Seizure Disorders in Dalmatians
The following articles have been written by
Dr. Anita Tate, Marion Mitchell & Jennifer Johnson Glaser
Seizure Disorders are muscle responses to an abnormal nerve-signal burst from the brain. They are a symptom of an underlying neurologic dysfunction. Toxic substances, metabolic or electrolyte abnormalities and /or imbalances cause an uncoordinated firing of neurons in the cerebrum of the brain, creating seizures from mild "petit mal " to severe "grand mal". Dalmatians like many other breeds may have a seizure disorder.
There are four basic stages to a seizure:
1. The Prodome, may precede the seizure by hours or days. It is characterized by changes in mood or behavior.
2. The Aura, signals the start of a seizure. Nervousness, whining, trembling, salivation, affection, wandering, restlessness, hiding and apprehension are all signals.
3. The Ictus, the actual seizure. A period of intense physical activity usually lasting 45 seconds to 3 minutes. The dog may lose consciousness and fall to the ground. There maybe teeth gnashing, frantic thrashing of limbs, excessive drooling, vocalizing, paddling of feet, uncontrollable urination and defecation.
4. The Post Ictus, after the seizure the dog may pace endlessly, appear blind and deaf and eat or drink excessively.
The Cause, anything that disrupts normal brain circuitry:
Idiopathic Epilepsy, meaning no known cause and possibly inherited. This is also referred to as Primary Epilepsy. Check history of pedigree and make sure your veterinarian has looked for possible underlying factors.
Seizures caused by other factors are referred to as Secondary Epilepsy.
*Congenital hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
*Infections causing brain damage (such as canine distemper, Cryptococcosis, Toxoplasmosis)
*Ingestions of toxins (such as lead paint chips, insecticides)
*Portosystemic shunts. Improperly routed intestinal blood vessels bypass the liver (one of the body's important waste-product detoxifiers)
Types of Seizures:
Mild, (Petit Mal) this can be a simple as momentarily staring into space, or upward eye movement.
Moderate, (Grand Mal) the dog falls down, loses consciousness and extends its limbs rigidly. Paddling of limbs, salivation followed by possible loss of control of bladder and bowels and vocalization (blood curdling scream) usually follows. This may occur for 3-5 minutes and is most often followed by a period of restlessness, pacing, bumping into objects and loss of balance. The dog is conscious but may appear deaf, blind and disoriented. Great care must be taken to prevent the dog from injuring itself at this time.
Severe (Status Epilepticus and Cluster Seizures) Status Epilepticus, status can occur as one continuous seizure lasting 30 minutes or more, or a series of multiple seizures in a short time with no periods of normal consciousness, this may be life threatening.
Cluster Seizures, multiple seizures within a short period of time, may also be life threatening.
It is often difficult to distinguish between the two types and veterinarian assistance is necessary.
Seizure medications & alternative medicine
~Phenobarbital & Potassium Bromide
Most dogs can be controlled by using Phenobarbital and/or Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide. Potassium Bromide is used alone if the dog's liver has become damaged by Phenobarbital. Both drugs are available from your veterinarian in pill, capsule or liquid form. Primadone, once commonly used, metabolizes to Phenobarbital in the liver. With prolonged treatment, it has been reported to produce high concentrations of liver enzymes. Valium, injectable or rectal, is a good choice to halt a cluster seizure or interrupt status epilepticus. Dilantin, is currently not recommended for use.
Some common side effects of these drugs include, damage to the liver, ataxia (muscle weakness in the hindquarters), increased appetite and thirst, and increased urination.
Regardless of the medication utilized, it is important to run frequent blood level tests to assure the proper therapeutic range has been achieved. To avoid compromising the liver, a liver function and bile acid test is suggested twice a year.
Alternative medicine is gaining favor in the treatment of canine epilepsy. Some of the methods used are: acupuncture, gold bead implants on the acupuncture points in the head, neck and back, gold wires in the ears, Chinese Herbs, various homeopathic remedies and flower essences. Supplements of Vitamins and minerals are also utilized along with a natural food kibble without chemical preservatives, or a home cooked diet. Bach's Rescue Remedy has been found to be quite effective in preventing most of the postictal stage of a seizure, and even stopping a seizure once it has started. However, as with any other medication, it doesn't work on all dogs. Alternative medicine can be used in conjunction with traditional medications. The hope is that the Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide dose can be decreased and in some cases eliminated all together. An excellent source of information can be found on the World Wide Web at http:/www.altvetmed.com/toc.html
~Helpful Hints for Owners of Seizing Dogs~
Safeguard your dogs space by providing a quiet, stable environment. When you go out, restrict your dogs access to stairways, pool or anything that might fall on your dog or become a danger to it during a seizure. An airline type kennel with generous padding is the safest way. At night time the use of a baby monitor may be useful if the dog sleeps in another room.
Post your veterinarians number and phone numbers close to the phone for efficient assistance. In the event your dog is lost during the disorientation phase, proper identification is necessary. Microchips, tattoos and medical alert tags are helpful.
Handling a Seizure
Keep your hands away from the dogs mouth. The dog will not swallow its tongue, but may unintentionally bite you. Gently pull the dog by the scruff of its neck away from adjacent dangers (stairs, streets, pool, fireplace, and electrical wires) If your dog is on a hard surface, a blanket or something soft under the head my help to avoid injury. If the seizure last more than five minutes or if several shorter seizures occur consecutively, get a veterinarian or emergency assistance immediately.
Helping your dog after a Seizure
Following a seizure, your dog may be completely disoriented and will attempt to restore its bodies needs, hunger, thirst deep sleep, barking and insecurity are all normal. Allow your dog to drink freely and eat small amounts of food; however avoid excessive food consumption because it could trigger vomiting. If your dog is pacing or seems disoriented, confine it to a comfortable crate or a small room to prevent injury until normal behavior returns. If overheating occurs due to prolonged or multiple seizures, a blowing fan, wet jacket, or cool cloths applied to the feet and abdomen will assist in the cool down. If you have multiple dogs, separation or protection may be necessary. A seizing dog can trigger the "pack" instinct in which an injured animal is attacked. Monitor your other dogs in this situation.
In summary, following the seizure, clinical signs include, bumping into walls and doors, restlessness, autonomic discharge and transient blindness. For many owners, this is just as distressing as the actual seizure. Always remain calm - your dogs behavior often reflects your behavior. If your dog is anxious or fearful, sit and comfort it. Now its your turn to be the companion animal.
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