Health & Diet

Epilepsy in Border Collies and Other Dogs: Signs, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

This isn’t like your usually boisterous dog, who appears shaky and disoriented. After then, they collapse to the ground. They seem to be losing momentum, even though they have no idea what is going on. In this case, epilepsy is taking place in the dog’s system. The question is, why is this occurring, and what can be done about it?

What Is Epilepsy in Dogs?

Seizures are among the neurological conditions that affect dogs most commonly. Fits and convulsions are other terms for seizures which are brief, involuntary interruptions of normal brain activity that are excessively accompanied by uncontrollable muscle action. Epilepsy is the medical term for repeated seizure episodes. Epilepsy-related seizures can be random or predictable, alone or in clusters, unpredictable or infrequent.

What Is the Cause of Canine Epilepsy?

No matter what the cause is, a seizure happens when the electrical activity in a dog’s brain isn’t right. This makes the dog lose control of its body. The following are some of the primary underlying reasons that can contribute to epilepsy in dogs:

  • Exhaustion of heat
  • Abnormalities in nutrition, like thiamine deficiency
  • Low amounts of blood sugar
  • Liver illness
  • Tumors
  • Consumed toxins like caffeine and chocolate
  • A head injury to the dog
  • Infectious diseases including rabies and the canine distemper virus

The problem of epilepsy in dogs is frequently traceable to contaminant exposure.

What Are Signs & Symptoms of Epilepsy in Dogs?

creamy white dog looking confused on a roadSlobbering, chowing down, tongue trying to bite, muscular toughening, consciousness loss and tongue foaming are some of the indications that may occur. Canines can sag to the side and paddle with their legs. During a seizure, they may urinate or pass feces. They are also unaware of their surroundings.

A few animals may appear confused, unsettled, or confused before experiencing a seizure. Aside from that, they could simply stare off towards space. Your dog may become unsteady, or temporarily blind as a result.

What Types of Canine Epilepsy Are There?

Idiopathic epilepsy and structural epilepsy are the two types of epilepsy in dogs. Below is a detailed explanation of the two.

Idiopathic Epilepsy

The majority of dogs (6 months to 6 years of age) with idiopathic epilepsy do not have an underlying reason for their recurrent seizures. It’s frequently believed that a combination of genetic and environmental variables causes idiopathic epilepsy.

It’s fairly common for dogs to have idiopathic epilepsy, which means the dog’s seizures have no known cause. Reactive seizures, which occur in dogs in response to short-term issues like poisoning, are one possible diagnosis. The patient will no longer experience reactive seizures once the underlying issue has been resolved.

Structural Epilepsy

An underlying reason for structural seizures in other dogs can be traced to the brain. This covers issues with blood flow, such as blockages, as well as bleeding, inflammation, infection, trauma, developmental issues, brain tumors, and degenerative brain conditions. Cerebrospinal fluid tests and/or an MRI can also confirm these abnormalities.

Types of Epileptic Seizures

Below are the different types of epileptic seizures in dogs.

Generalized Seizure (Grand Mal)

When a dog seems to have a generalized seizure, he or she frequently loses consciousness and may defecate or urinate. Because generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain rather than just one limb, when they occur, your dog’s movements will be affected by both sides of the body.

Focal Seizure

Just 50 percent of the canine brain is affected by focal epilepsy, which also affects specific small areas. Episodic moves, such as cranium swaying, repeated muscular contractions of a single leg, or percussive eye movements, are caused by abnormal activity in your dog’s motor area.

Psychomotor Seizure

Focused seizures called psychomotor seizures resemble an incident of abnormal behavior more than a convulsion. This kind of seizure disturbs the pet’s consciousness since the animal may appear to be hallucinating or otherwise affected.

Genetic Factors of Epilepsy in Dogs

The genes and the breed of canines may also contribute a lot to a dog’s health. This means that some illnesses that they may have may be linked to their ancestral lineage. Dogs of the following breeds are more likely to have seizures than dogs of other breeds, though individual dogs within these groups are not guaranteed to have an attack:

a sick bulldog lying on the floor

  • Bull Terriers
  • Large dogs under the retrieving and herding group like German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers
  • Dogs having the MDR1 gene for herding that include breeds like Australian Shepherds, Old English and Shetland Sheepdogs, German Shepherds, Longhaired Whippets, and Border Collies.
  • Breeds with small, flat noses such as the English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs

What Should I Do if My Dog Has a Seizure?

Seeing a dog have a seizure is likely to make even the most stoic person uncomfortable. Seizures in canines commonly manifest as the animal collapsing to the floor, sometimes with its legs stretched forward in front of it. He may also paddle his limbs and run in circles in a panicked mood for a few minutes before fainting, albeit this depends on the severity of the situation.

Do not forget to schedule a visit with your vet if the dog is experiencing or has recently experienced its first seizure. Additionally, visit an emergency veterinarian right away if you believe your dog has perhaps consumed something harmful that may have triggered the seizure. Otherwise, there’s a significant likelihood that your dog has epilepsy, which is prevalent in dogs.

Moreover, you can do the following suggestions as first aid in the event you notice your dog is already having a seizure:

  1. Be calm.
  2. Sit in close proximity to your dog.
  3. Monitor the attack of seizure in your dog.
  4. Relocate your dog to a safe place carefully.
  5. Talk to your dog in a low and comforting manner.
  6. Reduce the body temperature of your doggo.
  7. Cover your dog with a blanket.
  8. Give your dog some food and drinks.
  9. Let him have some rest and sleep.
  10. Don’t forget to call the veterinarian.

Diagnosis of Epilepsy in Dogs

When the pet has primary epilepsy, no single test can diagnose it. It is what medical professionals refer to as a “diagnostic of exclusion” because numerous tests are needed to rule out any other potential causes of seizures. Typically, a diagnostic examination is divided into two parts: first, to look into and rule out illnesses in which the seizures are brought on by a problem external to the brain, and second, to look into and rule out diseases within the brain.

During part of the diagnosing procedure, your pet will probably have blood and urine samples obtained. Some vets and other testing facilities may additionally use magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) of the brain to undertake advanced brain imaging. It could also be accompanied by spinal fluid analysis to rule out abnormal development.

How Is Canine Epilepsy Diagnosed?

Your dog’s veterinarian will start by conducting a detailed medical history after a seizure, paying special attention to any past experiences with head trauma or exposure to potentially dangerous or hallucinogenic chemicals. The physical exam, urine and blood tests, and occasionally an electrocardiogram will also be carried out by your veterinarian. These tests eliminate conditions that affect the heart, electrolytes, liver, kidneys, and even blood sugar levels. If your dog doesn’t take a monthly heartworm preventative, a heartworm test is done.

How To Treat Epilepsy in Dogs?

Typically, therapy for epilepsy in dogs starts after a dog has shown the following:

  • a month’s worth of seizures or more
  • clusters of seizures, or episodes where one seizure is followed by another
  • seizures are known as grand mals that are severe or last a long time.

Canine epilepsy treatment usually involved the use of anti-epileptic medicines which can be prescribed by the veterinarian. For dogs who don’t respond well to conventional therapies, combination therapy is frequently used.

Anti-Epileptic Drugs for Dogs

Currently, Phenobarbital, Potassium Bromide, Levetiracetam, and Zonisamide are the four main drugs used in the United States to prevent canine seizures. Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide are the two drugs that are most frequently prescribed to treat seizures in canines. Other anticonvulsants are being studied, and more recent anticonvulsants including Zonisamide (Zonegran®) and Levetiracetam (Keppra®) are gaining popularity.

When one medicine is unable to provide effective control, two or even three are frequently combined. A first-line anticonvulsant drug should be efficient, affordable, easy to administer, and have few potential side effects. Although Potassium Bromide or Phenobarbital is typically the first medication given to dogs, let’s take a time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of all four of these drugs.

AEDs Side Effects

On rare occasions, the adverse effects of epileptic seizure therapy may be worse than the seizures themselves. When using Phenobarbital or Bromide to treat canine epilepsy (or upping the dose), mild side effects are frequently experienced. These include increased thirst and appetite, frequent urination, mild sedation, and slight wobbling in the back legs. More significant side effects of Phenobarbital, like liver damage and blood abnormalities including the reduced level of RBC, WBC, and platelets, can very rarely occur.

How To Check If Treatment Works?

If you find that your dog is having noticeably fewer seizures than before, or that they are shorter or less severe, then treatment has been successful. In general, lowering the occurrence of seizures to around half of their unmedicated frequency and intensity is the main objective.

Prognosis of a Dog With Epilepsy

Generally speaking, the prognosis for epilepsy is favorable, albeit it much depends on how many seizures an animal experiences. The likelihood of an epileptic dog entering complete remission and not needing continuous therapy is low 6–8 percent in dogs even though the pet’s life expectancy may not be impacted. Dogs with epilepsy therefore typically need lifelong therapy and dedication from the pet owner.

How To Live With A Dog With Epilepsy?

owner sitting near her dog

Many dog owners who have epileptic canines wonder whether it is safe to leave their canine friends alone at home. Finding solutions to reduce dangers and harm to your dog while you are away is preferable to fretting in absolutes because even the most responsible pet owner will occasionally need to leave the house. The greatest thing you can do for your dog if it has seizures is to keep him or her in a secure location so that, if a seizure happens while you are away, your dog will be as safe as possible.

Foods & Diet For a Dog With Epilepsy

There have been encouraging outcomes in controlling canine epilepsy with a particular diet. When dogs move to a diet high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), their seizure frequency and intensity frequently go down. To assist manage your dog’s epilepsy, your veterinarian could recommend special food.

Progress of Curing Epilepsy in Dogs

The amount of seizures an animal experiences is a major factor in determining the prognosis for epilepsy, however overall the prognosis of curing epilepsy in dogs is positive. During the duration of treatment, periodic trips to your primary veterinarian may be necessary.

The liver will metabolize some AEDs. As a result, greater drug dosages could be necessary to keep the drug’s concentration in the blood at the same level over time. Every several months, your veterinarian could recommend blood tests to check the blood’s AED content or liver function. Your pet’s response to treatment will determine how frequently this needs to be done.

Border Collie And Epilepsy

You wouldn’t anticipate a Border Collie to have epilepsy. The breed prides itself on being known as a tireless workhorse. The Border Collie, however, is on the list of canines that are prone to epilepsy. Between the ages of six months and five years, the Border Collie is most likely to display symptoms of epilepsy. Numerous symptoms can appear in idiopathic epilepsy.

The Border Collie receives a variety of treatments. A dog’s prognosis is good if they don’t regularly experience epileptic episodes. There may be circumstances where medication is not advised. The most frequently prescribed drug is phenobarbital, which is used to treat more severe issues.

Heavy medicine may adversely impair the fluidity and efficiency of the Border Collie. Additionally, Border Collie studies suggest that this breed is more likely to develop drug resistance than others.

Epilepsy in Border Collies is a serious condition that needs to be treated no matter how severe it is. An early start to a treatment program is preferable to a later one. An epileptic Border Collie may need special accommodations at home and at the workplace. After undergoing therapy, many Border Collies are able to live a happy and active life, the kind that will put you on your toes and chase them.


Dogs commonly experience seizures. Seizures can affect any dog at any time of its life, however, some breeds are more predisposed to them than others. Diet, age, inherited disorders, sickness, and more can trigger epilepsy in dogs. Only a vet can diagnose and treat your dog’s seizures. Nonetheless, if you keep the following advice in consideration the next time your dog experiences it, you’ll be ready to assist him through it in every way possible.

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