Canine epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects dogs, leading to unpredictable and often frightening seizures. Canine epilepsy, a neurological disorder that plagues dogs, results in unpredictable and often distressing seizures. It affects approximately 0.6% of the dog population, with specific breeds experiencing a higher prevalence, reaching up to 18.3%.
While there is no cure for epilepsy in dogs, various treatment options can help manage the condition. These treatments reduce the frequency and severity of seizures and improve the quality of life for affected pets.
In this article, we’ll delve into the effectiveness of different medications commonly prescribed to help our furry friends lead more seizure-free lives.
Medications for Canine Epilepsy
Medications are the most common and effective way to manage epilepsy in dogs. Veterinarians often prescribe anti-seizure drugs to control and reduce the frequency of seizures. Some of the most commonly used medications include:
Phenobarbital, a primary first-line treatment for canine epilepsy, operates by suppressing excessive electrical activity in the brain.
Phenobarbital works by enhancing the activity of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps calm down overexcited neurons in the brain. By increasing GABA’s inhibitory effects, phenobarbital reduces the likelihood of neurons firing erratically, which, in turn, reduces the occurrence of seizures.
To ensure the correct dosage, routine monitoring of blood levels is imperative.
What’s notable about phenobarbital is its general efficacy, irrespective of the underlying cause of the seizure disorder. This makes it a versatile option for managing various conditions, including epilepsy, brain tumors, infectious diseases, or poisonings.
Phenobarbital’s mechanism also involves the induction of metabolic enzymes, enhancing their ability to efficiently remove toxins from the body. This process, however, can lead to elevated liver enzyme levels when analyzed in a blood panel.
Regular blood testing is essential to detect potential liver issues while they remain manageable. This is complicated by the fact that even with normal phenobarbital use, liver enzyme elevations can occur, requiring close monitoring.
Levetiracetam, an anticonvulsant medication, is employed for the treatment of seizures and epilepsy in both dogs and cats. Typically, in dogs, it is administered in conjunction with other anticonvulsants. In the feline population, it may be used alone or in combination with other medications.
Notably, data from the National Library of Medicine underscores the effectiveness of LEV treatment. The study revealed that a substantial 69% of dogs experienced a significant reduction in seizure frequency by 50% or more. Remarkably, in 15% of the cases, dogs achieved complete freedom from seizures during a follow-up period of 1.2 and 1.4 years, respectively.
It’s imperative to emphasize that the management of medication should be under the close supervision of a veterinarian, as noted by PetRx. Dosage adjustments may be needed over time to maintain effectiveness and manage side effects in pets with epilepsy, ensuring optimal care.
Potassium bromide, an antiepileptic medication, is used in dogs to manage seizures that do not respond to phenobarbital alone. It is also employed in cases where phenobarbital is poorly tolerated. Its mode of action involves reducing seizure activity in the central nervous system.
In contrast, cats are less commonly treated with potassium bromide due to a higher occurrence of side effects in this feline population.
While potassium bromide is an effective treatment, it may take up to four months to reach therapeutic levels in the bloodstream. Initially, your veterinarian might initiate treatment with a “loading dose,” which is higher than the standard dosage, aiming to expedite the increase of drug levels.
If your dog is on a loading dose of potassium bromide, closely monitor your pet during this period. The elevated dose increases the risk of side effects, making vigilance important.
Zonisamide, known by the brand name Zonegran, is primarily used as an initial therapy for epilepsy. It is also employed as an adjunct drug for seizures that are challenging to control.
This relatively recent addition to the spectrum of antiepileptic medications is gaining popularity due to its notable effectiveness. It also has a comparatively lower incidence of side effects compared to certain other drugs.
Recent findings published in BMC Veterinary Research shed light on the promising outcomes of zonisamide. When zonisamide was the primary antiseizure medication, 42% of dogs experienced a significant 50% or greater reduction in seizure frequency.
Most strikingly, in 14% of the cases, there was the remarkable achievement of complete freedom from seizures. These results serve as a compelling showcase of the potential effectiveness of zonisamide in the management of canine epilepsy.
The effectiveness of medications for canine epilepsy can vary from one dog to another. It’s essential to work closely with a veterinarian to develop a tailored treatment plan that suits your dog’s specific needs.
Remember that medication alone is just one piece of the puzzle. A holistic approach to managing canine epilepsy involves dietary adjustments, lifestyle changes, and consistent monitoring for optimal pet care.
Explore treatment options and collaborate with your veterinarian to improve your furry friend’s quality of life despite their condition.