Dogs with epilepsy can live long lives.
By Bonnie Wilcox,D.V.M.
The idiopathic form of hereditary epilepsy occurs sporadically in all breeds and mixes. The signs of epilepsy are dramatic and frightening. Trembling, confusion and pacing usually proceed full-blown convulsions, with the unconscious dog lying on its side, "running and jerking", some times emptying its bladder and bowels.
Fortunately, these episodes are usually short, with a complete return to normal within a few minutes. It is important to know that these convulsions are not painful to the dog. I always tell my clients that the person watching the convulsions suffers more than the dog.
Epilepsy is caused by a defect or damage to the brain. The brain is like a huge circuit board that controls the body, and a small defect in the system can cause an occasional "short circuit". The brain impairment can be caused by trauma (being hit in the head), damage during birth (caused by prolonged delivery with a lack of oxygen),or by genetic factors. The word "idiopathic" means "cause unknown", which is usually the case.
Certain environmental stimuli may trigger your dog's seizures. It is up to you to do the detective work to discover if certain activities or situations cause the seizures and what to do to minimize them. Potting soil is not the problem. The usual culprits are mental, physical or emotional stresses. I know of one Chow that has a seizure each time he goes to be groomed. Even though the grosser is gentle and patient, he just doesn't care for it, and the stress sends him into a seizure. Other dogs don't seem to show any pattern and may even seizure in their sleep.
Epilepsy can not be cured, but it can be controlled with medication. Your Vet can advise you about placing your dog on anti-seizure medication. Some anti-seizure drugs can cause some liver problems, so dogs taking these drugs are usually monitored annually or semi-annually to ensure their livers are functioning normally.
Most dogs with epilepsy can , with the proper use of medication, lead quite normal lives. It takes a caring and conscientious owner, willing to monitor the pet and give daily medication for the rest of the dog's life. There is every reason to believe that your dog will lead a long and full life, with your help.