Canine epilepsy is usually seen in patients aged between one and three years of age. Epilepsy leads to seizures and these generally have four stages including the proderm(hours before), aura (minutes before) , ictal (during) and post ictal (after). In the proderm, aura and post ictal phases, behavioral changes may be noted. During the ictal phase, loss of consciousness and muscle convulsions may occur.
Seizures can be further classified as focal or generalized. Some patients will have focal seizure activity that will progress if left untreated. During focal seizures, only a single side of the brain is affected, whilst in a generalized both sides are involved. Focal seizures usually present as involuntary limb of facial movements. Consciousness is not always affected. Generalized seizures are usually characterized by involuntary movements and loss of consciousness. Seizures can occur in small clusters or go on for a prolonged amount of time (grand mal or tonic-clonicseizures).
Testing is a process of eliminations and may include blood tests, spinal fluid analysis and advanced imaging for the brain (CT or MRI). A tentative diagnosis and response to treatment can be used in some patients with idiopathic epilepsy. It is still unclear if there is a gender predisposition, with some clinical studies showing males are more likely to be affected.
There is a known genetic basis in some breeds including the Keeshonds, German shepherds, Border Collie, Labradors and Golden Retrievers. In general epilepsy is more difficult to control in large breed dogs. Anticonvulsants therapy is the treatment of choice for idiopathic epilepsy. Multiple therapies may be needed in some patients and blood tests and ongoing monitoring are required. Patients with epilepsy can live a long and happy life; however require ongoing management, medications and dedicated owners.
By Dr. Alice Edwards