Fits and Starts

George came to us as a puppy in September 2015, and all was well until he started having strange episodes of ‘flinching’ for no reason. There was also occasional lip smacking, face twitching, cramping and jumping up – without any obvious cause. These all sounded like signs of some kind of epileptiform like condition (indeed, initially we thought he had something called Canine Epileptiform Cramping Syndrome that has been linked to gluten in the diet) but then in late 2016, after a period of these episodes becoming more frequent, George had a full blown seizure: Seizures are characterised by falling over, paddling with the legs, sometimes throwing the head back, muscle activity all over, excessive salivation and sometimes urination and defecation. A fit can last anything from seconds to many minutes, sometimes longer. George’s went on for 2 or 3 minutes. He then slowly recovered. Many dogs when recovering from a seizure stagger about, are incoordinated, appear blind and take some time to become fully conscious and present.

George was diagnosed with primary idiopathic epilepsy and began treatment for the same. Initially George had seen a range of specialist neurologists and we liaise with these specialists from time to time to help manage George’s epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a condition characterised by recurrent seizures and in mild cases (a few, mild fits with large intervals in between) we often do not treat, but monitor and give mild antiepileptic / anti-anxiety drugs at the time of the seizure. Many conditions can cause fits so firstly, usually with blood tests and MRI scans and occasional cerebrospinal fluid samples, we need to rule out conditions like brain tumours, liver failure, central nervous system infections etc.

We start most dogs on a drug called phenobarbitone, where the idea is to decrease the severity of seizures and increase the interval between them. If this doesn’t work on it’s own we add in other medications or change the treatment plan altogether. All patients with epilepsy have to have regular checks and blood tests to check we are causing no harm with the drugs and that we have them on the correct dose.

George has been very difficult to stabilise and thus far he has been on several different kinds of anti-epileptic treatment including additional drugs when he has cluster attacks. Most recently he has a drug that we reserve for the more severe cases where other treatments are working as well as they might.

George has very conscentious and caring owners, who have done much research themselves to support George. His seizure activity has improved recently and he has been having intervals of up to 2 weeks or more between fits. Despite all this George has been a proper ‘Star’ – always coming to see his Veterinary Surgeon with a waggy tail, and waiting patiently for a treat at the end of his examination and any tests that we perform.