have an answer for. Let us start with the basic question.
What is Epilepsy?
In a lay man’s terms epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes multiple recurring seizures.
It is an abnormality in the neural electrical activity and conduction of brain impulses. Chemical
substances called neurotransmitters help in the conduction of brain impulses from one neuron
(brain cell) to the other. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of neurotransmitters – Excitatory
and Inhibitory. When there is an abnormality in this proportion between the excitatory and
inhibitory neurotransmitters your pet will begin to seize. What causes the abnormality in the
electrical activity of the brain and the consequential chaotic muscle activity is not completely
known. However depending on which part of the body is affected with the seizures, epilepsy can
be of two main categories – Partial or Generalized.
Partial Vs Generalized Epilepsy
Partial seizures involve milder episodes where just one part of the body is affected. Sometimes
partial seizure could be so mild that it manifests in just a twitch or a cramp or may be a spasm in
your dog. However, this does not mean you neglect the seizure. The very existence of a seizure
mild or strong is an evidence of electrical abnormality in the brain.
Generalized epilepsy involves very serious convulsions or what are commonly called fits.
Depending on whether this episode includes loss of consciousness or not, generalized seizures
are further classified into grand mal seizures and petit mal seizures. There is no loss of
consciousness in grand mal seizures. Instead, the dog might fall onto its sides or on its sternum
and experience severe trembling and convulsions. Like in humans, dogs also lose command
over their excretion and often end up urinating or defecating. Dogs also secrete excessive saliva
and might regurgitate during a grand mal seizure and the dog might also howl continuously. This
episode could last for a few seconds to even minutes. Petit mal seizure on the other hand just
involves loss of consciousness in the dog.
Phases of a Seizure
A grand mal seizure has three stages to it namely, pre-ictal period, ictal period, and post ictal
period. In the pre-ictal period, your dog might cling to you more than usual for affection and
protection. Your dog can sense the imminent neurological chaos and desperately seeks for a
sense of security from its master. In one particular stage just minutes before the episode the dog
is aware of the upcoming seizure and exhibits strange behavior patterns which is otherwise
known as an aura. It is at this time that the owner should be vigilant enough to decipher and be
sufficiently equipped for the dog’s seizure. Following this is the Ictal period which is the actualseizure. Post-ictal period is the period of disorientation where your dog is still in a state of chaos.
Lot of dogs have reportedly become temporarily blind which makes them trip over things easily.
Some Breeds are More Prone
Seizures can happen due to innumerable reasons starting from liver diseases, kidney diseases,
to diabetes, hypertension, a stroke, head injury, brain tumour, electrolyte levels, bacterial, viral,
and fungal infections, or even anemia. If the reason for the seizure can be identified with the
help of scans and blood tests, then such a seizure is called a symptomatic seizure. If the reason
is difficult to be identified then the seizure is said to be idiopathic seizure. A seizure takes place
when the stimulation in the brain crosses the seizure threshold. While some breeds have a high
threshold, breeds like Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Cocker
Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds and Keeshonds tend to reach the threshold
relatively sooner or are genetically predisposed to repeated seizures.
Treatment and Safety Measures
Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide are the two most common medicines given to dogs to
treat epileptic seizures. Phenobarbital is an anticonvulsant that reduces the seizure threshold
thereby decreasing the imbalance between the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters.
Potassium Bromide on the other hand is not an anticonvulsant but just helps in the replacement
of chloride molecules with bromide molecules which reduces the occurrence of a seizure.
Visiting the vet is undeniably the first step that should be taken when even a mild seizure is
seen in your pet.
Sometimes dogs might experience the onset of multiple seizures consecutively without even the
completion of one seizure. This might also be followed by loss of consciousness. This could be
a fatal medical condition that is technically termed Status Epilepticus. Seeking for immediate
medical help is suggested at this time.
During the episode, it is essential to remember not to keep either your hand or any part of your
body closer to your pet’s mouth. The dog often keeps its mouth wide open during a seizure and
when you try keeping your hand anywhere near its mouth it might bite and grind your hand until
the seizure is over. The dog loses complete control over its neural and muscular activities which
makes him oblivious to the fact that he is actually biting you.
Also, keep a check on where your dog is going for the next several hours because he might
bump into something sharp or might tumble down the stair case if he loses eyesight for a while
before completely recovering from the episode.
Drop a thick, cozy blanket over your pet. This will keep him protected and will reduce the
intensity of the seizure. If your dog happens to fall down with its belly on the floor and the spine
facing upwards, keeping an ice pack at the base of his spine in the lumbar region will again help
in reducing the intensity of the episode.
Right medication in right dosage and appropriate diet control either in terms of calories or salt
intake should be regulated according to the needs of the dog. It is mandatory to check what
should be given and what should not be given as food is pivotal during the therapy.
It is that time of the year to go purple, after all, purple is the colour of epilepsy. It is time to
spread as much awareness as possible. It is time to go to the vet and rule out signs of epilepsy
in your pet. Go purple, petizens!