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The Best Medications for Dogs Battling Epilepsy

People love their pets. When something is wrong with them, we want to give them the best treatment possible. Certain dogs develop epilepsy, which becomes a major concern for their owners. Here are a few things you should know to make your dog’s life easier and safer.

What is Dog Epilepsy?

Epilepsy in dogs manifests as unexpected, uncontrolled, and recurrent physical attacks in the dog’s brain. This dog may or may not lose consciousness. Epileptic seizures sometimes happen for reasons unknown, or they may be due to abnormalities in the dog’s genetic code. Some seizures are due to lesions on the brain, which happens more often in male dogs.

If left untreated, the seizures may occur more often and with greater severity. Most seizures happen when the dog is asleep or at rest. This will often be at night or in the early morning. Most dogs will have recovered by the time you get them to the vet for examination.

The Most Common Treatment for Dogs with Epilepsy

The single most effective drug for treating canine epilepsy is Phenobarbital, a barbiturate and depressant of the central nervous system. It is usually the first medication prescribed when a dog is diagnosed with epilepsy.

Phenobarbital works by increasing the function of GABA, which is the inhibitory transmitter. It also appears to slow the secretion of glutamate from the brain’s nerve endings. Phenobarbital has excellent results in 60 to 80 percent of dogs with epilepsy, as long as doses are kept within the correct range.

What Are the Side Effects of Phenobarbital?

Phenobarbital does have some side effects to watch out for. The most common includes extreme hunger, an unquenchable thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, and weakness in the hindquarters. Some dogs may act depressed or sedated after introduction of the drug. Most of these effects go away fairly quickly as the dog becomes used to the treatment.

A less common but more serious side effect of Phenobarbital is liver damage due to scarring and/or failure of the liver. These side effects can be permanent, so monitoring liver function during this time is extremely important. In rare cases, anemia can occur after introduction of the drug into the system.

Other Options to Consider

If Phenobarbital doesn’t work for your dog, or the risks seem too great, there are other options a pet owner may request. Drugs such as Clonazepam, Clorazepate, Valproic Acid, and others have been used for treatment of epilepsy in dogs. The dosages and results vary, but regular monitoring is essential to control seizures and avoid a toxic overdose.

Despite the array of medicines available for epileptic dogs, anti-epileptic drugs are not necessarily 100% effective. Talk with your veterinarian about changing your dog’s diet to help control seizures. Certain grains and chemical ingredients can trigger allergic reactions, and possibly raise the chance of seizure in an epileptic animal.

Some pet owners try outside-the-box ideas like acupuncture for treatment of their pet’s condition. Caring for your epileptic dog can be a challenge, but it’s worth it to give your dog all he or she deserves.

Canine Epilepsy: An Owner's Guide to Understanding & Living with Canine Seizures

This guide will help you and your canine companion deal with canine epilepsy. You'll learn how to detect symptoms of an upcoming seizure, treat during and after a seizure, and prevent future seizures.

Ready to read Cory's Story? Read Chapter 1 Now.

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  • Kirsy

    Phenobarbital seems to be the golden egg for our boy Jasper right now. Doing great on a low dosage. No liver damage so far. Supplementing with Milk Thistle and having regular liver bile acid tests done.