Have you ever experienced your dog having a seizure?
If you have, you know how uncontrollable it is. You can’t control what is happening and you just have to wait it out.
Your dog is helpless in that moment and it’s terrifying not knowing how long it will last or what is happening.
After a few minutes it just stops. But those few minutes felt like forever when you’re sitting by their side waiting for it to be over.
Time goes by and everything seems normal until it happens again. You are taken back to that moment where you felt helpless.
In some cases it only takes that first seizure to head to the vet to see what is wrong with your pet. If repeat seizures happen, that is when you definitely aren’t waiting any longer to make that appointment.
No matter if this was a one-time occurrence or a repeat situation, the diagnosis will typically be assumed as epilepsy. “Epiletpic seizures are defined as transient signs due to abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain, and epilepsy refers to at least two unprovoked seizures more than 24 hours apart.”
Think of seizures as a violent thunderstorm in your dog’s brain (seizures are much less common in cats).
Vets typically want to run diagnostics once three to four seizures happen. An urgency will ensue if there are back-to-back seizures or a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes. If the seizure only happens roughly once a month, there will be less push for tests.
If the diagnostics come back normal, typically the next step is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This one machine can cost you anywhere from $1500 to $2500. Since few dogs can sit completely still while being put through a large noisy machine, it does involve general anesthesia.
In some cases they will recommend a spinal tap, in which a needle is introduced into the space surrounding your dog’s spinal cord, and some cerebral spinal fluid is withdrawn for analysis. High protein there could mean inflammation and cancer cells would point to an even worse problem.
The diagnosis will typically be found as, “idiopathic epilepsy” which basically means “cause unknown.”
Why Does It Happen?
It was exclaimed in a short PDF from the University of Michigan that, “the majority of epileptic dogs have their first seizure between 1 and 5 years of age and dogs in that age range are more likely to be diagnosed as idiopathic epileptics, although about ⅓ of dogs 1-5 years old will be diagnosed with a structural or metabolic cause.”
Typically people notice that their dogs are having seizures a short time after receiving a vaccine, typically rabies.
Is MRI Worth the Price?
The answer is most likely not in most cases. If your dog is a breed known to be prone to seizures, then definitely not. Breed specifics can be found here.
The odds are that you will spend thousands of dollars just to come up with “idiopathic epilepsy” as a diagnosis. MRI’s are defended because it is said they can help to determine what drugs are available to help with the seizures occurring. But this leads to an important question…
Are dogs being cured of epilepsy with the drugs being prescribed?
According to the International Veterinary EpilepsyTask Force, “Affected dogs most often require life-long antiepileptic medication and regular control visits. Consequently, the daily lives of many owners are affected by concerns related to their pet’s seizures and the changes in daily routine. The individual dog’s response to treatment may be complex with an increased risk for poor quality of life, premature death or euthanasia when seizures cannot be adequately controlled.”
There are no current cures with conventional medicine. So what to do?
There are a few safe treatment options that are definitely worth a try to avoid lifelong poor quality of life for your dog.
Some people have used a ketogenic diet, CBD oil, or homeopathy.
It nevers hurts to attempt an all natural way that can eliminate the problem and avoid worrying about side effects that could leave your dog miserable.
Better safe than sorry, right?