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What causes seizures in dogs and how should I treat them?

Dear Dr. Sanderlin,

What, if any, is the treatment for apoplectic seizures in dogs. My 12 year old cocker used to have them, then they went away with no treatment. Now they are back, she suffers an attack every 2-3 weeks.

Thank you,

Hello Brian,

Seizure activity in dogs can be caused by many different conditions. The most common are epilepsy, liver dysfunction or other metabolic disease, and by tumors or infection/inflammation of the central nervous system.

The best approach to treating them is to start by having your family veterinarian perform a thorough exam. Also, diagnostic tests, such as bloodwork, including complete thyroid testing, urinalysis, and possibly even CSF analysis or a CT or MRI scan of the brain are necessary to find a diagnosis for the seizures.

It is also necessary for you and your veterinarian to review any medical history that could precipitate the onset of seizures such as vaccinations, heartworm preventatives, diet change, household or environmental exposure to toxins. Record the frequency and timing of episodes, duration and quality of convulsions by keeping a journal of events that happen around the time of seizures. Are there any changes or additions of people or other pets in the household? Changes in schedules or routines in household?

Epilepsy is a common diagnosis made in many dogs. If the seizures are severe and frequent enough, dogs may require pharmaceuticals such as valium, phenobarbital, or potassium bromide to control the episodes. There are also specific herbal remedies, acupuncture treatment, and homeopathic therapies available from a experienced holistic practitioner.

A natural hypoallergenic diet along with fish oil, taurine, phosphatidylcholine, B complex vitamins, trace minerals, antioxidants (VitC, Vit E, Selenium, Vits A&D) in products such as Canine Antioxidant Formula, Cell Advance or Vetri-DMG can be therapeutic for epileptics. Liver supportive supplements that contain milk thistle, N-acetylcysteine, and alpha lipoic acid benefit liver function, especially while on anti-convulsant drugs like phenobarbitol.


Steve Sanderlin DVM

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