Natural Remedies For Epilepsy And Seizures In Dogs
It’s never easy seeing your dog fall to the ground and shake uncontrollably. It’s not easy seeing it happen after the 50th time, and it’s certainly not easy the first time when you’re not even expecting it. For many dogs, epilepsy starts when they’re young — within the first year. And it can occur anywhere, inside, in the yard, in their dog house.
This form of epilepsy is known as Idiopathic epilepsy, and not only is it the most common forms, it occurs in certain breeds dramatically more than others. Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Border Collies, Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds, both Golden and Labrador Retrievers, and Poodles are just a few of the breeds where veterinarians often see higher occurrences of seizures.
While Idiopathic epilepsy is the most likely culprit of seizures in dogs, it’s not the only reason your dog may have them.
Cancer and/or physical injuries that cause brain damage are also common culprits when it comes to seizures. Even when all other side effects that occured due to the brain damage are no longer present seizures can still happen.
Kidney failure and liver disease, as well, may cause your pup to have an epileptic episode — if your dog’s anticonvulsant dosage is too high and prolonged, the drug may even cause seizures of their own because the dosage promoted liver damage.
For seizures relating to non-genetic issues, your dog may not need to be placed on a pharmaceutical anticonvulsant, and one or a combination of the natural remedies that we are about to look at, may be effective in treating these types of seizures.
If your pup starts having seizures when they are young, this potentially means they will spend their entire life struggling with epilepsy. This is because, currently, there is no known cure. As such, we need to avoid a one-size-fits-all treatment, and instead create treatments plans that are specific to our pet. Regardless of the treatment, it still has to accomplish two critical things:
First, we need to reduce the occurrence and duration of seizures, as both will greatly increase the severity of the damage they may cause — seizures that last longer than five minutes put your pet in a dangerous place, and it’s recommended that you immediately call your veterinarian.
Second, because they will be on medication for potentially over a decade, we want a treatment that avoids severe side effects such as damaging their organs or changing their personality.
Phenobarbital and Other Anticonvulsants
When your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with epilepsy, they will most likely recommend a pharmaceutical anticonvulsant — most likely Phenobarbital. These drugs are the first line of defense for epilepsy and have the highest success rate in effectively controlling Idiopathic epilepsy (60-80%). Remember, they will not cure epilepsy, but simply “control’ it by reducing the occurrence and duration of seizures.
Other common anticonvulsants your vet may recommend are Diazepam, and/or potassium bromide — as well, they will also likely recommend routine blood tests.
Side Effects of Pharmaceutical Anticonvulsants
However, these pharmaceutical anticonvulsants can still cause nasty side effects such as damage to the liver and changes in behavior if they are not monitored and controlled themselves.
There are a number of lesser side effects that can happen as well, such as excessive thirst and hunger, lethargy, rapid weight loss and gain, and dark urine or odd color fecal matter.
Fortunately, if the dosage of these pharmaceutical anticonvulsants stays mild, then most dogs experience little to no side effects. The key is to keep the dosage low and the best way to do that is with natural remedies.
Natural Remedy #1: Avoiding Triggers
It’s common to know when a seizure is going to happen; you wake up in the morning and see your pup acting odd and quiet. Always be on the lookout for the classic telltale sign “sluggish but prone to over excitement and jumpy”.
When you seen these signs, it’s best to kept excitement levels down and look for anything that might trigger overexcitement. Here are important signs you should be on the lookout for:
- Strong Smells: smoke, hairspray, air fresheners, fumes from house cleaning products, etc.
- Loud Noises: yelling, other dogs barking, cars, etc.
- Quick Motions: flashing lights, being outside, other pets running around, etc
Signs that a seizure may be on its way:
- Overly excitable
- Lack of appetite
- Difficulty moving
- Strange behavior
- Accidents in the house
Natural Remedy #2: Exercise and Diet
Exercise is always important, but it’s even more important when your dog suffers from seizures. It used to be thought that exercise should be avoided because it could over excite the brain, however, in recent years this myth has not only been debunked, but proven to be completely opposite of the truth. Exercise has been directly linked to lower abnormalities when testing electrical activity of the brain and directly reduces the rate of seizures.
After getting in a good run, you’ll want to make sure your pup is getting a high-fat, low-carb diet because a high-fat diet can help lower neuron excitability. A ketogenic diet has been linked to reducing seizures, and promotes positive effects on behavior to boot. Remember, a common side effect of pharmaceutical anticonvulsants is they may negatively affect your dog’s mood, so it important that we include natural remedies that can better our pup’s outlook.
Bonus information: It’s always a good idea to supplement in fish oil because it can help with brain regulation as fish oil is high in DHA (an omega 3 fatty acid).
Natural Remedy #3: CBD Oil
Recently, more and more pet owners have started giving their pets hemp CBD oil for treating their epilepsy. CBD’s pronounced effects on controlling seizures has been looked at in multiple studies — these studies frequently conclude that CBD can help. As well, CBD oil has gained quite a lot of interest in the medical world because CBD is able to treat rare forms of epilepsy in humans which are normally drug-resistant.
CBD oil shares many medical similarities to medical marijuana, which has long been looked at for its unique anticonvulsant ability that has helped so many. However, unlike marijuana, CBD oil can come from hemp which produces no high as it has no THC. As well, THC is toxic to dogs, so cannabis oil and marijuana should be avoided in dog supplements because they will have notable levels of THC.
Bonus information: If you can, you should look for CBD oil with hemp oil instead of coconut oil or MCT oils. Hemp oil contains heavy amounts of omega 3s and can effectively replace fish oil supplementation.
Natural Remedy #3: Acupuncture
This one you may want to save for people, but if you so happen to have a dog that doesn’t mind getting poked with needles then you may have found a natural remedy for seizures. Acupuncture and epilepsy is tricky, but it’s brought up a lot when discussing epilepsy,so it’s important we look at it.
There is a good amount of anecdotal evidence from epilepsy patients that say acupuncture helped reduced their seizures, however, there isn’t a lot of current research to back up these claims. You will need to decide if this is a viable option for you and your fluff nugget.
Living With An Epileptic Pet
Just because your pup starts having seizures at a young age, doesn’t mean they can’t have a healthy life. If you take their epilepsy seriously and start treatment as soon as possible, then you set them up on a path for a great, long, and fulfilled life.
Controlling seizures can be difficult as all dogs have a unique body chemistry, and so some do better with certain options while others don’t This is why you’ll want to work closely with your veterinarian and come up with the best treatment plan catered to your pup — which will most likely involve several options.
We are still learning more and more about epilepsy every day and we still have some ways to go, but with up and coming treatments like CBD oil, for example, we may finally be able to learn how to successfully manage and even cure epilepsy once and for all.
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