Category Archives: seizures

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.

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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.

Dogs and Toads Don’t Make a Good Duo


By Linda Cole

Toads are great to have in your garden. They dine on bugs and are a natural pest control. Dogs love to investigate anything that moves and toads are no exception. Toads are everywhere and can pose a health hazard to an unwary dog who may happen upon one. Dogs and toads are not good playmates. In fact, in a game of toad-catching by the dog, it’s usually the toad 1 and dog 0, which leaves the dog shaking his head and foaming at the mouth.

Toads are found in wet places like backyards during and after a rain and around ponds. Other than an irritating bad taste in a dog’s mouth, most toads are not toxic enough to cause great harm to your dog. Since toads are nocturnal, it’s important to be vigilant when your dog is outside at night for his walk or run before bed, especially during or after a rain.

In order for a dog to be poisoned by a toad, he has to actually pick it up in his mouth, bite it or lick it. Dog and toad encounters can happen no matter where you live. In some parts of the country, Cane Toads will crawl into a dog’s food bowl that is sitting outside to eat the dog’s food. In rare cases, they can leave enough residual to poison the dog when he then eats from that bowl or even licks the side where the toad was perched.

Toads are not pleasant tasting even to dogs, but then, if your dog is anything like mine, they’ve put an investment into their natural instinct to hunt. For a dog, toad hunting begins with staring, stalking, sniffing and then finally the catch. Of course that always results in the dog quickly spitting the offending toad out which is followed by foaming and a look to us like it was our fault they put that nasty tasting thing in their mouth in the first place. In most cases, the toad does not have enough toxin to harm your dog. However, the Colorado River Toad and the Cane Toad (also called the Marine Toad, Bufo Toad or Giant Toad) are the two most poisonous toads in the United States. Both are found in the southern parts of the country. The Colorado River Toad lives in the Southwestern states from Arizona to Southern California. The Cane Toad is found in South Texas and Florida. If you live in an area where these toads reside, it’s important to know what to watch for if your dog catches one.

The first obvious sign your dog caught a toad is foaming at the mouth. He may indicate his mouth is irritated by pawing at his mouth and shaking his head. A dog and toad encounter can leave the dog with mouth pain. Check his gums for inflammation or redness if he appears to be having pain in his mouth. If you suspect your dog caught a toad, you can flush his mouth with water from a garden hose. Try not to let the water run down his nose or throat by rinsing from the side of his mouth and holding his head down so the water runs out of his mouth. Gently rub the gums and inside of his mouth until the slimy feeling is gone.

Vomiting, weakness, appearing confused or disoriented, fever, labored breathing, seizures or diarrhea are signs your dog has been poisoned by a toad. Immediate medical treatment is required at this point. There is currently no series of tests a vet can run to determine if your dog has toad poisoning. Their best clue comes from an astute dog owner who either saw the encounter or recognized the signs, and by an abnormal heart rate found after an EKG. A hospitalized stay may be required that would include IV fluids, medication for pain, seizures, fever and stress as well as treating and controlling the dog’s abnormal heartbeat.

Both dogs and toads wander around in our yards. It’s impossible for most dog owners to watch their dogs constantly. Even on walks, with you by their side, your dog can find a toad hiding in a clump of grass they are investigating. Knowing the signs of toad poisoning and what to do is your best defense in protecting your dog. Our pets don’t always know what’s good for them. Most toad encounters result in only a bad taste in your dog’s mouth, but sometimes, the toad was the wrong one to mess with.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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.

Is My Old Dog Still Breathing?


By Lexiann Grant

The weather turns warm. Or humid. Wylie pants, laboring to draw a deep breath of cool air. It scares me the way his sides quiver when he inhales. At night, when it’s finally cooler, I often find him awake, lying down, but with his head up, his breathing rapid. There is nothing I can do that settles him or eases his shallow respirations. In the morning, if he is down, I rush to check – is he still breathing?

Wylie is an old dog, ambling slowly around the bend of 14 into 15. He was a wild puppy, one of those dogs who probably thought his name was, “no,” “stop,” “don’t,” or “enough.” We couldn’t wait for him to mature and settle down. But several years into the senior range, Wylie still chased cats, ate toilet paper and stole food from the counter. (Yes, we did take him to obedience, each of us…twice.)

One winter night he came inside, from barking and chasing a creature invisible to me. Suddenly he staggered, his back end sinking, legs lurching like a drunk’s. His eyes rolled to me, wide with panic, and down he went. No seizure, but Wylie was obviously ill. As I was about to take him to the emergency vet, he just as suddenly regained use of his legs. Within a few seconds he ran to the kitchen, wagging his tail and barking for dinner. Back to normal, back to wild.

That was three-and-a-half years ago. According to medical literature, Wylie should have been dead less than 12 months after the first appearance of his symptoms. There is no definitive diagnosis. Maybe he has atypical seizures, maybe degenerative myelopathy, or possibly laryngeal paralysis, also a degenerative neurological disease of the entire body despite its particular name.

Wylie’s personality changed with the collapse, and what used to intrigue him now stressed him to the point of danger. Although I would have gladly spent the money for specialty treatment, Wylie couldn’t be tested. The stress and discomfort of the tests necessary for a diagnosis could aggravate his symptoms, accelerating the disease. And even with an answer, there was – is – no cure.

Now my wild child sleeps his days away. Cats that used to scatter at his appearance, sniff his ears and step over his outstretched legs, legs that quiver and paddle as he dreams. But when dark falls, sleep slips into the shadows as Wylie worries through the nights, his stress magnified by hearing that has faded. Bewilderment is plain on his face as he agonizes over intruders he may miss if he rests.

Some days his symptoms are worse. He cannot arise without help. His feet turn in of their own accord, toes and nails drag, or he turns in circles and walks in diagonal lines on some unmappable path. Or he forgets how to get from the yard to the door that brings him back to food and his bed. The once proudly curled tail hangs unfurled, and he no longer lifts his leg to mark the world as his own.

And yet I keep this old dog near to my heart and bedside, even though he doesn’t smell so good anymore. Just as I worry that tomorrow will be the awful moment when I must decide to let him go painlessly, he revives himself and makes it through another day, not in discomfort or anxiety, but in that joyously simple state natural to dogs. He barks for breakfast, plays with his treat cube and runs, not so fast or gracefully, to see the deer pass through the woods.

So I breathe a sigh of relief and wait to see what tomorrow will bring. Will Wylie be there – lost? wild? staggering? happy? I’ve learned to love the new form of crazy, the new-old Wylie. One day, his bed and bowl, they’ll both be empty (and his bed will still smell like him). Today he’s here, breathing, and that’s enough.

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant

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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.

Skye, My Special Needs Dog

I have mentioned my American Staffordshire Terrier Skye in several of my articles. Some of you may know of her health issues, but I thought I would share them with you because dogs, cats and other animals with special needs need loving homes too.

I was not going to get another dog for a while after losing my last AmStaff Smokey Bear to old age at over 19 years old. I live in the country and have done so for over ten years now, with never a qualm of being in the “boonies,” as some of my friends call it. However, a violent crime a few miles from my house changed my thinking and after discussing it with my boyfriend, we began looking for another dog to share our lives with.

I found a breeder who had a retired AmStaff that needed a home; however, after discussing her with the breeder I found out that the dog’s handler wanted to adopt her, too. I didn’t feel right about taking her away from the only family she had ever known, and the breeder understood. The breeder mentioned she had another dog that needed a home, but she was hesitant because this dog (Skye) had special needs. Skye is a beautiful representation of the American Staffordshire breed. However, when she turned a year old and went into season for the first time, she began having idiopathic juvenile seizures.

What this means is that she began having seizures for no apparent reason. Skye was checked for epilepsy and did not have it, but that didn’t keep her from having seizures. The breeder had taken Skye to not only a regular vet, but a homeopath as well, and Skye had even been to the state university’s veterinary college to try and figure out what was wrong with her. Skye had grand mal seizures in clusters, which means that she had the most severe seizures and for hours at a time. The breeder mentioned that the seizures had gotten so bad, sometimes she would spend the night next to Skye’s crate to try and keep her calm. Some nights she would kiss Skye good night and say a prayer that Skye would still be here in the morning.

After hearing this story, I am sure you are saying “What were you thinking?” It may be hard to understand, but I had no other thought than to give this special girl a safe, caring, loving home of her own. Don’t get me wrong, I did lots of research into not only seizures but epilepsy as well, as that was the best information I could find that explained seizures and why they happen. I spoke with family and friends to get their opinions of whether or not they felt I was up to the task. I spoke with a trainer, who knows not only me but all the other AmStaffs I have lived with that had special training issues. I also spoke with a friend that said “Run like hell in the other direction,” so this story is not without its detractors.

I even spoke with an animal communicator to see how Skye felt about leaving the only home she had ever known. Speaking through the animal communicator, Skye said she couldn’t understand why she was still at the breeder’s. She knew that other dogs had gone home with families and didn’t know why she hadn’t. I asked Skye if she knew why she had seizures and got a surprising response: Skye thought all dogs had them and thought it was normal, but couldn’t tell me why she had them. I asked the animal communicator to ask Skye if she had any questions for me. Skye did, and what she asked me made me cry. Skye wanted to know if she didn’t live very long if I could still love her as much as I would love another dog. I asked the animal communicator to please tell Skye that I would love her if she was with me for three days or twenty years, but that I was aiming for the twenty year range. I also asked Skye if she wanted to come and live with me and she answered “Yes.” This was important to me, because she was coming from a place with a huge back yard she could run in safely to a place where we had no dog fences yet and where she would have to be walked on a leash until we could remedy the situation.

The breeder had a few requirements for me as well. I had to go for an interview to see if I would be able to handle an AmStaff to her satisfaction. A handsome boy named Henry helped me with that one. Henry got nosy and I didn’t back up or walk away, I just pushed him back and treated him as I would have treated any of my other AmStaffs if they got bossy. I passed the test and after learning about Skye’s requirements I got to bring her home with me.

We go to Skye’s vet every six months for blood tests, so her medication levels can be checked. She also has blood tests to make sure that her kidney and liver functions are normal, because the medication she is on can affect that also. Skye is completely off of Phenobarbital now but is still on Sodium Bromide, which keeps her seizures in check. Actually, my sweet Skye is closing in on her year and a half anniversary of being seizure free, and we have been blessed to never have seen one.

I believe that with love and faith all things are possible, and I have been blessed with a dog that proves it to me every day.

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.