Category Archives: Canine Epilepsy

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Our Dog Has Epilepsy

Our dog is epileptic. This is not news to us.

Our five year old Labrador, Riddick, was diagnosed with Canine Epilepsy a little over a year ago.
This is also not the first time we’ve had an epileptic dog – our mixed breed rescue, Louise, crossed the rainbow bridge just over a year ago due to cancer, but she was medicated for epilepsy for a few years before she died. She was fairly stable, with occasional general seizures, but she picked up weight – a common side effect – and we had to put her on a strict diet.

Thankfully Riddick did not gain weight on the Phenobarbitone medication (AKA Phenobarbital, Pb), but he did experience a few of the other side-effects of the AED – lethargy, sedation, loss of coordination, increased thirst, a bigger appetite, and an increase in urination. Long-term use of Pb can also affect the liver, and this concerned me as he was only four years old when he started on the meds, but we monitored the levels of Pb in his system with blood tests.

The “fun” part about treating our Riddick (he’s diabetic as well) is that he doesn’t EVER react to meds the way the vet expects him to! He even has professors baffled! This means we have got to know our vets very well, and Riddick loves them.
Riddick hit an especially rough patch last month, where he seemed to develop a rare sensitivity to the Pb that severely affected his mobility – it made his hind end completely weak and it was about two weeks before he was strong enough to get up, walk, and busy on his own without assistance, and another two weeks or so before he was back to normal. We had to lift him and carry him as he got stronger every day, and during that time we weaned him off the Pb tablets (the only way to fix the hind end weakness) and started him on a new AED with fewer side effects, but it was really rough on all of us!
We are exhausted.

Living with an epileptic dog has proved to be really stressful, even when their epilepsy is relatively under control. If they hit a rough patch where their meds need to be changed or they are having seizures, it can be exhausting. And finding the right meds can be a challenge – especially if your dog is like Riddick! The majority of dogs are successfully treated for epilepsy with Phenobarbitone tablets (about 20c a pill), but as our Riddick has now shown he may have a sensitivity to the Pb, we have to switch to a new, imported option, Pexion, at R12 a tablet!

With the last month so difficult for our Riddick, it made us reluctant to leave him at home without someone to watch over him. And I find myself watching Riddick’s every move to look for his “aura” – the little signs he shows when a seizure is pending. I don’t sleep too deeply because I am listening for him… And as he can’t go everywhere with us, we have become a little home-bound…

Yes, I know – he’s a dog, not a child – but he’s my dog, and I love him very much.

Riddick’s epilepsy is also different to Louise’s. Where she would have a general seizure every other month or so, and be absolutely fine in between, Riddick typically has what is called a focal seizure. He is wobbly and disoriented, his head and front legs twitch, but he is still fairly aware, and this is when he paces and walks into things. These fits can last a few minutes and take him about an hour to recover from, or he can have a few of them in a row and they absolutely exhaust him.
Occasionally he has a general seizure, a grand mal seizure which is very scary to watch. He lies on the floor, thrashing and flailing, his jaws pulled wide in a grimace, and he pees himself. This kind of fit will exhaust him for half a day, and immediately after the fit he has no idea where he is, who I am, or how to navigate his house. This can last quite some time. At the same time he is super-hyper-excited, but also unsteady on his feet, and he wants water but he doesn’t know where the bowl is. He can be quite a handful until he is back to normal! And for several hours after this kind fit he is very insecure and will stay as close to me as he can get.
Hopefully his new medication will prevent him getting any fits at all.

With the help of many wonderful friends, we got a Holistic Vet disability harness for Riddick a few months ago, because when he is having a seizure – or recovering from a seizure – he tends to want to pace and walk around (also one of his “aura” signs). The worse he feels, the more he walks into things and falls over his own feet, so the harness helps us help him – we can stop him walking into things and I can keep him from losing his balance.
When he is having a seizure, the harness helps me pull him away from walls or furniture so he doesn’t hurt himself.
When we got the harness, we only needed the front half to steady him during and after a fit, but when we went through the days where he couldn’t walk on his own – the full harness proved invaluable in assisting our 35kg boy to walk and busy until he could stay on his own feet again.
I wish I could give each and every one of those dear people a big hug! I don’t know what we would have done without the harness!

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So here’s my two cents if you have an epileptic dog.

Whether or not they are on medication, keep a careful log of their seizures as this can be invaluable to your vet – or to a new vet. I have found this is a great way for ME to stay calm and focused during a fit, and I guarantee you won’t be able to remember every detail and every date when you get to the vet!

Try to note the time and duration of the seizures, and what your dog does during the fit. Note how long it takes for your dog to recover and how they behave after the fit. Try to note whether your dog was playing or sleeping shortly before the fit, or if something else happened that may have triggered it – maybe they were surprised by a sudden noise or some such.

Also record changes to your dog’s diet or environment (new house, new dog, new baby), as well as vaccination dates, vet trips, whether you missed a medication dose, even weird weather!

Make sure you know your vet’s hours, as well as where your nearest 24-hour emergency vet is. And if you go to the vet, take your log book with you.

If possible, get copies of blood test results from your vet that you can take with you if you have to go to a different vet.

Be aware of your other dogs while your dog is seizing. If you have more than one dog, a seizure may trigger an instinctive “pack” reaction causing the other dogs to try and attack the “weaker” animal.

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Our Riddick’s Epilepsy

We started Riddick on 4 Lethyl tablets twice a day on August 29th 2016, so he’s been on meds for a little over 8 months now.

Two days after we started him on the Phenobarbitol I dropped his pills from 4 twice a day to 3 because he was so doped and zombie-like… It broke my heart, so I decided to decrease his meds a little in the hopes it would still work.
About two weeks later we did blood tests to see what levels the meds had reached in his system, and whilst it was on the lower end of the acceptable range, it was on target, and his seizures decreased and he was fine for almost 3 months.
December we hit a rough patch again, but it was short-lived and he seemed good again.
The earlier this year, based on what we had been through with him, we were all but convinced that our Riddick’s seizures were from his low blood sugar, not from epilepsy. So in February I decided to bite the bullet and see for sure. I started weaning him from 3 Phenobarbitone tablets twice a day, two 2 tablets twice a day. And from 1 March I reduced it further to 1 tablet twice a day.
Then he had a big seizure, and we increased his meds to three tablets twice a day again.

Then, two weeks ago, he started having the weird wobbly-twitchy fits (that we had thought were caused by low blood sugar).
On these graphs you can see how his blood sugar readings have stayed nicely on the low end of normal, but his seizures have increased.

And yes, I keep very detailed records of Riddick’s diabetes and epilepsy on excel, and in a book! My husband says I’m making our vet’s life too easy… 😛

We popped in to the vet after a week of daily fits, and he has recommended increasing the meds by half, so he’s getting 4 tablets in the morning and 5 at night (9 tablets a day).
Yesterday and today he had one very mild, and very short lived twitchy-wobbly fit early in the morning, but today he is VERY spaced out and quiet. This sedation is a side-effect of the epilepsy meds, and it should get better, but its SO not like our boy… 😦

I am determined to get his seizures stable again, so I am going to wait out the increased meds for at least a week… And luckily I now have putting his harness down to a fine art.

Our Riddick’s Epilepsy

Our precious Riddick woke me at 3:50 this morning, pacing our bedroom. 😦

Pacing is a big part of his pre-seizure “aura”, and the pacing gradually gets worse with him walking into walls and furniture, and falling over forwards. 😥
I quickly put his harness on, and he went outside for a busy. Then I took him to the living room (which has no furniture ATM) so I could let him pace without walking into anything, and have space to move him if he had a seizure. After a while I got him to lie down on a towel in the middle of the lounge and I sat next to him.
He had a seizure, but one of his weird twitchy ones, thankfully not a full grand mal.

He slept on the towel next to me for a while, and I waited until his twitching had completely stopped before I woke him and took him back to his bed in the bedroom.

He was still a little restless, but mostly he slept until my alarm went off at 5:45. He was still a little wobbly, but much more himself, and starving!

His blood sugar was nice and Riddick-normal, which I was glad about.

I took him with me in the car when we dropped my husband off for work – I don’t take Riddick every time but I wanted to keep an eye on him.
The fact that he was quietly sitting or lying in the back seat told me he definitely was not himself! Normally he stands with his head between the front seats, trying to rest his head on our shoulders, and squeak-groans almost all the time.

Last night, Riddick’s behaviour was a little “off”, so I was sort of expecting a seizure. He didn’t come when called, he barked a lot at nothing we could see or hear, and he didn’t respond to our emergency recall word at all – which is very unusual.

We were 32 days seizure free, and I haven’t skimped on his meds… If this trend continues I can live with one seizure a month. 😥

I’m A Bad Dog Mom… :(

I am feeling SO guilty and so bad for my poor Riddick!

I’ll start with his epilepsy.

Yes – start – its been that kinda week.

Since his seizures started, my Glugster and I have been all but convinced that our Riddick’s seizures were from his low blood sugar, not from epilepsy. So in February I decided to bite the bullet and see for sure. I started weaning him from 3 Phenobarbitone tablets twice a day, two 2 tablets twice a day. And from 1 March I reduced it further to 1 tablet twice a day. He seemed fine – we were on 70 days seizure free – and then last night he ahd a massive grand mal fit! 😥 He threw up first, and he was a little wobbly so I immediately put his harness on him, and then after a few minutes he lay down and had a proper epileptic fit. Thrashing on the floor and peeing himself. Thanks to his harness we were able to pull him away from the wall and lift him a little to put a towel under him. 😥
My poor boy seized for a good 5 minutes, and then he was exhausted as well as disoriented. After he walked around the house – like it was a new place – and went out for some water, he got on his bed and stayed there until about 3h45 this morning.
Today he seems like himself again, thank goodness, but he is still wearing his harness just in case – as we now have to increase the Phenobarbitone levels in his blood again.

Thank you – BIG TIME – to everyone who helped with a donation to buy the harness for him. It has been invaluable in aiding my boy. And I have now put bells on it so I can hear it when he moves around.

The other reason we were at the vet first thing this morning, was Riddick’s burnt rump.
Last Saturday, we had friends over for a braai, and when it started raining the braai was moved under the gazebo among the chairs.
At one point he moved between the braai and the chairs and the people sitting there didn’t realise he was leaning against the hot braai box until he jumped and ran away.
Luckily his thick hair caught most of the heat so its a very shallow burn, and we were treating it with some Hibitane and Germolene – but his incessant licking, and then lying on his burn during his seizure rubbed it raw again. I was looking at it this morning to treat it and found another wound beneath it that neither I nor the vet had noticed on Tuesday! The burn is shallow, but there are two sections!
We have a new cream, with some cortisone to help the itching, but if he keeps licking we’re going to have to cone him. :/

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Update on Riddick

We haven’t had to put his harness on every day in a few weeks now, and we haven’t had any seizures, thank goodness!
He loves his ball, and he loves playing, even when the other dogs get to the ball first!
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Its been weeks since he had blood drawn, but the hair on the patch on his leg that was shaved hasn’t grown back properly yet.
His sugar is kind of under control. Its fine for a day or two and then it goes up, then fine for a day or two again.
His vision has definitely deteriorated. 😦 He’s not seeing some closed doors – he sees a dark shape in a light wall, like it could be an opening. And the other day I put his bowl down in front of him and it wasn’t exactly in the corner like it usually is, and it took him a second to realise it was closer to him than usual.

He gets very disoriented when we have a house full of dogs. More than one extra puppy and he literally gets pushed out of the way when he tries to come for a cuddle. And when they play around him he tries to join in but he gets turned around and you can clearly see he’s not quite sure he’s facing the direction he wants to go anymore.
Sometimes he thinks there’s still a dog in the garden with him and he’ll stand facing where he thinks they are and bark, but they’ve already moved out of his way.
My poor baby.
He’s a happy, snuggly puppy, and he makes his face all soft for me when he comes and asks for a love, and he laughs like a seal when I play with him and cuddle him.
So we’ll be keeping the visiting dogs to a minimum from now on, and we’re going to be working on some ideas to put into place to help him find his way when he gets off track.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to get him one of these
The pictures are not really related to the news, he’s just so gorgeous I have to show off. 😛

All About Our Riddick!

We’ve had a rough few months with our Riddick! Wow!

Around July, Riddick’s diabetes was no longer under control. We’d been going great guns till then, but things were going downhill fast.
We went back to the vet to do a sugar curve – as we do every month or so, just to make sure he’s still stable – and we had to make the decision to switch to the special prescribed diet for diabetic dogs. We didn’t switch when he was diagnosed as Riddick wasn’t overweight, and we didn’t want him to be starving while we worked to get his blood sugar under control.
We did a nine-day switch from the Supreme Pet Elite to the Hills Prescription Diet W/D, and while we were switching – I ended up in hospital for a week and my poor husband had to take over everything!

Riddick's

Riddick’s “log book” for his blood sugar readings, this goes with us to the vet too. On the right I track his blood sugar readings and on the left I note fits, when I start a new glucose bottle, and any other changes or incidents!

Once the switch was complete, everything seemed to go so well for a while… And then his blood sugar was dropping way too low, and he was having seizures.
Unfortunately, it turned out some of the seizures were epileptic seizures, not just due to low blood sugar! We’d sort of been expecting this diagnosis, having seen one or two fits in the last few months, but now he needed medication for that too. Putting him on the Phenobarbitone tablets made him dreadfully groggy and unstable, and recovering from a fit made him groggy and unstable, and it made him thirsty and it made him pee more – just like diabetes symptoms… It was a dreadful few weeks! 😦
I was so worried about him! He couldn’t find his way around the garden or the house, after his worst seizure one Sunday night, he didn’t even recognise me! 😥
Here’s one of my Facebook updates from that time (I took this picture on one of his worst days – he barely moved that day).

I spend half my day in tears and the other half stressing... watching my precious Riddick, my bouncy, noisy hooligan stumbling around, falling over his own feet, trying to play but doing everything in slow motion... 😢💔 I pray with all my heart that he'll adjust to his meds soon and be seizure free and back to his old self again. 😔

I spend half my day in tears and the other half stressing… watching my precious Riddick, my bouncy, noisy hooligan stumbling around, falling over his own feet, trying to play but doing everything in slow motion… 😢💔 I pray with all my heart that he’ll adjust to his meds soon and be seizure free and back to his old self again. 😔

When he was coming out of a fit, I was trying to support him and help him find his water and have a pee, but I wasn’t coping – he has no handles! Then I did some late-night Googling and found a harness that would come in real handy for him, but the one I found at a local supplier cost R900… And then our friends blew us away by “crowdfunding” the cost of the harness! We are extremely grateful, and it made such a huge difference! I could actually help him walk, find the water bowl, have a pee – without breaking my back or hurting him!

Here's Riddick in his Holisticvet harness! I'm not using the back half of the harness at this point - its detachable, so if he needs it we can use it too. I've already had to use the harness, he had a bit of a twitchy-fit when we got to Doggy Paddle - Animal Hydrotherapy Centre, so we had to wait for him to come out of it to fit it properly, and then they had to help me get him in the car again. :( When we got home he was still very wobbly, so I had to help him walk to get water and have a busy, then I put him on his bed. The harness is made to be worn for extended periods of time, so I'm going to leave it on during the day and take it off at night.

Here’s Riddick in his Holisticvet harness! I’m not using the back half of the harness at this point – its detachable, so if he needs it we can use it too. I’ve already had to use the harness, he had a bit of a twitchy-fit when we got to Doggy Paddle, so we had to wait for him to come out of it to fit the harness properly, and then they had to help me get him in the car. 😦 When we got home he was still very wobbly, so I had to help him walk to get water and have a busy, then I put him on his bed. The harness is made to be worn for extended periods of time, so I’m going to leave it on during the day and take it off at night.

Guide-Dog-puppy Xander was very concerned about Riddick, and tried to stay close and comfort him after his seizures.

Guide-Dog-puppy Xander was very concerned about Riddick, and tried to stay close and comfort him after his seizures.

It took a few weeks for the side effects from the Phenobarbitone to settle down, and to get his sugar back on track. He had back-to-back sugar curves that left his ears full of little pin-prick holes from the glucometer blood tests – its the best place to get the little blood sample needed for the glucometer test strip!

Riddick's ears full of little holes from two days of sugar curves!

Riddick’s ears full of little holes from two days of sugar curves!

Thankfully we’ve now reached a point where I don’t have to put his harness on when he wakes up anymore – I have mastered clipping it on the second he shows signs of a seizure!

There was one Sunday we had to work, and I couldn't leave Riddick home unsupervised, so my sister looked after him for the day and he had a wonderful time! It was such a weight off our shoulders knowing he was being watched!

There was one Sunday we had to work, and I couldn’t leave Riddick home unsupervised, so my sister looked after him for the day and he had a wonderful time! It was such a weight off our shoulders knowing he was being watched!

The other time we spent the day away from home, we took Riddick with us. He's very vocal and fidgety in the car, unless I sit in the back seat with him, or he's in the front footwell with me! When we picked up my mom to go with us, I sat in the back seat with Riddick, and he happily lay down and napped!

The other time we spent the day away from home, we took Riddick with us. He’s very vocal and fidgety in the car, unless I sit in the back seat with him, or he’s in the front footwell with me! When we picked up my mom to go with us, I sat in the back seat with Riddick, and he happily lay down and napped!

We seem to be finally on the road to normality… His weight is holding steady at about 35.5kg, which is perfect for him. Apart from when he feasts on fallen mulberries in the garden and pushes his blood sugar up, it seems to have normalised. We now have not had a seizure in 12 days. His blood tests showed the Phenobarbitone levels at the lower end of the scale for his size, but no seizures means its working.

I had to redo Riddick's name tag to add the epilepsy diagnosis, and I had the one with the heart on it made for the people who donated money for his harness!

I had to redo Riddick’s name tag to add the epilepsy diagnosis, and I had the one with the heart on it made for the people who donated money for his harness!

We also got him a big Nylabone to chew on and play with, because he can have it as much as he likes without affecting his blood sugar!

What To Do…

Crapsticks…

Yesterday afternoon we left home at 2:30PM to deliver a cake and cupcakes to – and then attend – a wedding in Roodepoort. We left too early and got back too late to feed the animals their supper, but they got breakfast as usual…

And then Louise had a seizure this morning. A big one. One where she’s sore and exhausted from seizing and starts this panting scream towards the end that sounds like something a jackal would do…

Giving her meds to her too early yesterday would most likely have had the same effect, but the fact that she can’t skip even one dose without having a fit really worries me.

And she took a while to recover from this one too. After a big seizure like this one she’s like a zombie for a while, walking in circles and bumping into things, not responding to her name… And while she’s seizing and until she’s herself again, the other dogs are freaked out too. They bark at her and lunge at her as if they think she’s playing.
I chase them out of the room or outside so I can stroke her and talk softly to her and make sure the space around her stays clear, I don’t think she can hear me but I like to think it helps soothe her stress a little… And when she’s up and walking around again the other dogs sniff her and approach her as if she’s a stranger.

I don’t know what we can do. She’s on the highest dose of medication we can give her.

Thelma and Louise

When we moved into this house at the beginning of July, I think the girls had flashbacks of being abandoned when their previous owners moved, and it took them a few days to realise everything was still fine and to start eating properly.

It didn’t occur to me that it would stress them that much, but I didn’t make a fuss and with their normal routine being followed they settled down.
Their igloo kennel is in the back garden, under the carport roof, and facing the garage door to keep out as much wind as possible.

Where I put their kennel, the ground is covered by gravel, and Thelma doesn’t like walking on it! Its too comical to see her take a long path around it as much as possible when I call her inside!

The new house’s garden is huge, and Thelma and Louise both go on “patrol” a couple of times a day.

What is very different here is that the house is all on one level where the previous house had all the bedrooms upstairs, and Thelma and Louise didn’t know how to climb stairs! Now I can call them inside and straight down the passage to the bedroom where I do all my admin and they can chill there with the puppies (who never had any qualms about climbing stairs).

I even allow them on my bed sometimes and then have Thelma and Louise AND Riddick on the bed with me!

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Lately they have taken to snoozing inside the puppy crate if I don’t let them get on the bed. I don’t think they’d like it if I closed it, but they’re quite comfy in there.
They still sleep in their enclosed “box” in the diningroom at night as Louise won’t always wait until she’s let outside to have a piddle.

Labrador puppy-in-training Lennox will even be allowed to lie next to them – if he behaves!

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Thelma remains the healthier of the two dogs, not even picking up a bug if Louise gets sick. And she is still the thinner of the two, even though she’ll finish Louise’s food wen Louise doesn’t eat everything! And *touch wood* Louise hasn’t had a seizure in a couple of months now… I don’t want to say it out loud for fear of jinxing it!

They really are the sweetest girls, and they’re loving being able to check out the whole house – including the bedrooms – when they’re inside with us!

Louise Is On Meds Now…

This Sunday past my poor Louise had THREE epileptic seizures!
Her last one (that I witnessed) was in December and before that, starting in August or so, there was maybe one a month… but I didn’t see them I only saw the aftermath so I am not 100% sure.
On Monday we went to the vet and we had a detailed discussion about her history and behaviour, and she had a thorough physical as well. She is slightly overweight at 11.7kg, and her teeth are going to need scaling in the next few months, but apart from that her coat is lovely and shiny and she is healthy over all. Unfortunately we have no idea of her exact age or pedigree so we don’t know much about her history, but the vet was quite satisfied to diagnose her with canine epilepsy, and has prescribed Lethyl 30mg tablets for her to have twice a day- at breakfast and supper.
Luckily its easy to give Louise meds, a little piece of bread with some peanut butter gets the pill stuck inside it and she swallows it in one gulp!
He warned us that the meds may make her drowsy for a couple of days as she adjusts to it, but that that will stop soon enough.
We may also have to relook her meds or her dose if she has another seizure as she can become accustomed to the medication over time, but I am hoping that won’t happen soon and she will be seizure free from now on.
If you would like to know what it looks like, you can see some canine epilepsy seizure videos on YouTube.

Louise Is Epileptic!

My sweet Louise (the black dog) had a seizure on Friday night and thoroughly freaked out my son and his friends as they were all sitting on the patio with Thelma and Louise at their feet.

As soon as I walked outside and saw her lying on her side “running” in the air and foaming at the mouth I knew it was an epileptic fit.
As she stopped twitching she sat up and looked at me- I had gone to sit next to her– but she didn’t “see” me, if you know what I mean? She then immediately ran to do her busies and then went looking for water. She was all nervous and wanted to come into the house so I let her and Thelma come in earlier than they usually do and made sure Louise was warm and comfortable.
I called the vet’s emergency number and chatted to him, and given that she hasn’t been sick in the last few days or weeks, epilepsy is the most likely culprit.
I then also chatted to him about what I’d seen over the last few months and I concluded that she must have had at least 4 seizures that I didn’t see happen, I only saw her afterwards. And when I saw her face covered in white foam in November and concluded that she had suddenly come down with kennel cough again- even though I hadn’t seen any other symptoms- it must have been soon after a fit. She salivates so much during a seizure that her whole face and neck is sopping wet, and I have seen her with a wet face on a few occasions and not known what caused it.
She hasn’t had another seizure, but I will be taking her to the vet as soon as I can so that we can arrange tests and medication for her. The meds should prevent any more seizures.