Treatment of Epilepsy in Dogs

By Tess Thompson

Treating feline and canine epilepsy can be as frustrating as the disease itself. It involves constant monitoring with bi-weekly blood tests to check the concentration of the drug that has been administered. Monitoring the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures is also necessary. Moreover, as seizures occur suddenly it is important for you to closely observe the symptoms present during a seizure and report them accurately and in great detail to the veterinarian. This helps in diagnosing and deciding the specific course of treatment. In many cases the threshold of tolerance of owners is often crossed with the frequent recurrence of seizures and the time required for monitoring an epileptic dog.

The first anti-epileptic drug, bromide, was discovered during Victorian times. It was later dropped as a viable treatment because of the psychological problems it caused in humans. Later, veterinarians rediscovered the drug for treating dogs since it was confirmed that the drug did not cause such psychological problems in dogs. Bromide is combined with either sodium or potassium to form crystals like table salt and packed in capsules for administration. The drug has a long half life and therefore it takes a fair amount of time for it to be eliminated from the body. The slow acting drug, therefore also has a lag time before the effects of the drug are actually seen too.

With the discovery of Phenobarbital, bromide has been relegated for use in specific cases of epilepsy where the dog is diabetic. Moreover, bromide was never approved by the FDA and veterinarians had been seeking special permission for its use. Primidone is another drug used for treating epilepsy. It works in the same manner as Phenobarbital since gets converted to Phenobarbital in the body. As Phenobarbital is available in liquid as well as tablet form of varied potencies, it can be used for dogs of all sizes and ages.

Diazepam, the generic name for better known drug, Valium, has limited effect on dogs and looses its effectiveness if administered daily. Although a tranquilizer, it is an effective way of treating a dog while the seizure is in progress. However, it is not recommended for preventive treatment.

Newer drugs like Carbamazepine, Lamotrigine and Valproate semisodium, that are now being used more frequently for human epilepsy may not be suited for dogs due to the easy elimination of the drug and the toxicity that they are liable to cause to dogs.

The side effects of anti-epileptic drugs must be weighed in relation to the risks of frequent epileptic feline and canine seizures. Treatment of epilepsy mainly involves anticonvulsants that have a sedative effect. The dog is liable to be lethargic when the drug is introduced or when the dosage is increased.

Seizures can also be caused by reasons other than epilepsy. Administration of medication must follow recommended dosage If the dog does not respond to treatment then the most likely cause is to be found in incorrect diagnosis, insufficient dosage, wrong choice of drug or resistance to the therapeutic effect of medication.


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