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What you should know about canine epilepsy

Epilepsy is not commonly spoken about, however it is the most common neurological disorder seen in dogs and is estimated to affect 0.75% of dogs. Whilst there is no cure for epilepsy, it's important to note that dogs with epilepsy can lead full and happy lives with the right level of care.

What is canine epilepsy?

Epileptic seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, and dogs can experience 3 different types of seizures each with its own symptoms:

1. Focal seizure

Occur only in small regions within half of the dog's brains. Symptoms will depend on which region of the brain has been affected:
·         Unusual movements such as head shaking, repeated muscle contractions on one limb or rhythmic eye blinking signify abnormal activity in the motor region of your dog’s brain
·         Dilated pupils, vomiting and excessive salivation indicate abnormal electrical activity in the autonomic nervous system
·         Restlessness, unexplained fear or anxiety may also occur from other areas of your dog’s brain

2. Generalised seizure

Occur on both sides of the brain. Often, dogs going through generalised seizures will black out, urinate or defecate. As opposed to focal seizures which can affect a single limb, generalised seizures will affect both sides of your dog's body. Symptoms include:
·         Muscle contractions or stiffening which can last from seconds to minutes
·         Jerking motions
·         Muscle contractions that turn into jerking
·         Sporadic jerking
·         Collapsing and becoming unconscious

3. Focal to generalised seizures

Quite often, focal seizures quickly turn into generalised seizures. It can happen so quickly that the focal seizure isn’t even picked up.

As we mentioned, there is no cure for canine epilepsy, however, treatments are available to help manage the condition and ensure your dog leads a full life.
Your vet or veterinary neurologist will be able to test your pooch and prescribe the best medication to manage the type of seizures your dog is experiencing. Your vet will take into consideration your dog’s overall health, size and age.

It’s a common myth that you can’t leave dogs with epilepsy at home on their own – this is simply untrue! So long as your pooch has been given their medication at the right time (generally this should be at the same time every day), and you provide a safe and comfortable space, your dog will be just fine.