As a neurological condition, epilepsy can alter your dog's consciousness and cause them to experience seizures. There's not always a clear reason when a dog develops epilepsy, but some breeds, including springer spaniels, golden retrievers and Labradors, seem to be particularly prone to developing this illness. When your dog starts having seizures, it can be distressing for both you and them even though the seizures tend to last for only a few minutes, but understanding the condition can help you feel calmer during seizure episodes. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnostic approach and management of epilepsy in dogs:
Your dog will have a pattern of symptoms they display when they're about to have a seizure, while the seizure is taking place and directly after the seizure. Getting to know the signs your dog is about to have a seizure can enable you to make them more comfortable and keep them safe when the seizure takes place. Just before a seizure, your dog may appear frightened or confused and may look dazed. It's also common for dogs to find a small, cosy place to hide. During a seizure, your dog may grind their teeth, lose control of their bowels, salivate excessively, whine and paddle in the air with their legs while lying on their back or side. After a seizure, dogs are often exhausted and feel hungry and thirsty. Your dog may also seem disorientated and a cuddle from you in a quiet environment will help calm them.
Epilepsy can be diagnosed by taking a detailed account of your dog's symptoms and behaviour during seizure episodes. If your vet is concerned another condition could be causing the seizures, they can test your dog's blood for hypothyroidism and certain types of cancer that are associated with convulsions. To be absolutely certain your dog has epilepsy, an MRI or CT scan can be used to check for signs of epilepsy on your dog's brain, such as lesions.
There's currently no cure for epilepsy, but your dog's seizures can be managed with anti-epileptic drugs that they may have to take for the rest of their life. A regular blood test will ensure your dog is receiving a therapeutic dose of the drug, but this can also be determined by monitoring your dog's seizure activity. The goal of treatment is to reduce the frequency of the seizures as much as possible, but some dogs stop having seizures altogether. Your vet will also explain how to keep your dog safe during seizures. For example, your dog could experience a musculoskeletal injury if you try and restrain them when they are having a seizure. Similarly, they could get hurt when they are disorientated if there's anything in the room they could bang into.
It's important to get a formal diagnosis and seek treatment for your dog's seizures as soon as possible, as they can become more frequent without treatment.
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