Treatment

Treatment for epilepsy is decided on an individual basis and it may take some time to find the best combination and dose of drugs for your pet. You must have patience when managing an epileptic pet.

Why should epilepsy be treated?

Seizures can be both upsetting and inconvenient for the owners, but most dogs enjoy a high quality of life when treated. In addition to the stress you experience while witnessing these events, there are sound medical reasons for treating epilepsy.

The time your dog spends in a seizure can cause damage or loss of brain cells. Also, each time a seizure occurs, the likelihood of the dog having additional seizures increases.

See: “When should I contact my vet?” for more details

When should epilepsy be treated?

This should be discussed with your vet, but some guidelines for treatment are:

  • Two or more epileptic seizures within a 6 month period
  • If seizures occur in clusters (several seizures in one day) or are very severe
  • When undesirable behaviour following a seizure is considered severe (e.g. aggression, blindness) or lasts longer than 24 hours
  • The epileptic seizure frequency and/or duration is increasing and/or seizure severity is getting worse

How will my vet diagnose if my dog is epileptic?

When your vet first examines your dog they will not know whether your dog has epilepsy or another condition. It is unlikely that your vet will see your dog during an episode so it is vital that you are able to describe in detail what happens.

You might want to make notes or use your phone to video your dog during the event to show to your vet. A good description will help them decide if your pet is having a seizure or collapsing for some other reason – click here for useful tools that can help you track your pet’s seizure.

Your vet may need to run a whole range of tests to ensure that there is no other cause. These include blood tests, possibly x-rays, and your vet may even recommend a scan (MRI) of your dog’s brain. If no other cause can be found then a diagnosis of epilepsy may be made.

It is rare for epileptic dogs to stop having seizures altogether. However, provided your dog is checked regularly by your vet to make sure that the medications are not causing any side-effects, there is a good chance that they will live a full and happy life.

What can I expect from treatment?

Each dog responds differently to therapy or treatment. Although complete elimination of seizures is desirable, it is not always possible. Treatment is considered to be successful where seizures are reduced in frequency, duration and/or severity.

Remember:

Most epileptic dogs can live a long and happy life. Treatment must not be altered without prior consultation with your vet and it is essential that your dog receives the treatment prescribed. Further information is available from your vet.

Guidelines for therapy:

  1. Effectiveness of treatment should not be judged for at least 2 weeks after it has started, as the medication must be given a chance to work.
  2. It is normal for your vet to start treatment at a lower dose rate and gradually increase it to find the most suitable dose for your dog. It is possible that one or more blood tests will be needed to help with these adjustments.
  3. Regular blood tests will be required to monitor therapy as it is the level of the drug in the blood that is important and each dog may need a different dose of medication to reach this level.
  4. Medication should not be changed or stopped suddenly as this may cause a state of continuous seizuring.
  5. Medication may be required twice daily for life.
  6. No single drug or drug combination works in all cases and each dog must be treated individually. Adjustments in dose and frequency of administration may be required, but must only under the guidance of your vet.
  7. Medication must be stored in a safe place, out of the sight and reach of children.
  8. It is important to keep a record of the description, dates and times that seizures occur. This will help your vet make the dose adjustments necessary to find the best dose level for your dog – click here for useful tools that can help you track your pet’s seizure.