Living With Canine Epilepsy by Harry Porter
I’m admin on a Facebook group called “Happy Pets & All Who Love Them” along with a lovely team of other admins and moderators; I share my dog Poppy in the group every day and I also love seeing all the members post photos and talk about their gorgeous furbabies – dogs, cats, rabbits, fish, rats, bearded dragons – you name it!
I’ve also learnt a lot of things I didn’t know as a result of members posts in the group. One thing I had no idea about, for example, is canine epilepsy and how to control it so that dogs can live as relatively a normal life as possible. Whereas most owners would make the decision to put sufferers of canine epilepsy to sleep, Harry Porter cares for his dog Sasha who suffers from canine epilepsy, and has written a book about his experiences to raise awareness of the disease and to educate other owners to the fact that if their dog has canine epilepsy, it is not a death sentence.
I’ve invited Harry to be a guest blogger with an article he shared in “Happy Pets & All Who Love Them” in which he talks about his experiences of canine epilepsy with Sasha, explains what it is and raises awareness of the condition. Harry, thank you so much for allowing me to share this post with my readers. I’m sure that they, like me, will find this post very informative indeed.
Sasha: Living With Canine Epilepsy by Harry Porter
I’m flattered that I’ve been invited to write something about the subject of canine epilepsy by three different dog groups, based on my experiences of the illness as suffered by my beautiful Sasha, who, as it happens, has recently suffered five epileptic seizures in just over 24 hours. The administrators of various groups have told me that many of their members know very little about epilepsy in dogs, and that they also find the thought of their dog developing the disease quite frightening.
Let me say that canine epilepsy IS frightening when it happens to your dog, but it is an illness like any other and though it can’t be cured, it CAN be controlled, allowing your dog to live as normal a life as possible around the occasional seizures, (fits).
Sasha was just 2 years old when she first developed the disease, after already surviving being abandoned at 6 weeks old, almost dying of hypothermia, two broken legs and serious skin allergies.
Then, one morning, after she’d been out into the garden, she collapsed on the floor of the utility room, making a horrible howling noise and her legs ‘paddling’ at top speed as if she was running a hundred yards sprint. She lost control of her bladder, and she was shaking all over. Juliet and I were terrified and our only thought at the time was that she was maybe having a stroke or something similar. This went on for nearly ten minutes and we were both convinced our beautiful little girl was dying.
Gradually, the seizure came to an end and Sasha tried to get up but was very wobbly on her paws and didn’t seem to respond when we spoke to her and she tried to walk but bumped into my legs. As I would later learn, as a dog is coming out of a seizure it will often undergo a short spell of temporary blindness and deafness, this is quite normal.
As soon as the vets opened, I rushed Sasha there in the car and she was seen right away by the senior vet/practice manager, who, from my description, told me that Sasha had suffered from a typical epileptic fit. I was devastated and, as I had a cousin who was seriously epileptic, I had visions of living with a seriously disabled dog. The vet reassured me however that epilepsy in dogs is quite common and normally strikes between the ages of two and three, so in that respect, Sasha was quite a typical case.
So, that basically describes how Sasha, my wife Juliet and the rest of our family and dogs were introduced to canine epilepsy, now, how do we go about living with an epileptic dog?
There’s no easy answer to that last question, but before I try to give any kind of advice please let me make two important points. First of all, PLEASE make sure you have your pet insured. A lot of people, even friends of mine, seem to think ‘It’ll never happen to me,’ and don’t take out pet insurance. Then when disaster strikes and they can’t afford expensive veterinary treatment, many of them end up having to have their beloved pets put to sleep because they can’t afford the treatment. Pet insurance can usually be bought on a monthly basis for no more than the price of a night out at the pub, not much to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing your pet is covered in case of serious illness or injury. Sasha’s annual vet bills come to around £6,000 a year, though I would say her case is more serious than the average epileptic dogs’. A friend who owned 4 dogs decided last year to cancel his insurance, saying it was a waste of money because he’d never had to make a claim. Less than ONE MONTH later one of his dogs was ill. He took her to the vet who diagnosed cancer. After three months of treatment he couldn’t afford to pay for any more. I don’t need to tell you what happened. Poor dog! To me, that signifies an irresponsible owner. People who say they can’t afford pet insurance usually seem to find the money for holidays abroad, or big modern TVs and satellite systems, but their poor dogs get forgotten about until it’s too late.
Second point, is simply, make sure you have a vet you can trust. I was lucky. To begin with, Sasha was treated by the senior partner at the practice, who had lots of experience with epi-dogs, and later by a new vet who himself owned an epi-dog and had spent years researching the disease. He and I became friends and he taught me so much about the illness, I felt as if I’d done a university degree course in the subject. He still advises me today even though he left the practice and Sasha is once more under the senior partner. A lot of newly qualified, or even some younger vets have little or no experience of the illness, in some cases, never having treated an epileptic dog before. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion if your vet doesn’t seem to have any knowledge of the illness or has to keep looking at a journal or computer screen to find out what to do. Remember, you are a paying customer, and it’s your pet’s life at stake not his or hers.
The most common form of epilepsy is known as idiopathic epilepsy which simply means there is no specific cause for the seizures. Believe it or not 4 in every hundred dogs in the UK are diagnosed with the disease every year, so it’s more common than you think. Usually, a vet will prescribe either Phenobarbital or Pexion in the first instance. Pexion does have some critics however and it has been found to be effective mostly in young dogs and isn’t really effective in treating dogs with cluster seizures.
What’s a cluster seizure?
Sasha soon started having more than one seizure at a time. And could have three or sometimes four in a hour or two, hence the term, cluster seizures. In these cases, a combination of Phenobarbital (Epiphen), and Libromide or a derivative are usually prescribed as the Libromide acts to bolster the effects of the Phenobarbital, making it more effective. Your vet will usually insist on regular blood tests for your dog. This is because the drugs used to treat epilepsy have the undesired side-effect of producing a build-up of toxins in the liver. There are acceptable levels for each drug and the vet will assess these when deciding whether to increase your dog’s dosage of either drug from time to time.
If your dog is diagnosed with canine epilepsy you’ll soon become used to dealing with your dog’s fits and although scary, don’t forget, your dog is unconscious during a seizure and has no idea what’s happening and is NOT in any pain. It isn’t necessary to visit your vet every tine your dog has a fit, but it’s a good idea to keep a diary of when the fits occur, how long they last and how long it took for your dog’s full recovery. Your vet may also prescribe the use of rectal tubes of Diazepam for your dog, which should be used either while your dog is having a fit, (very tricky to do), or just after, when the convulsions have worn off. This also helps to calm the electrical activity in the brain. These normally come in 5 or 10 mg doses. Sasha is on the 10 mg. ones.
Remember too that not all seizures are caused by epilepsy. If your dog, particularly an older dog, suddenly has a seizure, it doesn’t necessarily mean he/she has epilepsy. There can be other reasons, including brain tumour, brain cancer and many other causes. Sometimes a dog may suffer a seizure once and never be bothered by them again. It’s something of a minefield so, again, please don’t hesitate to take your pet to the vet. They are there to help and advise you and please don’t think you’re wasting their time. You’re not, and at the end of the day, a simple phone call could end up saving your dog’s life.
Finally, let me say again that canine epilepsy certainly isn’t a nice thing for you dog to suffer from, but, with careful management and good veterinary care, your dog can continue to live a long and happy life. It just takes a bit of adjustment, and a degree of common sense in handling the disease and do remember, your dog will have a lot more fit-free days than it will have seizure-affected ones, so enjoy your dog, and let him enjoy his life. I decided to write Sasha’s life story and turn it into a book, and since then I’ve had lots of people contact me, mostly worried owners wanting information on canine epilepsy or often for some kind of support after their dog has been diagnosed with the disease.
Sometimes, I can help, though there have been times when all I could do was be a listening ear when sadly, things haven’t turned out so well. I’m always happy to help if I can, so please, don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. If I can answer them, I will, but do remember, your vet is there to help too.
Canine epilepsy is more common than I realised as I only discovered when my book became a bestseller and went on to win a “Preditors & Editors Readers Poll Award” for Best Nonfiction Book 2016.
You can read all about Sasha and the book on my own Facebook page or on one of Sasha’s Facebook pages, the links are below. One of which, Harry, Sasha and Sheba’s House of Canine Hope and Healthcare is especially for any dog owner with healthcare concerns about their dogs.
Sasha also has her own page, Sasha the Wagging Tail of England.
If you’re interested in reading Sasha’s book, a bestseller in four countries, please go to http://getbook.at/Sasha.
If you do read and enjoy it, please leave a short review on Amazon. You can get the book in Kindle or paperback edition, (The Kindle book has full colours photos), and is also FREE on Kindle Unlimited.
I hope this has been helpful to some readers. It doesn’t tell you everything about canine epilepsy but I hope it’s done enough to dispel a few fears and worries and remove some of the terrors that people feel when they think about their dog suffering from seizures.
Not long ago someone contacted me to say her dog had been diagnosed with canine epilepsy and all her friends and family were telling her to have the dog out to sleep. I simply couldn’t believe that people could be so heartless, ignorant and short-sighted. Would you want to euthanize your best friend or your child if they were diagnosed as epileptic? No? I didn’t think so. There’s your answer.
That’s all until next time. Take care everyone,
Lots of love from me, Sasha, Sheba, and all our rescue dogs.
P.S. Don’t forget, Sheba’s life story, Sheba, From Hell to Happiness, is also available now and tells the story of how Sheba was saved from being a bait dog for dog fighters and ended up living a happy life with our family of rescue dogs and became Sasha’s best friend too. http://getbook.at/sheba.
Reproduced by kind permission of Harry Porter. Harry and his wife shares their lives and their home ten rescue dogs, all of whom receive the same love and care as Sasha. To contact Harry with any questions about canine epilepsy or his books please email firstname.lastname@example.org.