by Dorothy Wills-Raftery
Dorothy is a fellow pet blogger whose blog is named FiveSibes™ : Siberian Husky K9 News and Reviews. We found each other through a site called Blogpaws and I asked her to share something with us about K9 epilepsy.
March 26 is Purple Day® for Epilepsy, a day to join together in support for Epilepsy awareness by wearing or creating and sharing something purple. Motivated by her own struggles with Epilepsy, Purple Day was founded in 2008 by a nine-year-old girl named Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada, along with the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia (EANS). In 2009, the New York-based Anita Kaufmann Foundation and EANS teamed up to launch Purple Day internationally. Cassidy’s goal is to get people talking about Epilepsy in an effort to dispel myths, and inform those with seizures that they are not alone.Epilepsy does not just affect humans. Thousands of dogs are diagnosed with Canine Epilepsy or a seizure disorder across the breeds around the world each year. Not too long ago euthanasia was the recommendation made by many veterinarians for a dog who had seizures. Today, that is no longer the case as there are many medications and alternative and holistic treatments available to treat dogs with seizures. These dogs, called “Epi-dogs,” may only experience one seizure from some unknown origin, and never have another, while others manage their seizures with medications and diet. One of my own Siberian Huskies, Gibson, began having ‘grand mal’ and cluster seizures shortly after his third birthday. He was diagnosed with idiopathic (unknown cause) Canine Epilepsy and was placed on medications, alternative therapies, and a specific diet that all helped him to live seizure-free for the last seven years of his life.
There are many reasons a dog may begin to have a seizure. It may be genetic. He may have an underlying illness or experience an injury or trauma. She may have ingested or came into contact with something toxic; there are many possibilities ranging from a poisonous plant or shrub, paint, chemical yard sprays, candles, air fresheners, perfumes, and certain oils, such as rosemary, eucalyptus, or tea tree. Certain foods and ingredients can trigger a seizure, such as wheat gluten, rosemary, some grains, and preservatives. Rawhide bones have caused seizures in many dogs. Flashing strobe lights, TVs, lightning and thunderstorms, heat, and even lunar activity, solar flares, and barometric pressure can affect dogs with seizures. And then there is the other end of the spectrum, no known cause, or idiopathic Epilepsy.
If your dog experiences a seizure, go to your vet office as soon as possible. They will run a series of tests, including blood work, to rule out any underlying health issue. Your vet may want to wait and see if the dog has another seizure before prescribing medication. In the meantime, if possible, try to get a history of your dog’s bloodline to see if it’s genetic. It’s not always possible to do, especially if they are rescue or shelter dogs, but continue ruling out other possible triggers that may be affecting your dog. If your vet recommends anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), it may be a while to find the right combination and for the dog to adjust to them. Some dogs respond immediately; others may still continue to have seizures and/or side effects from the AEDs. Also research holistic therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, therapeutic oils, and Reiki, as well as vitamins and supplements, which can be added to your dog’s care under the supervision of your vet or veterinary neurologist. Keep a written or a video journal of your dog’s seizure activity from the time it starts to the length of the seizure and what your dog did or ate prior to the onset. Use these notes to discuss your dog’s case with your vet.
Be your dog’s advocate. Research all you can about Canine Epilepsy. Join a support network. There are some wonderful online ones, including the Epil-K9 List on Epil-K9 Foundation’s Canine Epilepsy Resources site at www.Canine-Epilepsy.com. With some care and lots of love, Epi-dogs can live wonderful lives.Alisa Arnoff, a director of the Epil-K9 Foundation, is the mom to two Tervurens: Epi-dog Lily and newest addition to the family, rescue sister Banyan. Introducing a new pup is always of concern, especially when an Epi-dog is involved. “What if the puppy did not work out? Did not respond well when Lily seized? What if Lily hated the dog?” But, Alisa says, Banyan has become a real positive influence for Lily. “Lily loves playing the alpha dog, and has increased her activity, which given the extra weight resulting from increased appetite due to her meds, is wonderful. Banyan even ‘alerts’ me to Lily’s seizures. She senses something is wrong before it happens and then goes into a frantic dance to get my attention. Then Banyan lies down with Lily after a seizure. Life continues to be a challenge, but my Lily now has her own canine champion at her side.”
Missy Erickson, a World Cup Medalist, National Champ and Record Holder, and a member of the 2016 Olympic Long Team, along with her partner Andy Lakatosh, a 2004 Olympic Team Alternate, a member of the 2008 Olympic Long Team, a Pan Am Games Medalist, and National Champ and Record Holder hail from San Pedro, California, and are proud parents to a fur-family of four dogs, including Epi-dog Daisy, a rescued Siberian Husky. “Living with an Epi-dog is no different than any of the other three dogs we have!” exclaims Missy. “Daisy is playful, spry, and she absolutely loves walks. She gets all her meds and glucosamine chews in the morning and at night with her bowl of food, and she gobbles them right up.”
Daisy came to Missy and Andy as a 10-year-old stray “just over a year ago, and we’re still seeing her personality come out more and more each day. She hates fireworks or any loud bang, which includes the heater in the living room, so she seeks us out and cuddles. She’s just like any other dog…she’s been known to get right in there and cause mischief like the others!”
For folks concerned with adopting a dog that has seizures, Missy says, “I would definitely encourage anyone to take on a dog with Epilepsy. It’s manageable and controllable with the right care and medication. We’re incredibly lucky. She’s been seizure free since November 14 of 2014! She brings smiles to our faces every single day, and her bounce when we come home is to die for. We wish she would have come into our lives sooner, but at 10 years old, she gives our 9-month-old puppy a run for his money!”
Epi-dogs are amazing dogs that are happy doing what they love, whether it’s mushing along a snow-covered trail, parading in a dog show, or accompanying their family on outings. They love to swim and socialize, go hiking, skijoring, bikejoring, and snuggling on the sofa. They do not let Canine Epilepsy stop them from living life.
So on this Purple Day, help to bring awareness to Canine Epilepsy. Education is key since it removes the fear of the unknown. So let’s put something purple on our dogs and ourselves, take a photo and post it on social media with #PurpleDay and #LiveGibStrong, and together we can support and help educate others that dogs with Canine Epilepsy can—and do—live full, happy lives.
Check out more pet stories and articles in our Pet Perspective section, including a column from Fresno Bully Rescue every other month. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to an animal rescue.