Recurrent seizures are more of a canine concern than feline; epilepsy being the most common reason behind them. Although single or infrequent seizures do not call for any treatment, it is suggested that early treatment helps in controlling future episodes in dogs.
There are many reasons why medication for seizures fail, the most prominent among them being wrong administration of the drug. Many times an improper diagnosis or judgmental errors in drug therapy too may cause failure of medications. In either case, if the medication fails to produce the desired results a referral to a neurologist is called for.
There are other conditions that can produce symptoms similar to a seizure. Dogs are prone to develop severe inflammation in the inner ear due to parasitic infestation or bacterial infections. This can disturb the vestibular system responsible for equilibrium and cause dizzy spells and loss of balance. Dogs with a heart problem may have fainting spells. Sleep disorders can give rise to episodic collapse and hyperactivity while dreaming. Some movement disorders too can produce symptoms that mimic those of epileptic seizures.
All the above make it necessary that a complete history is presented to the veterinarian when he examines the dog physically in order to arrive at a conclusion. If the seizures have been caused by epilepsy, the goal of the anti-epileptic drugs is to control seizures. As the disease cannot be eliminated, owners should be ready for a life long treatment. Epilepsy may be primary, which is idiopathic, or secondary, (acquired) for which there is always an identifiable disease that causes it. When the cause of epilepsy is known the primary focus of medication is to first treat the underlying disease. However, more often than not, epilepsy is mostly idiopathic and medication for seizures must be administered.
Anticonvulsant therapy is available for all cases of seizures, whether they are mild, severe or partial. Medication is usually prescribed if the dog has recurrent seizures such as two in a year or more or cluster seizures that result in disruption in both the animal and the owner’s lifestyle.
The preferred drugs are Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide. Primidone, which is ultimately converted to Phenobarbital by the body, is preferred for feline seizures. Phenobarbital has therapeutic values and if the concentration of the drug is monitored regularly it can provide a long term solution for seizures. Anticonvulsants may be used alone or in combination to reduce side effects of long term use of each drug. Diazepam (Valium) is primarily a tranquilizer but has been found to be effective in management of status epilectus, the severest form of an epileptic seizure.
Pure breeds are more genetically predisposed to cluster seizures. Breeds like German and Belgian Shepherd Dog (Tervuren), Beagle, Saint Bernard, Irish Setter and Dachshund are difficult to control with anticonvulsants as their mode of action fails to lessen the intensity of cluster seizures and status epilectus.
Only in rare cases anti-epileptic medication can be weaned off without seizures occurring again, as when an underlying disease has been identified and cured. Discontinuing medication for seizures requires extreme patience and should never be discontinued unless the veterinarian advises it.