What is Epilepsy?
When your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy, this can be either ‘structural’
or more often ‘idiopathic’.
‘Structural’ epilepsy means that there is something within the skull of your dog causing the seizures, such as a problem with blood supply or because of a developmental difference.
‘Idiopathic’ means that there is not a cause that can be found for the seizures your dog has had and your vet has ruled out all of the diseases that could cause it. This means that your dog will now need management for the rest of their life to ensure these epileptic seizures can be kept to a minimum and maintain a good quality of life.
Epilepsy is a condition which causes epileptic seizures in the dog. This often starts at anywhere from 6 months of age to 6 years. There are several breeds of dogs in which we see epilepsy more commonly, from German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labradors, through to Border Collies, Beagles and Border Terriers.
It will affect them for the rest of their life but they often go on to live healthy lives, so it is really important that owners and their families understand what epilepsy means. Nothing will cure the disease, but the right balance of medication and management can allow them to maintain a good quality of life.
What is an epileptic seizure?
An epileptic seizure is an abnormal excess of nerve activity in an area of the brain, all occurring at the same time and usually resolving itself. You may recognise signs that happen just before a seizure, these are called ‘pre-ictal’ signs. Your dog may become anxious and restless, they may seek contact or affection, they may hide and withdraw from attention, they can become a little aggressive or they may vocalise.
When the seizure occurs, it can either be focal or generalised.
Focal seizures are often in one area and one side of the dog, such as twitching or muscle spasms on one side of the head or in one leg. Every dog presents with different signs.
Generalised seizures often affect both sides of the body in the same way and involve much more of the body – this can affect their behaviour (they can be unconscious) and their limbs, and muscles may twitch and spasm uncontrollably. This can be alarming to witness, but it is unlikely your dog will be in any pain.