Living with canine epilepsy

Sleeping dog

(Q) We recently woke at 4am to find our two-year-old Labrador, Hardy, lying on the floor convulsing. He was frothing at the mouth and had wet himself. He then opened his eyes and got very aggressive. He scrambled to his feet but was shaking and found it very hard to stand. He soiled the floor and was aggressive again, but in a matter of seconds he snapped out of it.

We took him to the emergency vet who said it was a fit and that Hardy was probably epileptic. He took a blood sample to check for any other problems, and gave him diazepam for future fits. Is it correct that the fits are more likely to happen during the night when Hardy is resting? We are frightened to go to sleep in case he fits and gets aggressive and our other dog misinterprets this and becomes aggressive with him. Will it change his personality? Can diet affect it? Is there anything else we should be doing to ensure that he leads a healthy, happy life?

Vet Roberta Baxter says:

Fitting, or epilepsy, can occur for a number of reasons. While the most common reason in an otherwise apparently healthy dog is idiopathic epilepsy (in which there is no underlying disease), epilepsy can also be a symptom of other diseases in the body, including liver and kidney disorders, and brain disease. If there is an underlying problem, it is best if it is identified and also treated.

As long as no underlying disease is identified, then it is a matter of monitoring the affected dog and seeing if he has more fits or if it was a one-off. Fits tend to happen when dogs are relaxed, or asleep, and you may choose to allow your dogs to sleep separately to avoid any problems between them, although generally other animals leave fitting ones well alone. Unless your dog has an underlying brain disorder there should be no lasting change in temperament, although before, during, and immediately after a fit he may behave differently, even aggressively, and may not be able to see properly, so do bear this in mind.

If he does have further fits, then other diagnostic tests may be advisable, including further blood tests and maybe even an MRI scan to check his brain. All being well, he could be given anti-epileptic medication, which he might then stay on for the rest of his life, and would need regular blood tests to check that his dose is right for him.

Many owners do live with pets with epilepsy, and you may wish to contact one of the epilepsy support groups for further information from owners like you.

Homeopathic vet Holly Mash says

Firstly, book in for a longer consultation with your regular vet, so that you can discuss all the ins and outs of epilepsy, how it may affect your dog, preventative measures, and what the treatment involves. It will also be important to keep a notebook/diary of every seizure/convulsion that occurs, noting the date, the time, and what happens - as well as what your dog was doing just before the attack. This will help your vet look for any patterns, and can help chart progress of the condition.

By consulting an holistic vet (such as a homeopathic vet VetMFHom) at this stage, he or she will be able to prescribe a homeopathic remedy for your dog which will aim to re-balance his system with the intention of making further episodes less likely. The sooner you seek homeopathic intervention the better the success rate is likely to be.

Canine epilepsy

The Phyllis Croft Foundation for Canine Epilepsy is named after Dr Phyllis Croft, who dedicated her life to the study of epilepsy and brain disease. The foundation aims to comfort, support, and inform the owners of epileptic dogs.

To find out more visit The Canine Epilepsy Support Group was founded in 1991 and has a telephone helpline for the owners of epileptic dogs, who are feeling alone and helpless.

For full details visit