Idiopathic Epilepsy (IE) is a common neurological disorder in both pets and humans. Even with the development of new antiepileptic drugs for humans, appropriate treatment options in dogs remain limited. Dogs experiencing repeated bouts of severe seizures are given therapeutic medication to control their frequency and severity. Idiopathic epilepsy has been reported in many dog breeds, such as The Standard Poodle, Dalmatian, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Belgian Tervuren, Cocker Spaniel, Miniature Schnauzer, Collie, and Basset Hound. A growing body of evidence supports a hereditary basis for idiopathic epilepsy. For a diagnosis of epilepsy to be made, other causes of seizures, including poisoning, infection, tumors, and head trauma must be ruled out. Although dogs of all ages can be affected, the peak value for the onset of first seizure is between one and five years. Early diagnosis and treatment are important in preventing of worsening of future seizures.
The diagnosis of idiopathic epilepsy is based on typical seizure history and exclusion of structural forebrain disease and metabolic-toxic disorders. Conventional therapy involves various anticonvalsant medications, including phenobarbital, potassium bromide, and valium. Generally, conventional anti-epileptic medicine is not prescribed, unless the pet has at least one seizure per month. Phenobarbital is commonly used to control seizures in dogs and cats with epilepsy. Side effects of phenobarbital include increased thirst, urination, and appetite. Occasionally, excessive sedation, wobbly gait, and anemia are seen, especially as the dosage increases. Dogs and cats that are given phenobarbital are periodically reevaluated to monitor side effects. Potassium bromide appears to have fewer side effects than phenobarbital. Many veterinarians are now using potassium bromide as the initial (and often only) medical therapy for dogs with epilepsy. Side effects may include tremors, stupor, wobbly gait, lack of appetite, vomiting, and constipation.
Dogs placed on low-salt diets may have increased bromide toxicity as a result of decreased chloride ion levels. Extra salt in the diet, as well as use of diuretics, may decrease the blood levels of bromide and increase the frequency of seizures. Dogs taking potassium bromide should be reevaluated regularly, usually every 3 to 6 months. Valium is the most commonly used as an injection for pets when have an ongoing seizure. Valium is not usually used as a sole medication for treating dogs with epilepsy. Phenobarbitone and potassium bromide are effective in most canine patients, although dosing regimes need to be carefully tailored to the individual, with serum concentration measurement. However, a significant proportion of patients remains resistant to these drugs. Work is currently underway to test the efficacy of newer antiepileptic drugs in the treatment of canine epilepsy, and preliminary data suggest that human drugs such as levetiracetam and gabapentin are of benefit in dogs with resistant epilepsy.