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Living With Your Epileptic Dog

Helpful Hints - Originally compiled by Lisa Comeau

The following is a compilation of ideas, or hints, for people living with an epileptic dog. They are split into three problem areas -- Giving Medications, During the Seizure, and Safety. Nothing here is meant to be medical advice -- these are only things that other people with epileptic dogs have done to make their dog's life and their lives easier and safer. Not every idea will work for every dog, these are just suggestions you may want to try should the particular situation arise.

Credit for this list is be given to the members of Epil-K9 which was started in the spring of 1996. Epil-K9 is an invaluable forum for owners to share problems, ideas, fears, successes and sorrows with people that truly understand.

Giving Medications:

- Many dogs on Phenobarbital gain weight - giving medication with food may make this worse

- Take a paper cup of water and get the dog to drink a couple laps. Open their mouth really wide and pop the pills in as far back as you can. A few more sips of water and the pills are down. This also stops the dry throat - hack the pill up later syndrome.

- If you don't like putting your fingers in the dog's mouth, inexpensive pill guns can be purchased at many pet stores and vet offices.

- Try lightly blowing at the dog's nose or rubbing the throat to get them to swallow.

- A kiss on the forehead and telling the dog how brave they are is a must after pill-time.

- If you have only one animal in the house and one with a good appetite? Use an automatic cat feeder to dispense meds with dinner when you can't be home to give them.

- Make a 'meatball' which is about 3/4 inch in diameter and consists of canned dog food and the pills.

- Wrap the pill in a piece of cheese.

- Liquid potassium bromide (Kbr) can be given right on the food or squirted on a small piece of bread and given. Use a baby medication dropper or syringe to measure the amount.

- Pill splitters and crushers are available at most pharmacies. If you must divide the dose into an odd amount, crush the pill and use a razor blade to divide the amounts into the number of doses needed.

- To remember to give the medication, check out the pill containers available at your local pharmacy. A weeks worth of medication can be prepared in advance, and the question of "did I give it or didn't I" can be answered with one look at the medication dispenser. Some even have alarms to remind you a dosage is due.

- Keeping medication with you at all times may be important if your dog seizures frequently. Small fanny packs or ID wallets can even be attached to the dogs collar. Extra Phenobarbital, oral valium, and even liquid Valium can be carried by the dog when away from home.

During the Seizure:

- Some dogs are light or sound sensitive during seizure episodes. Try dimming the lights and keeping phones at a distance from the dog.

- Keep old towels or baby diapers handy to catch urine if your dog urinates during seizures.

- Some human epileptics say they have an easier time if the seizure is allowed to run its course. Calling the dog's name to bring them out of the seizure may not be the best thing for your dog. Try it each way and see which is more comfortable for your particular dog's seizure.

- A fan blowing on the dog, or rubbing the feet and belly with cool water may help cool the dog down. Of course, in any case should the dog seem to be overheating due to repeated seizures or not coming out of a seizure -IMMEDIATELY bring the dog to/or contact a vet since overheating can be very dangerous.

- Many dogs are confused and even blind right after a seizure. Keep the dog in a safe area where they cannot fall down stairs or hurt themselves.

- Keep a careful journal of the seizures. As soon as possible write down the exact time the dog started to seizure and the time the seizure ended. A stop watch or watch with a second hand can be helpful. After the seizure is over and you have time - write down all circumstances surrounding the seizure, such as unusual food eaten, activities that happened during the previous day, medications or vaccinations recently given. A detailed journal can be helpful when bringing your dog to a new vet or neurologist.

- Be prepared to transport a dog that cannot stand up and walk, or is even in the middle of a seizure. Hard plastic children's sleds can be used to carry or drag the dog to the car. A heavy blanket folded can also act as a stretcher. If you are alone with a very heavy/large seizing dog, call the vets office for instructions. Depending on where you live you may want to try calling the police for help in getting the dog into the car if no one else is available.


- Seizure proofing your home is important since most of us cannot be there to watch our dogs at all times. Seizures may occur when the dog is home alone. Many people crate their dogs while they are not there. An airline type crate (Vari-Kennel or Furrari) minimizes the chances of the feet getting caught up in the wires.

- While crating, or even when leaving the dog home alone, make sure the dog is not wearing a collar (especially with tags) that could get caught while the dog is thrashing. Choking can result.

- Some people make a special room for the epileptic dog, clearing out any objects/furniture that may injure the dog during a seizure. Crating or making a 'doggy room' may be the best idea should you have a 'catapulting dog', that is one that throws itself across the room during seizures.

- Never leave an epileptic dog alone near any water deep enough to drown in. If you need to, investigate getting a doggy lifevest for your dog.

- If you are concerned about your dog seizing while swimming, doggie life vests are available.

- Protection or separation may need to be considered in multiple dog households. A seizing dog can trigger the 'pack' instinct in which an injured animal on the ground is attacked. Monitor your dogs until you know their reactions to the seizing dog.

- Baby gates can be invaluable to block off stairways or confine the dog to a certain room.

- Be careful of leaving windows open should you have a dog that spends time near one. Screen windows can easily fall out of the framing as well as your dog.

- Prop a large piece of styrofoam insulation against a sliding glass door if you are afraid of your dog hitting against it.

- Buy a new or used baby alert monitor to 'hear' your dog if he sleeps in a different part of the home. Just put the receiver part in your bedroom -this may help you sleep better if you are constantly trying to 'listen' to hear if the dog is all right.

- If you really want to know what happens when you are not home, buy a voice activated tape recorder. It only records when significantly loud noise is heard. This will not only let you know if your dog has seized, but if he has been barking all day. Some also videotape their dog during the time they are gone. They then fast forward thru the tape to see if anything unusual has happened during the day.

- Keep phone numbers to your vet and all emergency vet hospitals near all phones. 2:00 a.m. in the morning is not he time to decide if your dog is in status and then figure out what to do. Drive by the emergency vet so you know exactly where it is. When traveling, get emergency numbers in advance or immediately find the hospital nearest you when you arrive. Keep the number handy at all times.

- An ID tag on a lost epileptic dog is very important. It's scary enough to think of a lost dog, but a lost dog without medications is even worse. Medical alert tags are available at most pharmacies, pet supply catalogs or from your vet. It can even be engraved and worn with your dog's regular tags.

- Train all your dogs for basic obedience. You may need it someday if you are walking multiple dogs and your epileptic seizures. The situation would be much easier if the other dogs will obey a sit or down stay.

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