Brain Disease in Dogs: Controlling Seizures with Anti-Convulsant Therapies

Seizure disease in dogs is treated in various ways depending on the cause of the seizures and theBrain Disease in Dogs: Controlling Seizures with Anti-Convulsant Therapies animal’s response to treatment.  The first, most important goal of treating seizure disease in dogs is to determine what the underlying cause of the seizures is.  If there is a specific cause for the seizures such as a tumor, toxin or metabolic disease, treatment of that condition is the best means of controlling seizures in the dog.  In circumstances where there is not a specific cause or treatment of the specific cause of the seizures does not completely control seizures in the dog, use of anticonvulsants is typically administered.  The most common seizure disease in dogs treated with anticonvulsant drugs is epilepsy.

What is done initially to control seizure disease in dogs.

A basic test that is often performed in a dog with seizures involves checking the dog’s blood glucose to make sure it is not too low and the potential cause of the seizure.  If the blood sugar is low, administration of glucose will typically control the seizure activity.  Valium (diazepam) is typically administered to control seizure disease in dogs quickly.  Valium is not considered an effective long term treatment for seizures, but is typically used to control most seizures initially, including status epilepticus.  If valium is not effective, then Phenobarbital is typically used.  These drugs are usually administered by a veterinarian.  However, there are suppository forms of Valium that can be administered rectally at home by a pet owner to try and control seizures.  Click here to learn more about controlling your dog’s seizures at home when he is on anticonvulsant medications. If Valium and phenobarbital are not effective, the dog may need to be anesthetized with an inhalation gas anesthetic agent (isoflurane or sevoflurane) or intravenous barbiturate (pentobarbital).

When to start anticonvulsant therapy for seizure disease in dogs.

The earlier anti-epileptic drug therapy is started, the better the potential ability for medication to control the seizures.  The decision to start anti-epileptic drug therapy for seizure disease in dogs is based in part on the cause, frequency and type of seizure.  Some guidelines include: status epilepticus, two or more isolated seizures within an 8-week period, two or more cluster seizures within a 12-week period, identification of a lesion in the brain, or a seizure observed within a week of head trauma.  Pet owners should maintain a log of the seizures they observe in their pet and record what they observe and any problems that exist in order to provide the veterinarian an objective means of deciding when to start therapy and to determine if treatment is effective.

Start anticonvulsant therapy for seizure disease in dogs with appropriate anti-epileptic drugs.

With any anti-epileptic drug, there is a balance between seizure control and quality of life of the pet.  Single drug therapy is preferred to reduce the adverse effects, reduce cost and increase the convenience for the pet owner in administering the medication.  Unfortunately, dogs cannot be treated with the majority of available, non-sedating anti-seizure drugs due to the potential for liver toxicity or rapid metabolism of the drugs.  As a result, phenobarbital and potassium bromide are the most widely used first line anti-epileptic drugs to treat seizure disease in dogs.  There are also newer anticonvulsant medications on the market for use in dogs. It is important for pet owners to give the drugs at regular intervals and make sure the dog is keeping the medication down.

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Dr Stephen Atwater

Stephen W. Atwater, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (oncology) is a board-certified veterinary oncology specialist. His professional interests include utilizing emerging therapies for difficult to treat cancers.

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