Alternative Dog Medication for Seizures

Updated on January 2, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a small animal veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

Canine epilepsy does not always have to be treated.
Canine epilepsy does not always have to be treated. | Source

Although the decision about whether or not to put your dog on seizure medication should be decided between you and your veterinarian, I think that the better educated dog owner will make a better decision. This article will give you some information about the medications available and give you a few guidelines you might choose to follow.

Watching a dog go through a grand mal seizure is a horrible thing. The neurons in the brain fire all at once and the dog loses consciousness, falls down, all of the muscles twitch, and the dog may even lose control of his bowels and bladder. A seizure may be a one-time event, though. A dog must have more than one seizure before he is considered an epileptic. If he is suffering from another disease, he may have a single seizure, and after he is cured of the disease he may never have another problem.

If your dog has an absence seizure, you may not even notice. They are more of a problem in human beings since the epileptic is not able to drive or work around machinery. Is the brain being damaged when he has the seizure? Yes, but it may not be significant.

The treatment for epilepsy will vary. No medication is without side effects, and some of the best medications to control seizures have the most side effects.

Source

What are the medications most commonly used to control seizures in dogs?

Phenobarbital: This is the most common drug since it is very effective. It also has a lot of side effects. It will make your dog act tired, pee excessively, be constantly hungry and thirsty, wobbly, and restless. Some of these side effects go away after a short time; some of them will come back every time you need to alter the dose.

If you have to put your dog on Phenobarbital for a long time, he might have liver damage. Sometimes this can be picked up on blood work and sometimes it can be treated with milk thistle or other drugs. Some dogs will have liver failure and die.

Potassium bromide: This drug is effective in some dogs, either by itself or when used with Phenobarbital. It also may make your dog uncoordinated, drowsy, weak, and sometimes even causes skin problems. If your dog has behavioral changes, sometimes it helps to decrease his dosage.

Another side effect of potassium bromide can be GI problems like vomiting or nausea. It may help to give the drug with food, it may help to divide the dose, or you might have to stop giving the drug. If a dog has kidney problems he may not be able to excrete the drug and can build up toxic levels in his blood.

Diazepam: This is an anti-anxiety medication but it is also effective in controlling seizures in some dogs. It can cause drowsiness, disorientation, and in coordination, so your dog may just lie around except when he wobbles in to eat or drink.

What are the newer medications to control seizures?

Felbamate: This anti-epileptic is used to control seizures when mixed with Phenobarbital or potassium bromide since it will not make your dog drowsier. A dog may be nervous, or more hyperactive, the drug might cause liver problems, and it is expensive and has to be given three times a day.

Zonisamide: This drug seems to control seizures in a lot of dogs, but since it has not been used very often there have not been many reported side effects.

There are other anti-epileptic medications that can be tried but, unfortunately, everything has a side effect, even if it has yet to be discovered.

Dogs with epilepsy can lead normal lives.
Dogs with epilepsy can lead normal lives. | Source

Every drug has side effects. You can find a drug or a combination of drugs that will keep your dog from having any more seizures. Of course he might stop climbing the stairs, stop playing with the family, and just sit around when he is not eating.

There are also holistic cures. An article in the Journal of Holistic Veterinary Medicine discussed the use of an ice pack placed on the dog´s spine just before or during a seizure. (The area of the back treated is just over the abdomen). Many of the dogs stopped their seizures, and owners that were able to notice a pre-seizure aura actually prevented their dogs from having seizures.

Are you willing to use drugs and sacrifice your dog´s quality of life? Make this decision carefully.

Should you put your epileptic dog on drugs?

Do you want to put your epileptic dog on medications?

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Questions & Answers

  • My four-year-old rat terrier recently had a seizure. He has been on phenobarbital medication, which is administered two times a day. What do I do?

    If your dog is not responding to phenobarb, the first thing to do is try him on potassium bromate. Some dogs will do just fine when the medications are combined. Talk to your vet about getting the new prescription.

  • My dog is 5 years old and healthy except for the cluster seizures she has once a month. Should she be put on medication?

    Since you are her caretaker that has to be your decision. All seizure medications cause some side effects, and all seizures cause some brain damage. You just have to decide if the severity of her seizures and the change in her personality after justify the side effects.

    If this were my dog, what would I do? Without knowing her, it is impossible to say, but I probably would not put her on medications.

    You really need to discuss this issue with your regular vet since he or she will be familiar with your dog and any other health conditions that might be going on.

  • My 1 1/2-year-old Jack Russell is on phenobarbital and has been for around six months; however, seizures are becoming more frequent. Do you have any suggestions?

    You should talk to your regular vet about putting your dog on a Potassium Bromide trial. This drug is sometimes effective alone, but it can also be used in conjunction with phenobarbital.

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    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      8 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Linda, there is no evidence that Nuroplex or any of that class of meds does any good. You are probably just throwing your money away, and each time your dog has a seizure she is losing brain cells. What is worse, the meds or the loss of brain? I am on meds for my seizures, and although all have side effects, they are less than the pain and suffering that a dog goes through each time she has to go through the seizure.

      The apoquil was probably a coincidence, but who knows?

    • profile image

      Linda Fojtik 

      8 months ago

      Our 12 Yr old Boston Terrier started having seiures after taking Apequil she had never had them before having one a week sometimes 2 in one day, took her off the meds and changed her food for allergies. Maybe thinking that it would help. She has 1 a week and last night she had 3, 3 to 4 hours apart. She is on Nuroplex, was starting out low dose to start. I don't want to put her on Anti seizure meds. Any help you can give is helpful.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 

      3 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for taking the time to discuss this with me, Doc. I value your opinion.

      I think it is time to consider some natural therapies for epilepsy. I'm aware of a few that have been used by people. I will research their potential use with dogs. Thanks again.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      A dozen petit mal seizures in a year does mean your dog is epileptic, but does it justify daily anti-epileptic medications? Not in my opinion. I cannot promise you that he is not going to be effected, and maybe his life span will be shorter than a healthy dog, but it sounds like he has a good quality of life now, and may not if you take him in every six months for evaluation and seizure meds.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 

      3 years ago from Australia

      Maybe a dozen episodes last year. Months can pass without one, then he might have two within days. It is like there are stages to it though it doesn't take very long. He gets wobbly legs, has a little vomit and crap, then gets foamy mucous in this mouth and his body goes very tense.

      The first time we thought he might have been poisoned - but we couldn't figure out how that could have happened. No poisons, rat baits or snail pellets here. He recovers promptly and seems fine again.

      We talked about taking him to a vet but he hates going to the vet and it feels a bit pointless taking him when he looks healthy and fit. We just stay with him and talk to him during an episode.

      I would hate to be ignoring symptoms of something severe and treatable but it is easy to forget about them because he just bounces back to his usual energetic self. He is about 6 or 7 years old now but still plays fast-running games with his other canine friends, catches rabbits etc.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi LTM, it can be a petit mal seizure but it is definitely not grand mal. How often does it happen? If if is erratic, not a daily problem, I would not bother treating it since most of the meds have serious side effects.

      Let me know if you have any other questions about him.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 

      3 years ago from Australia

      Hello Mark. One of my dogs occasionally gets wobbly legs, vomits a little, eyes glazed, then body tightens and/or shakes. It only lasts a few minutes. Does this sound like epilepsy? He always remains upright. (He also always try to take himself outdoors when it begins.)

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I can understand that, since the first time my dog tried to warn me of an oncoming seizure I just thought she was bothering me and put her outside. She could have saved me some busted ribs and broken glasses if I had paid attention. Humans can be really thick at times!

    • KellyG05030 profile image

      Kelly 

      5 years ago from New England

      You know, Dr. Mark, Brian will come and find us once Anakin starts seizing, however, I will be honest and say I haven't paid attention to him letting me know prior to the event. Thanks for mentioning that, I'm going to keep an eye on him. The two of them are extremely close and always together - I bet I've been missing the warning signs from Brian!

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi Kelly does your Bichon let you know when Anakin is going to have a seizure? Training seizure alert dogs is really simple, a lot more so than the people who sell them claim! Maybe if he lets you know you can have the ice pack ready, or at least you can make sure Anakin lies down and is not injured when falling over.

      Keep trying. It is great that you are keeping track of the triggers, and hopefully you will be able to prevent more in the future.

    • KellyG05030 profile image

      Kelly 

      5 years ago from New England

      A great article, yet again, Dr. Mark. This one is near and dear to my heart as Anakin, our Siberian Husky, was diagnosed with canine epilepsy. He can go for entire summers without a single seizure, but he has a hard time with them in the winter months. I once read an article about sudden severe changes in barometric pressure being a trigger in canine seizures, and I have been able to relate a lot of his episodes with the rise/fall of the pressure here. I had never heard of using an ice pack before, and I'm going to try it out. He paces a lot prior to his seizures, so I might be able to tell when it's coming and try that. We tried him on meds, but we felt like he was worse on them. His seizures are mild in comparison to other dogs we've seen and only last a couple of minutes. Interestingly, we found that the smell of eucalyptus and rosemary seem to trigger seizures for him... we do our best to keep a list of triggers and steer clear. Thanks again, Dr. Mark, for keeping us dog owners/lovers in the know!!

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Sometimes it is helpful, will extend life and improve quality. Unfortuantely that is not always the case. Thanks for commenting!

    • Dreamhowl profile image

      Jessica Marello 

      5 years ago from United States

      Voted up! My boyfriend's aunt's dog was on seizure medication before she passed away. I don't know what it was, but it was necessary because she had them constantly without it. She had decided against putting her down. It extended her life a little, but the dog just recently passed away. Your hub was very informative.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Frontline (fipronil) is no better or worse than any of the poisons that people put on their dogs in order to get rid of fleas. Drug companies will tell you that the poisons have no side effects; well, at least none they know about at the moment. As you point out, however, they can always say the problem was caused by something else. "No, Frontline is safe, it only affects fleas and other insects."

      Thanks for leaving the comment.

    • ChristysWorld profile image

      Christy 

      6 years ago from The Deep South

      Hey, I did some reading about seizures in dogs. DId you know that Frontline, the flea medicine, can cause seizures in dogs and actually is more frequently doing so then is made known. Deffinately something to look into if your dog is suffering from seizures!!!

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks for the visit. Cute picture of the IG at Christmas, don't you think? Look at those legs!

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 

      6 years ago from Central Virginia

      So glad you covered this topic DrMark1961. It's so important for owners to know they have options. Great work. Voted up.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi wetnosedogs! No, I think that she puts up with me but can´t smile about it all of the time. Have you seen that new "page of shame" that has dogs wearing signs saying things like "I like to eat dog poop"? None of the dogs can read the signs but they all look unhappy.

      DoM, it is good to hear from you, even with that story. My friend in Rio Grande has a similar story about the Chihuahua she picked up on the street. When she got old the owner did not want her anymore and dumped her. The dog recently died at 20+, and Maria Luiza had to deal with seizures on occasion. It is really hard to watch.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image

      Melissa Flagg OSC 

      6 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      My little yorkie/shitzu had seizures. They were myoclonic seizures but she only had them once or twice a year. She had brain damage from an old lady who beat her over the head with a broom when she was a puppy. When I rescued her (literally stole her), she had them every now and then, as she got older they became more frequent. I decided against medication because they were so infrequent, and she never had any other problems. She died a year ago this November 1 (cancer, a tumor that caused torticollis). I always held her during the seizures.

      Anyway, sorry to be so depressing. Great hub!! :D

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 

      6 years ago from Alabama

      Your dog is ever loyal wearing that scarf or whatever it is. I really don't see a happy face, though!

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