Seizure Treatment in Dogs

By Tess Thompson

The main symptom of feline and canine epilepsy is seizures. Seizures, however, can occur due to an underlying disease or environmental poisoning. Some very common items of human use like wool, cigarette smoke, air fresheners, cheap plastics and ceramics can lead to allergies and toxicity in domestic animals and may actually cause feline and canine seizures.

Many dogs may not have a single seizure in a lifetime while others may suffer from recurrent seizures. Opinions differ as to whether treatment should be sought immediately after the second seizure or not. Some feel that it is advisable to wait for numerous seizures to occur before contacting a veterinarian. There is a reasonable amount of experimental evidence suggesting that treatment immediately after the diagnosis is complete, results in controlling future occurrences. Once the dog has had several seizure episodes, it may be difficult to provide a long term solution.

The basic reason behind suggesting a delayed treatment is the adverse consequences of the treatment and the exacting financial and physical cost to owners. Even though the following suggestions are predominately discretionary, they should provide a reasonable guide to owners as to when to start treatment for seizures:

  • If more than one seizure occurs every month and you are unable to tolerate them.
  • In case of a severe seizure that lasts for more than five minutes or a cluster of seizures that occur one after another.
  • If the frequency of seizures increases over time.
  • If the fundamental cause of seizure has been established as a brain disease.

Seizure treatment is primarily based on anticonvulsants. Many medications used for treating human epilepsy are toxic for dogs. In some the dog eliminates them too soon to provide the desired benefits. Phenobarbitone is usually preferred over bromide and diazepam for its quicker results. Bromide is preferred for dogs that have a low frequency of seizures or a history of liver disease. Diazepam is not suitable as maintenance treatment as the effect on dogs is not long lasting.

While treating seizures, the quantity of the administered drug is not as important as its concentration in the blood. The concentration of phenobarbitone and bromide must be maintained within the therapeutic range for maximum benefit and minimum toxicity. For this purpose, monitoring through regular blood tests is extremely important for long term benefits.

Due consideration has also to be paid to individual responses to the drug. Some dogs may require concentration to be maintained at the top end while others may respond better at lower or the end of the therapeutic range.

Regular monitoring means that you should get blood tests done every two weeks after starting or changing the dose. Further attention to monitoring is required if the frequency of seizures increases or drug related side effects are suspected. In addition, every three to six months from the start of treatment there is a need to check whether the concentration of the drug is within the desired therapeutic range.


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