Category Archives: canine epilepsy

What is Fly-Snapping Syndrome?

Langley's dog fly snapBy Langley Cornwell

I wanted to write this article because one of our pups has developed a new tic. At first we thought it was just another oddity specific to him, but when I researched the characteristics of his new tic, I discovered it was a real syndrome: Fly-Snapping Syndrome.

There are times when we are all relaxing in the family room and suddenly Big Al will repeatedly snap at the air as if a swarm of insects are flying around his head. He seems to focus his eyes on the area right in front of his face, and move his head around as if he’s looking at flies, even though nothing is there. Then he’ll often become fixated on staring at his front legs, as if he expects to find something crawling on them. He may start licking his front legs, and then go back to staring into space and snapping at imaginary flies. Our dog’s episodes of snapping at invisible insects can be infrequent, or can occur repeatedly throughout the day.

What are Compulsive Behaviors?

Fly-Snapping (also called fly-biting) is one of many compulsive behaviors that dogs commonly display. Other compulsive behaviors include tail chasing, spinning, pacing, toy fixation, shadow or light chasing, repeated licking, chewing or scratching, flank sucking, excessive water drinking and nonstop barking. Some dogs display compulsive behaviors over and over to the point where the behaviors interfere with their normal lives.

Compulsive canine behaviors include any repetitive actions that dogs perform unprompted. Normal dogs may engage in similar activities, but they usually do so in response to specific triggers and not compulsively.

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What to Do if Your Dog Has a Seizure


By Ruthie Bently

I began doing research into seizures after I knew Skye was coming to live with me. I looked into homeopathy, acupuncture, Reiki and other alternative therapies. I even contacted an animal communicator so I could ‘speak’ to Skye. I did everything I could think of to prepare for living with a “seizure” dog. I thought I was equipped to handle it if Skye had a seizure. But when it happened, even though her seizure was minor (compared to what I expected), it was still an emotional event because I felt powerless to help her.

As I explained in my article on canine epilepsy, when the electrical synapses of a brain misfire, it causes erratic un-coordinated nerve transmissions to the body’s muscles, which results in a seizure. A dog can have a seizure without having epilepsy though, and there are many things in our environment that can cause a seizure. While we understand the mechanics of a seizure, the brain is a complex organism which we do not fully understand. No matter how much information you read on the subject, remember every dog is different and so are their seizures. There are four kinds of seizures (petite mal, grand mal, status epilepticus, clusters) and their severity ranges from mild to life threatening. Seizures are categorized as either partial or generalized. The impulses of a partial seizure begin in a specific area of the brain, while the generalized seizure takes place all over at once.

The symptoms of a seizure are varied and many depending on the seizure. Some seizures begin with a loss of consciousness and all the dog’s muscles contracting. Your dog may begin drooling excessively. A dog’s facial muscles may begin twitching or they may begin vocalizing. There may be opening and closing of the jaws and a dog may look like they are running in place. During certain seizures some dogs are even conscious and aware of their surroundings. After the seizure, a dog may lie still for a short period. They will eventually get up but may show signs of post seizure behavior. These can include bumping into things, being disoriented, temporary blindness or loss of focus, and running or pacing around the house. They can be confused, may not recognize their owner and may even be afraid of them.

When your dog experiences a seizure, electrical and chemical changes occur in their brain; these result in behavioral changes in your dog. These are only temporary conditions and will go away with time. Every seizure affects a dog’s behavior and the more severe the seizure is, the more behavioral changes you will notice. Some are slight and go away quickly and some may take longer to recede. You need to have understanding and patience to help your dog get through this bewildering time. Stay calm while your dog is having the seizure, and don’t get in their way. Try to keep the area around them as clear as possible, so they don’t bump into something and injure themselves. Keep your hands away from their face and body; you may be injured due to their involuntary movements. After the seizure talk to your dog in a comforting voice and try to keep them calm.

If your dog has never had a seizure before, take them to the vet for an overall checkup. Having a blood panel done may be suggested. Contact your breeder to see if any littermates had or developed seizures issues. If your dog came from a shelter, ask if they noticed anything or can tell you about your dog’s background, as some breeds are predisposed to having seizure problems. Check out your home and your dog’s living environment (don’t rule out any changes you may have made) to find a reason for the seizure if the vet doesn’t have an answer. We use many products today, some of which can be seizure triggers for a dog. There are several good sources for seizure triggers on the internet; look them up and compare them to your situation.

It’s always a good idea to keep a medical journal for your dog, and can be especially helpful if your dog has seizures. You can record any seizures your dog has, the duration, symptoms and post recovery. Daily medications, including time of day and dosages given to your dog should be entered. You can also record vaccination records, preparations used for flea and tick removal, and details of all vet visits. If your dog has another seizure or continues to have seizures, you’ll have the information at your fingertips for the next time.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Canine Epilepsy


By Ruthie Bently

These days our dogs are being diagnosed with many of the same health conditions that we have, and one of them is epilepsy which is distinguished by recurring seizures. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder caused by misfiring of the electrical synapses in the brain. This in turn causes additional, erratic nerve transmissions that are not coordinated. These scramble the messages to the muscles in the body, which results in a seizure. Epilepsy is a chronic condition, though it should be noted that not all seizures are caused by epilepsy. There are different divisions of canine epilepsy, and it is not limited to one condition but a larger catalog of disorders.

Idiopathic epilepsy (also known as Primary Epilepsy) has no specific brain abnormality except for the seizures. Genetics are now suspected in the cause of idiopathic seizures of several dog breeds including Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Keeshonds, Collies, Beagles and the British Alsatian. It is now also being considered as an inherited problem in other breeds. I know of one geneticist who is studying the American Staffordshire Terrier to see if there is a link to epilepsy in the breed. My AmStaff Skye was diagnosed with idiopathic juvenile seizures and had her first seizure when she went into her first season; she was about a year old. Most dogs diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy experience their first seizure between the age of one and five years.

Symptomatic epilepsy (also known as Secondary Epilepsy) consists of seizures that can be linked to a specific cause or abnormality. Symptomatic Epilepsy can be caused by an underlying factor that you may not even have considered. It has been linked to brain tumors, hypothyroidism, canine distemper or another infection (which can cause brain damage), congenital hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and the ingestion of toxins like gardening chemicals and lead paint chips.

There are four basic types of seizures in varying degrees of severity; they are the petite mal (mild), grand mal (moderate), status epilepticus, and clusters. The status epilepticus and the clusters are the most dangerous and can be life threatening.

While canine epilepsy can be severe, some seizures can be controlled and even eliminated with the proper diet. It is important to stay away from chemical preservatives in your dog’s food as these may be seizure triggers. Skye eats CANIDAE ALS Grain Free which has no chemical preservatives. Seizures that cannot be controlled by diet, may be controlled with homeopathic methods or by medication if need be. If a dog needs to be medicated to control their seizures, there are several medications available.

Most seizures can be controlled with Phenobarbital and it is sometimes used in conjunction with Potassium Bromide. It should be noted that Phenobarbital is a barbiturate and can cause liver or kidney damage with prolonged usage. You need to have blood tests done every four to six months to check that the liver and kidneys are functioning properly. Potassium Bromide has been used alone when Phenobarbital has caused liver damage.

There can be a side effect with use of the bromides, called bromide intoxication. Bromide intoxication manifests itself in uneven locomotion, stumbling over nothing and even falling down. If your dog has these symptoms, talk to your vet about lowering the dosage or changing medication. Skye was originally on a combination of Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide and I witnessed Bromide intoxication. Her medication was changed to Sodium Bromide and though I have to watch her sodium levels, she no longer has any issues with Bromide intoxication. Neurontin, also known as Gabapentin, is a newer drug developed for use in human epilepsy and it is safe for use in canine epilepsy as well. However it can be costly – about $250.00 per month. Valium is not primarily used in the prevention of seizures, but it is used after the seizures happen to help calm the dog.

If your dog begins having seizures, have your vet look for underlying health issues. If none are found make sure to check your dog’s pedigree and lineage for a possible genetic link. Since Skye has been on just the Sodium Bromide I have not seen any side effects. We go to the vet every six months for blood tests, which are always normal.

Canine epilepsy is no longer the monster it used to be, and our companion animals can live long, healthy, fulfilling lives with the proper care. You wouldn’t know to look at Skye that she had ever had seizures, and I feel very blessed.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.