Beagle Seizure Treatment – the do’s and don’ts

Many dog breeds all over the world have this seizure problem, only point being some being more prone to it than others. And, beagles are no exception! The rule of thumb that you have to follow when your dog has a seizure is to not panic.  Most seizures last for a short span of time, although they may seem everlasting while you watch your pet undergo one. It is important to keep in mind that veterinarians believe that most dogs, like people do not experience any pain as they undergo their seizures. If they are in their senses, they are likely to be frightened or bewildered but not pained. Your responsibility is to keep them from hurting themselves while they are having a seizure.

  • Ensure that your pup is not going to fall down the stairs or hit himself against any sharp objects as he is undergoing any seizure or recuperating from one.
  • Their movements should not be inhibited.
  • Your hands should be kept away from the dog’s mouth as during the seizure, the dog may clamp down his jaws, thereby injuring you.
  • During a seizure an epileptic dog may be attacked by another dog. If you have other dogs in the house, try to find out how they will respond to your dog having a seizure and keep them under control if required.
  • During the seizure speak to your dog in a gentle tone. Even if he is not in his senses, the familiar voice may comfort him as he regains consciousness.
  • The lights need to be dimmed and the voices kept low so as to not scare your pup as he recovers his senses.  
  • If the veterinarian has prescribed any medicine to be administered during or after the seizure, keep it within reach.

When your dog comes back to his senses, he may want to pace. This is expected during the post ictal stage. Find a safe place for him and allow him to pace it off.  Keep in mind that this is not a part of the seizure but that span of time when your dog’s body is reverting to normal. For some dogs this recovery period will be brief while some others may require as long as 24 hours. Most dogs are ravenous after a bout of seizure and feeding him morsels of food may have a calming effect on him.

Medical treatment is generally recommended for animals that undergo one or more seizures every month. Animals suffering from cluster seizures or those experiencing status epilepticus may be treated even though the frequency of seizures may be more than once per month. The drug therapy can be successful only when the owner administers the drug precisely as prescribed. Successful drug therapy implies absolutely no alterations in the dosage or the type of drug unless advised by the veterinarian. Haphazard administration of drugs or sudden changes in medication is more dangerous than lack of treatment and may cause status epilepticus.

It is important to keep in mind that the purpose of treatment is to bring down the rate of incidence and intensity of seizures and avert unwanted side effects. It may not be feasible to do away with the seizures altogether. Epilepsy can be controlled with the help of several drugs and certain alternative therapies. Phenobarbital and primidone are the most commonly used anti-convulsant drugs but seizure treatment involves use of several other drugs as well.

The anticonvulsant which is most recommended is Phenobarbital. In case of a seizure, the drug acts to increase the threshold in the brain. Treatment usually lasts throughout the life. Phenobarbital does not cure your beagle of seizures but reduces its rate of incidence. It works well for generalized seizures since it is easy on the pockets and can be administered easily by pill, liquid or injection. A tab is kept on the number and strength of the following seizures of the dog and the medication is adjusted accordingly.

Seizures will not adversely affect the brain of the dog unless they last for a very long time or the rate of incidence is high. If this happens, a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible.

Post 2 or 3 weeks of medication, the Phenobarbital levels in the blood should be assessed to ensure that they are in the therapeutic or effective range to best regulate the seizures of your dog. The blood should be collected just before the morning or evening treatment is administered.

Phenobarbital does have some side effects but they are better than the other available medications for seizure. These may include binging, excessive thirst, excessive urination and central nervous system depression. These signs may appear in the first two weeks while the dog gets accustomed to the drug, but should dissipate after that.  Once a therapeutic level of the drug is attained, the dog should have a blood test annually at vaccination time to keep a check on the Phenobarbital levels and liver function.

Other medications for regulating epileptic seizures include Primidone and Phenytoin. Primidone calls for a more frequent and higher dosage. It comes with the same side effects as Phenobarbital but can also induce adverse reactions when taken in conjunction with other drugs. Phenytoin is commonly used in case of humans but can also be used for dogs. It involves a higher dosage than Phenobarbital.

If your dog suffers from other conditions that prevent you from dispensing other standard drugs to him, you can administer Diazepam or valium to him. If the beagle has a known liver problem or at some point of time had undergone treatment for it, Diazepam can be used to soothe him. However, it may not work for chronic cases of epilepsy.

Some doctors administer anesthetics to epileptic dogs in case of special cases like surgery to prevent an onset of seizures. They may not be always successful in their attempt, as despite the precautionary measure seizures may occur. Many veterinarians have certain protocols they are at ease with. For example anesthetics like isoflurane, propofol and thiopental are recommended for dogs with epilepsy. The choice is usually determined by the anesthesiologist on duty. The most important aspect of anesthesia does not involve the particular drug used but constant supervision during and after the procedure. However, it is best to steer clear of phenothiazine tranquilizers (such as acepromazine) and ketamine.

It is important for an epileptic dog to thrive in an environment that is as free from chemical pollutants as possible. For all you know, chemical sprays for lawn or a pine scented floor cleaner can induce seizures in beagles. Flea and tick medications can also be responsible for seizures. It is best to steer clear of products with Ivermectin as that has been found to cause seizures in certain breeds. There are many things that can bring down the seizure threshold of a dog. It is best to maintain a diary of your dog’s seizures. Keep a tab on anything that your dog has come in touch with that day which could have been responsible for the seizure. It has been found that many dogs have seizures around the full moon.

Vaccinations can bring down a dog’s seizure threshold and cause a seizure. If you find this to be the case with your dog, ask the vet to divide the shots, and administer them separately at an interval of a week or two. Ask him to dispense the Rabies shot 2 weeks after that.

The risk of undesirable effects or adverse reactions is there in every kind of treatment. Anti-seizure drugs usually result in two general types of adverse reactions.

  • Dose-dependent side effects are the most usual. These are pharmacologic effects of the drug and can often be exaggerated. These effects are more common with higher blood levels. Some instances of dose-dependent side effects include drowsiness, sedation and weakness with Phenobarbital or bromide. Dose dependent side effects can be predicted and can often be tackled by lowering the dose.

  • Idiosyncratic drug reaction is another kind of adverse drug reaction.  These reactions cannot be predicted from beforehand and are not determined by the dose or blood level. An idiosyncratic reaction refers to a peculiar, at times genetically dependent, reaction of an individual patient to a certain drug. Dogs usually do not have idiosyncratic reactions to anti-seizure drugs. Instances of idiosyncratic reactions include skin rashes and bone marrow suppression. In case of severe idiosyncratic reaction, the drug responsible for the condition needs to be abstained from.

A lot has been said about the relation between spaying or neutering and epilepsy. Many experiments have been conducted to find out whether sex steroid hormones excite brain cells and result in seizures. Estrogen, one of the female sex hormones has been found to increase the risk of seizures. As opposed to it, androgens or male sex hormones have little or no effect on seizures. While there may be reasons to neuter or not neuter a male dog with epilepsy, the hormonal changes will probably not affect the seizures.

 Seizures that last for a long time can induce dangerous increments in body temperature. In dogs, body temperatures greater than 107 F can be dangerous and calls for immediate veterinary attention. Treatment may include oxygen, close supervision and cooling, intravenous fluids. Obviously dogs in this situation should be monitored by a veterinarian to treat hyperthermia as well as to stop the seizures.

It is best not to use ice or ice water for cooling the body as this can constrict the blood vessels in the skin which hinders cooling. This may cause shivering, which in turn leads to elevation of body temperature. Applying cool water to the body surface and using a fan may yield positive results in case of some. Any active cooling procedure like this calls for close supervision of body temperature to avoid excessive cooling.

In order for any drug therapy to bear results, the amount of drug found in body or serum concentration must be constantly supervised. No two dogs respond to the same dose in the same way. It has been reported that six types of variation in the ratio between daily dosage and serum concentration was found in a large population of epileptic dogs. In 3 dogs given roughly the same dose of Phenobarbital, one dog’s condition did not alter, the seizure of the second dog was controlled and the third dog underwent toxicosis. The amount of drug present in the body corresponds much better with seizure control than daily dosage.

If your dog is on medication, closely monitor your dog and test his serum levels to ensure he is being administered the appropriate amount of drug to gain control and avoid side effects.

There are several alternative remedies for epileptic dogs. These vary from vitamin therapy to acupuncture. Conventional acupuncture therapy for epileptic dogs involves the needles to be placed in up to 10 places of the body. The duration for which the needles can be kept in place varies.

Acupuncture is not usually considered an alternative for drug therapy but is used in combination with them. A survey was conducted on 5 dogs with intractable epilepsy. These dogs were treated with golden bead implants in acupuncture points. 2 dogs reverted back to the same condition after two months. However, two reports of epileptic dogs receiving acupuncture in the ear are more encouraging. One dog enjoyed a six time increase in the interval between seizures. The other dog which had a history of monthly seizures was free from seizures for 200 days.

According to Holistic veterinarian Roger DeHaan, DVM, some forms of epilepsy can be controlled by supplementing of magnesium, vitamin B6, and manganese.

Preventing epilepsy before it occurs unfortunately is not possible unless the condition is induced by head or brain injuries or lead poisoning or nutritional deficiencies. When it comes to genetics, there is no certainty that the dog will be susceptible to this condition if a parent is a carrier. However, it is highly recommended that dogs having this disorder get fixed so that they do not transmit this defective gene to future generations of Beagle.

If you are on the lookout for the healthiest beagles you can contact the kennels that breed beagles for hunting and family pets. You can seek references from the breeder and get in touch with these breeders directly. Ask them about the health condition of their beagle and whether it has developed any kind of problem. Do not purchase a beagle from a kennel or any other source that you have not checked thoroughly.

If your dog is undergoing either mild or severe seizures, do not feel helpless for there is help for both of you. Work with a veterinary professional on whom you have faith, and familiarize yourself with seizures and their treatment. Conform to the vet’s instructions; never change medication or dosages without consultation, and be observant and patient. Hopefully, both you and your pet beagle will be able to brave the tough times.

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