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But the fact that your Labrador has had a seizure does not necessarily mean he has epilepsy.
Seizures can occur for other reasons.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is an serious health problem characterised by repeated seizures.
These seizures are caused by abnormalities in the brain. An epileptic dog will have a seizure on more than one occasion.
Epilepsy is therefore a diagnosis that must be made by your veterinary surgeon, after other causes have been ruled out.
What is a seizure?
A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain that interferes with the normal functioning of the brain and with the way in which the brain controls the body.
What happens during a seizure?
During a seizure the dog collapses, loses consiousness and may lose control of his bowels and bladder.
The dog will fall on its side, become stiff and make jerky movements with its legs.
Your Labrador will not be able to hear you or respond to you during a seizure.
Is a seizure painful?
Though they look horrible, seizures are not painful as the dog is unconscious throughout the episode.
What causes seizures?
There are a number of physical changes that can cause a seizure. Lack of oxygen to the brain due to blood loss for example, and diseases in various parts of the body other than the brain. This is not epilepsy.
Sometimes seizures are cause by abnormalities to the brain itself, these abnormalities cause repeated seizures and this is the condition we call epilepsy
What should I do if my dog has a seizure?
If your dog has a brief seizure you need to contact your vet once he has recovered. During the seizure make the dog safe but keep your hands away from the dog’s mouth to avoid being bitten and remain calm. Most seizures are over within three minutes (check your watch, it seems much longer when you are watching him in this distressing state)
If the seizure is prolonged (more than five minutes) call your emergency vet straight away.
Is epilepsy inherited?
A familial link has been found in some types of epilepsy and work is ongoing to discover the genes responsible. The Canine Epilepsy Project is a collaborative study currently underway into epilepsy in dogs and their website has information about their progress.
What is the treatment?
Various drugs such as Phenobarbital are used in the treatment of epilepsy, but many dogs will do just as well without treatment at all. It depends on the severity of the dog’s condition. You will need to discuss your dog’s case with your vet.
Where can I get more information?
Your veterinary surgeon is your first port of call but there is also a great deal of information about canine epilepsy available online.
Canine Epilepsy has some very straightforward and basic advice and guidelines
For some more in depth information and academic articles visit the Epi Guardian Angels website. The link takes you to their site map
There is a Canine Epilepsy Support Group in the UK and you will find their phone number by clicking on the link
How about you? Does your dog have epilepsy? Can you suggest any other sources of information or advice for dog owners faced with this condition for the first time? Please feel free to comment below.
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