Epilepsy in dogs: Understanding, diagnosing and treating

L’épilepsie chez le chien : Comprendre, diagnostiquer et traiter

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What is epilepsy in dogs?

Canine epilepsy is a complex neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

This pathology, similar to human epilepsy, affects a significant proportion of the canine population. Statistics show that epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders in dogs, affecting around 0.75% of the canine population worldwide.

What causes canine epilepsy?

Epilepsy in dogs falls into two main categories: primary or idiopathic epilepsy, and secondary epilepsy.

Primary epilepsy, with no really identifiable cause, is often hereditary and usually manifests itself between the ages of 1 and 5.

Secondary epilepsy, on the other hand, results from identified factors such as brain lesions, tumors or poisoning. For example, a dog that has suffered head trauma may develop secondary epilepsy as a result of this injury.

How to recognize the symptoms of epilepsy in dogs?

Symptoms of canine epilepsy vary, but most often include convulsions, loss of consciousness and abnormal behavior, such as nipping at the air.

It’s essential to distinguish between different types of seizures: generalized seizures, which affect the whole brain, and partial seizures, which affect a specific area.

For example, a generalized seizure may manifest itself as a whole-body tremor, while a partial seizure may be limited to a repetitive movement of one paw.

When and how is epilepsy diagnosed in dogs?

Veterinary diagnosis is essential to identify and manage canine epilepsy. It is therefore advisable to consult a veterinarian as soon as the first symptoms appear, such as unexplained convulsions or behavioral changes.

Diagnostic methods generally include neurological examinations, blood tests and sometimes brain imaging such as MRI.

To prepare for your visit to the vet, carefully note all symptoms observed, their frequency and any changes in behavior or environment that may affect your dog’s health.

What treatment options are available for canine epilepsy?

Treatments for epilepsy in dogs vary between short- and long-term care. Short-term treatments aim to manage acute seizures, while long-term treatments seek to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. Options include anti-epileptic drugs, dietary changes and, in some cases, surgery.

Each treatment has its advantages and disadvantages, and should be discussed openly with your veterinarian. Managing side effects, such as lethargy or gastrointestinal disturbances, is also essential to maintaining a good quality of life for the epileptic dog. Dosage adjustments and complementary care strategies may be necessary to mitigate these effects.

How to manage the daily life of an epileptic dog?

Managing an epileptic dog requires patience and preparation. Adapt the environment to keep him safe, avoiding stairs and sharp corners where he could injure himself during a seizure. Reduce stress and anxiety, which can trigger seizures. Create a stable routine, provide a quiet space and consider complementary therapies such as aromatherapy.

During a seizure, stay calm, keep dangerous objects away and time the seizure. After the seizure, make sure your dog is in a safe place to recuperate and observe any changes.

What is the prognosis for a dog with epilepsy? Can epilepsy be prevented?

The prognosis for an epileptic dog varies according to the cause and management of the seizures. With appropriate treatment, many dogs lead happy, relatively normal lives.

Prevention of epilepsy is not always possible, especially in the case of idiopathic epilepsy. However, good general health, a balanced diet and the reduction of stress factors can help to minimize the risks.