Dalmatian Club of America
A Brief Overview
Their Causes and
The Dalmatian Club
of America Study Group on Seizure Disorders
Marion Mitchell, Jennifer Johnson-Glaser & Elizabeth
Seizures are the result
of muscle responses to an abnormal nerve-signal burst from the brain. They
are a symptom of an underlying neurological dysfunction. Toxic substances,
metabolic or electrolyte abnormalities and/or imbalances cause an uncoordinated
firing of neurons in the cerebrum of the brain, creating seizures from
mild "petit mal " to severe "grand mal".
There are four basic
stages to a seizure:
The Cause, anything
that disrupts normal brain circuitry:
The Prodome: may
precede the seizure by hours or days. It is characterized by changes in
mood or behavior.
The Aura: signals
the start of a seizure. Nervousness, whining, trembling, salivation, affection,
wandering, restlessness, hiding and apprehension are all signals.
The Ictus, the actual
seizure:. A period of intense physical activity usually lasting 45
seconds to 3 minutes. The dog may lose consciousness and fall to the ground.
There may be teeth gnashing, frantic thrashing of limbs, excessive
drooling, vocalizing, paddling of feet, uncontrollable urination and defecation.
The Post Ictus/Ictal:
after the seizure, the dog may pace endlessly, sometimes for several hours
and may appear blind and deaf and eat or drink excessively. This can be
as short as a few minutes or as long as several days. Solutions to lessen
this problem are discussed elsewhere in this article.
Seizures caused by
underlying factors are referred to as Secondary Epilepsy.
meaning no known cause and possibly inherited. This is also referred to
as Primary Epilepsy. Check history of pedigree and make sure your veterinarian
has looked for possible underlying factors.
The following are standard
tests used to rule out underlying causes of seizures.
(low blood sugar)
brain damage (such as canine distemper, Cryptococcosis,)
Ingestion of toxins
(such as lead paint chips, insecticides)
Improperly routed intestinal blood vessels bypass the liver (one of the
body's important waste-product detoxifiers)
Types of Seizures:
Glucose tolerance test,
to check for hypoglycemia.
Thyroid panel, 6 tests,
to check for low thyroid function/hypothyroidism.
EEG, CT or MRI to see
if there are findings suggestive of a tumor.
Cerebrospinal fluid analysis,
to look for encephalitis, distemper and other infection.
Blood test to check for
Mild: (Petit Mal)
this can be a simple as momentarily staring into space, or upward eye movement.
Mal) the dog falls down, loses consciousness and extends its limbs rigidly.
Paddling of limbs, salivation followed by possible loss of control of bladder
and bowels and vocalization (blood curdling scream) may follow. This may
occur for 1-3 minutes and is most often followed by a period of restlessness,
pacing, bumping into objects and loss of balance. (Post Ictal period)
The dog is conscious but may appear deaf, blind and disoriented. Great
care must be taken to prevent the dog from injuring itself at this time.
The use of Bachs Flower Essence Rescue Remedy (found in any Health
Food Store) has been found to be extremely useful when given at this time.
Simply put a 4 drops of the Essence into the dog's mouth after the seizure
has finished. In most dogs the post ictal time will be cut considerably.
A spoonful of Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream or a handful of kibble
is also useful in cutting post-ictal time. It is said that a 1-3 minute
seizure is equivalent to a human running the Boston Marathon.
Status can occur as one continuous seizure lasting 10 minutes or more,
or a series of multiple seizures in a short time with no period of normal
consciousness, this may be life threatening.
Multiple seizures within a 24-hour period time, may also be life threatening.
It is often difficult to distinguish between the two types and veterinarian
assistance is imperative. Rectal Valium is extremely useful in breaking
Most dogs can be controlled
by the use of Phenobarbital and/or Phenobarbital and Potassium
Bromide. Potassium Bromide is used alone if the dog's liver
has become damaged by Phenobarbital.
Dogs on Phenobarbital need to have their liver enzymes tested every few
months using the following tests ALT (SGPT), AST (SGOT), GGT, and
Alkaline Phosphatase. Both drugs are available by prescription in pill
capsule or liquid form. Primadone, once commonly used, metabolizes
to Phenobarbital in the liver. With prolonged treatment it can also
cause liver damage.
Valium, injectable, or rectal and oral is a
good choice to halt a cluster seizure or interrupt status epilepticus.
Please see http://www.canine-epilepsy.com/diazepamprotocol.html
for an extensive article on the use of valium to stop cluster seizures.
is currently not recommended for use. Gabapentin is a newer drug
being used for humans. It does offer exciting possibilities for dogs as
it is only partially metabolised by the liver. At present it is more expensive
than the other anti epilepsy drugs (AEDs) about $75.00 a month for a 60lb
dog, however with the few dogs that have used it, the results have been
very positive and is worthy of consideration if all else fails.
It is tempting when
first faced with a beloved pet seizing, to resist traditional methods of
control and seek out alternative options. However the most important
thing you can do for your pet is to first control the seizures. Once
reasonable control has been obtained then other methods can be explored.
Some of the alternative
options available are acupuncture, gold bead implants on the acupuncture
points of the head neck and back, gold wires in the ears, Chinese herbs,
homeopathic remedies and flower essences. All may be used along with traditional
approaches. Vitamin and mineral supplements are also utilized along with
a natural kibble without preservatives, or a home cooked diet. The hope
is that Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide doses can be lowered and in
a few cases discontinued all together.
PLEASE NOTE: Some
breeds seem to be very resistant to alternative methods. Do not put
your dog's life in danger by avoiding using allopathic (traditional) medicines
at the onset of seizures, after tests have proven that there is no underlying
cause for seizures such as hypothyroidism.
Diet plays an important
role in the management of Canine Epilepsy. Feed a kibble that is preservative
free. Preservatives such as Ethoxyquin and BHT, BHA should
be avoided as they can cause seizures. Many "Supermarket" foods
are loaded with chemical dyes and preservatives, buy a high quality kibble
made from "human grade" ingredients or better yet cook for your dog. Many
recipes can be found in Dr Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health
for Dogs and Cats.
PLEASE NOTE if your
dog is taking Potassium Bromide please be very careful when you switch
dog foods. Try to make sure the sodium content is the same as the
previous food. Change over very slowly, whether it is the same sodium content
or different, so that the absorption rate of the KBr remains constant.
Susan Wynn, DVM:
"Dogs evolved from Canis lupis - the wolf. Wolves eat caribou or the like,
but if they are forced, they will eat smaller game (rarely). They have
been observed to graze on grass, eat berries, etc., but only when they
need to. This is our lesson in canine nutrition - they are omnivores who
do well with fresh meat, the vegetation they get in a caribou stomach (which
is mostly green, unless the beast is eating from baited fields), and a
smattering of other stuff if they are hungry.
Food companies have,
in the main, revolutionized pet nutrition by eliminating major nutritional
deficiencies and providing optimal nutritional for the average pet. Our
concern, however, is not for the average pet. It is for the sick pet. If
epileptic animals have a disease with even a small nutritional component,
wouldn't we want to deal with it? Is your epileptic animal showing other
signs of allergies? If s/he is chewing feet, scratching ears, having anal
gland problems, vomiting bile seasonally, etc. one may want to consider
dietary changes, including hypoallergenic diets, if appropriate.
I think that the main
benefit of feeding real food - meat (raw or cooked, raw or steamed veggies,
cooked grains) - is to provide stuff that is killed in the kibble extrusion
process. If you or I were to eat a diet of Wheaties, yogurt, VegAll, and
Spam day after day for 20 years, would this be enough? I don't know, but
it makes me uncomfortable. I think our pets need a more varied diet and
a fresher one than we can give them with commercial kibble. So I
do recommend supplementing pet food with lean meat and vegetables."
Low Thyroid Function
Seizures are one of
the symptoms of hypothyroidism along with chronic skin disease, hair loss,
weight gain, lethargy and slow metabolism, behavioral changes (aggression,
hyperactivity, poor concentration, passivity, phobias, anxiety) A
recent study of 634 dogs showed that 77% of the dogs who were hypothyroid
also had seizures. Dr William Thomas, a board certified neurologist,
had this to say about thyroid testing:
"Thyroid testing should
be considered in any dog with recurrent seizures. Such testing is
relatively inexpensive and carries little risk to the patient. Any
dog that is diagnosed with hypothyroidism by appropriate testing should
be treated with thyroid replacement therapy. This applies to all dogs,
whether or not they suffer seizures. If the seizures improve with
thyroid therapy, then great! If not, the patient should still be
treated because hypothyroidism can cause many other health problems.
Appropriate use of thyroid medication is one of the most safe and effective
treatments available in veterinary medicine. "WB Thomas DVM, Dipl.ACVIM
(Neurology) University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
It is a good idea to
have a full thyroid panel of 6 different tests to determine if your dog
is hypothyroid. The tests needed are T3, T4, free T3, free T4, T3
and T4 Autoantibodies. Two or three thyroid tests (e.g.T4,
free T4 or TSH) are not conclusive for hypothyroidism. Make sure
that all 6 tests listed are run. Proper thyroid medication may reduce or
eliminate seizures. These tests can be run at either Michigan State or
under the supervision of Dr Dodds at Hemopet.
It is important to
keep your epileptic dog as free from chemical pollution as possible. Think
about the environment your dog is living in. Do you use chemical sprays
on your lawn? Dogs will sometimes seize only when the lawn is sprayed
for weeds. How about the cleaner you use for the floor? Some dogs have
been known to seize after the floor has been washed with a pine scented
cleaner. Flea and Tick medications can also cause seizures. Avoid products
containing Ivermectin, many vets recommend the use of Frontline
fleas and Interceptor as a monthly heartworm preventative. Flea
& Tick collars containing organophosphates should be avoided.
There are many things that can lower a dog's seizure threshold.
Keep a diary of your dog's seizures. Note down anything you have done or
that the dog could have come in contact with that day which could have
contributed to a seizure. It is also a known phenomenon that some
dogs may seizure around the full moon.
lower a dog's seizure threshold and trigger a seizure. If you feel that
this is the case for your dog, ask the vet to split the shots give them
separately. Also ask for the Rabies to be given 2 weeks later. Ask
your vet if he/she knows about the new 3-year protocol being used now by
many vets. The Colorado State Veterinary School Protocol for small animal
vaccinations can be found at http://www.cvmbs.colostate.edu/vth/savp2.html
The use of Acepromazine
can reduce the seizure threshold and thus bring on a seizure. Be sure to
discuss this issue with your veterinarian.
The opinion(s) expressed
above is/are for informational purposes only.
Suggestions and advice
offered, are not be misconstrued as an alternative to personal and professional
veterinary care. Please contact your veterinarian to discuss any changes
in your dogs medication or care.