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Managing Canine Epilepsy


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Alfie's story...

Early one morning Kay Westgate woke to a horrific rattling. She jumped out of bed only to see her three year old Jack Russell Alfie in his crate, having a Grand Mal seizure. The vets said it might be a one off and suggested that she wait and see what happened. Unfortunately it was not! Kay has written this article to help other who might find themselves in the same situation.

It was 5am when I heard Alfie who had been sleeping in his crate in my bedroom. I jumped out of bed and saw Alfie convulsing. After several minutes, a very agitated Alfie came around and staggered about, making a pitiful noise. He was ravenously hungry and also wanted to pee.

I rang the vets when they were open, and they suggested an MRI scan and blood tests. At the time, I decided against a brain tap. The diagnosis was idiopathic epilepsy, so Archie was put onto a low dose of Epiphen. The side effects were extreme hunger and some agitation but fortunately no ataxia or weakness of his legs. He did want to pee more and was always hungry. 

The seizures did not stop. They happened several times a week. Gradually the Epiphen was increased. He was still having seizures. He had been a promising agility dog but he now he had noticeably slowed down and his interest was not the same. He also put on weight. I now slept downstairs on the settee so he had easy access to the garden.

Taking control
In my experience, vets only prescribe medication and nothing else. I desperately wanted to find out what else I could do to help Alfie so I started looking into alternative remedies for canine epilepsy.

 First I went to a homeopathic who advised me to change his diet to raw feeding with no grains or anything containing rosemary. So I found grain-free biscuits with no rosemary. I was also warned about cheese and high salt products.  I avoided turkey and any game meat, as advised by a raw food company who had epileptic canine customers and had done their own research.

Then I joined a Facebook group for canine epilepsy and frankly I learned more from them than anywhere else as we were all in the same boat! I learned that a taurine supplement might be of benefit, and that ice packs over the dog's back during an attack could lessen the seizure time and aid a quicker recovery. Ocular compression of the dogs eyes could also help. The main recommendation was to stop all vaccinations and all chemical worm and flea treatments. Epilepsy lowered a dogs immune system so overloading it was not a good idea. Needless to say I had a right battle with my vet when I said I would no longer vaccinate and use chemical treatments. Be it on my own head I was told!

I decided to titre test and use worm count.

Finally Alfie had a cluster seizure and was hospitalised at the vets overnight in case he went into status epilepsy. Epiphen was increased again to two 60 milligrams of Epiphen twice a day. He also had two capsules of Epitaur 500.

Drastic action
It was then that I decided to stop vaccinations and chemical treatments. Alfie went a whole week seizure free, then two weeks and then a month. Another and another month went by until now, nearly four years later. I know I am so lucky. I found what was best for him. I know this may not last as epilepsy is incurable. I got back to sleeping in my own bed and Alfie has his. No more cages!

He has six-monthly blood tests to check his levels and the state of his liver. He is tolerating the medication well

It took 18 months to discover all this information and put it into practice. Perhaps just the Epiphen did the trick! No way am I going to rock the boat and change now. It all works for Alfie.

Alfie and I are now retired from Agility. To look at him you would not know he has this condition. Epilepsy does not alter their appearance other than perhaps putting on weight.  We just enjoy our companionship together. I am an old lady anyway!

In the beginning when I found out he had epilepsy I was distraught. I became very depressed. The sight of your dog having a seizure, making that terrible noise, weeing and defecating, howling and staggering about in obvious distress is horrific. The not knowing when the next seizure will strike is the worst. Your whole life revolves around it. I say this not to frighten you but just to tell it as it is.

This is a horrible condition. Alfie is now eight years of age and he's had this condition from the age of three. We've been through a lot together and have come out the other end for the time being. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I do know, however, that other epileptic dogs are not so lucky.

I hope my experiences might be helpful to others. My other little dog had pancreatitis and, once again, as there was so little out there for that condition I had to do my own research so find out what was best for her. Epilepsy is the same unfortunately.

About the author...
Kay Westgate 
caught the Agility bug in the 1980s. She started Agility with her Cairn Terrier and went on from there. In 1996 she got to Crufts with her crossbreed Sam, competing in Agility, the Knockout, Pairs and Flyball.

Kay is a retired Personnel Office who worked for the City of London Police. She now has eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren with the fourth on the way any day now which keeps her busy!

 

First published 21st October 2019

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