I have had the bad luck of having two dogs who have had seizures. Ironically, they were not the breeds I would have worried about epilepsy in. My go to breed is Belgian Tervurens (Tervs). Epilepsy is a known health concern in Terv, but thanks to amazing breeders who are diligent about the health of the dogs they breed (and knocking on lots of wood!), my Tervs have been seizure free.
But my standard poodle Caos, and now my young Rottie Moon both have had seizures. I have been very lucky in that so far their seizures have been mild, infrequent, and easily controlled. Caos first had a seizure when he was about five. I have been fortunate that he only has a seizure every 6 months, he recovers quickly, and they are mild. I know heat can trigger his seizures so am careful about exposing him to the heat. But he otherwise lives a normal life-runs, plays, eats!
Recently, Moon gave us a scare when she had a mild seizure event. It was her first one, but since she is a two year old purebred, we will be on the lookout for more. She is the prime age to start showing signs of epilepsy. The most common cause of seizures is epilepsy.
As vets we are lucky that we have newer, safer anti seizure medications. In the past phenobarbital was our go to medication-and it is still a great choice. But we have other options too-Zonisamide, Gabapentin, and Keppra to name a few. It is important, when a pet starts having seizures to figure out why. Is it a young dog or cat, a breed prone to epilepsy, or are we seeing seizures for the first time in an older dog or cat? Any trauma, toxins, etc? These are all questions we ask. Epilepsy is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning there is no test for it, so it is diagnosed after we have ruled everything else out. We see seizures in cats as well, but fortunately not as often. We go through the same process with cats.
Hopefully you will never have to experience seizures in your cat or dog. Seizures can be scary for everyone involved. But if you find yourself in this situation, call us or the emergency veterinarians. It can be very important to seek veterinary care if your pet is having a seizure!
Boo Donoho, DVM