Dog Breed Info Center(R) DBIC

Adopting a Dog with Epilepsy

Epileptic Dogs

A large breed tan and white thick-coated, furry dog wearing a red bandanna sitting on a shaggy tan carpet smiling up at the camera. The dog's snout and ears are black.

Epilepsy is a genetic disease that affects more than 20 breeds of dogs today. As the incidence of inherited epilepsy increases, more and more dogs with seizures are found homeless, in shelters and rescue organizations. As with all special-needs dogs, finding a home for these special dogs is often difficult. The goal of this article is to provide information on canine epilepsy and what to expect if you can open your heart to one of these wonderful puppies.

What is Canine Epilepsy?

Canine epilepsy is a genetic disorder of the brain where abnormal electrical activity triggers further uncoordinated nerve transmissions. This uncoordinated and haphazard nerve tissue activity scrambles messages to the muscles of your dog's body and the coordinated use of the muscles is then inhibited.

Because there are many causes of chronic recurrent seizures in dogs, canine epilepsy is not a specific disease or even a single syndrome, but rather a diverse category of disorders. Canine epilepsy is broadly divided into idiopathic and symptomatic disorders. Idiopathic epilepsy means that there is no identifiable brain abnormality other than seizures. Symptomatic epilepsy is seizures that are the consequence of an identifiable lesion or other specific cause. One of the major causes of symptomatic epilepsy is autoimmune thyroiditis, which causes low thyroid function. All dogs with seizures should receive a six-panel thyroid test to be sure they do not have hypothyroid.

What can I expect if I adopt an epileptic dog?

First and foremost one should be prepared for a very special bonding with their epileptic dog. No one can explain it but most owners of epileptic dogs agree that the bond is stronger than they have ever experienced before. Maybe it is because they need us so much more than other dogs do, but they have a way of wiggling into the depths of your heart like no other dog can.

The second thing is that epileptic dogs live normal lives every day of the year with the exception of the days they have seizures. These special dogs can compete in obedience, field, agility and other activities as long as the stress of competition does not cause them to have seizures. In fact, Kim Simons, the Agility Commentator on Animal Planet, works with her epileptic dog Roxanne on a regular basis.

What are the medical expenses associated with caring for an epileptic dog?

The medical expenses associated with epilepsy will vary according to the dog and the anticonvulsant medication that works for him but we will try to outline some general guidelines here.

Medication:
The two most common medications used to treat seizures in dogs are phenobarbital and potassium bromide. Both of these drugs can be used as mono-therapy or they can be used together. Both of these drugs are easy to administer. The costs will depend on the amount of the drugs needed to maintain control.

Laboratory tests:
If your dog is on medication for seizures the blood serum levels of the medication should be tested every 6 to 12 months. The costs of the lab work will vary from veterinary clinic to veterinary clinic.

For dogs taking phenobarbital to control seizures a chemistry panel should be done every four months to be sure that the liver is functioning properly.

If you are adopting a dog that does not have control of the seizures, blood serum levels of the medication may need to be done more frequently as you work to find the right medications to control seizures.

All in all the cost of caring for an epileptic dog is not as high as you might expect and the rewards are so great.

This article was provided by Epi-Guardian Angels