How to get the best diagnosis for Epilepsy and Seizures
If your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy or has had seizures, it is an upsetting time. This article is designed to bring simplicity and clarity to the treatment of epilepsy, and discuss natural drug-free alternatives for epilepsy in dogs.
The purpose of this article is not to cite anatomy, biochemistry, and physiology books, which you can easily find online, the goal is to help you understand what factors influence the brain’s function and what you can do to help your dog.
Such methods can greatly improve your dog’s condition, and in some cases, make your dog’s problem go away completely.
PART 1 - WHAT IS EPILEPSY? WHY DO DOGS HAVE SEIZURES?
In simple terms, epilepsy is an abnormality in the function of the brain.
The brain is a very complex organ that can be compared to a super-computer. Dog epilepsy (seizures) is a state similar to a computer malfunction. During an epileptic attack, the conduction of brain impulses becomes chaotic and out of control which causes tremors and a loss of control and consciousness.
COMMON CAUSES OF EPILEPSY IN DOGS
- Head trauma
- Excessive chewing
- Neck and collar Injuries
- Nutrient deficiency
- Metabolic (biochemical) imbalance
- Toxic substances and heavy metals
- Infectious agents
- Flea, tick, and heartworm medication
- Brain tumour
When a dog is diagnosed with epilepsy, most people immediately worry about the worst case scenario. The good news is that the majority of dogs with epilepsy do not have brain tumours. The best way of addressing epilepsy is to eliminate the other possible causes before a tumour is considered.
DIAGNOSIS OF EPILEPSY
Determining the cause of your dog’s epilepsy and seizures is not always easy. While a diagnosis can be extremely helpful in establishing the prognosis, oftentimes no one can say for sure what the true cause of a seizure is.
However, all epileptic dogs should have an initial evaluation consisting of the following:
• Physical and neurological exam
• Complete blood count and chemistry plus urinalysis
• Tests for infectious agents such as toxoplasmosis and tick-borne diseases
• Thyroid panel
• Evaluation by a chiropractor, physical therapist, or an osteopath
• Diet evaluation
• HairQ Test – to check for mineral deficiencies, and levels for toxic elements such as mercury, arsenic, and lead.
If a dog’s seizures occur repeatedly a CT scan or an MRI is usually recommended to rule out a brain tumour.
This is in addition to X-rays of the chest and an ultrasound of the abdominal and thoracic regions to help to detect primary or secondary chest or abdominal tumours.
PART 2 - WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON CAUSES OF EPILEPSY IN DOGS?
1. HEAD TRAUMA
Everyone understands what happens when someone breaks their leg — there is a loss of integrity of the bone. The injury is not difficult to understand. However, when it comes to a physical trauma to soft tissue organs, such as the heart, liver, or brain, the full impact of this type of trauma isn't always as clear.
Let's put the canine body aside for a moment and imagine an iPhone. I recently dropped mine, and on the outside it seemed to be quite fine, however, it stopped automatically switching the orientation from a vertical to a horizontal perspective when I looked at pictures. The internal functions had been affected.
Going back to the brain, head and brain trauma causes complex, and sometimes difficult to detect, changes that can lead to brain dysfunction and seizures.
A blow to the head can cause the soft brain tissue to move within the rigid skull. Acceleration or deceleration of the brain can cause stretching, compression, and even tearing of millions of neurons. The blood vessels — arteries and veins within the brain — can also tear, resulting in bleeding, bruising, or swelling of the brain.
The symptoms can be varied and are often confusing, including changes in motor function, level of consciousness, epilepsy, memory, and changes in personality and behaviour. Your dog may be different for days, weeks, months, or even permanently.
Amongst practitioners, there are still opinions that the skull bones are rigid and not mobile in relation to each other. However, I believe this is incorrect. A shifting of skull bones may lead to changes of cerebrospinal fluid pressure and flow, which can lead to seizures.
2. EXCESSIVE CHEWING
Excessive chewing is a less recognized cause of epilepsy. Dogs that are obsessive chewers often suffer from increased tightness in their jaw and skull muscles. This results in a decrease of skull energy flow and increased chances of seizures.
I have noticed that some dogs who stop obsessive chewing suffer fewer seizures.
3. NECK AND COLLAR INJURIES
If you have been reading my previous articles and blogs, you may be aware that I do not recommend using dog collars, especially in dogs that have a tendency to pull. To demonstrate why, I would like you to do a little test now.
Grab your neck with your hands,
thumbs placed on the front of your neck, and pull back.
Do you feel blood rushing into your head, increasing the sensation of pressure in your skull? This is how dogs on a collar or a choke chain feel when they pull. People often tell me that using a collar is fine because their dogs do not pull, but most dogs pull at least occasionally. Even if your dog is well behaved but lunges from time to time, it is enough to cause serious problems.
Retractable leashes further increase the chances of blood flow obstruction and intra-cranial pressure. This may lead to a greater incidence of seizures.
What to do:
- Only use a harness, never a collar.
- Stop using retractable leashes. The pull of the spring itself can apply excessive pressure to the neck and chest area of your dog.
Have your dog assessed by a chiropractor or physical therapist as neck and head injuries may increase the likelihood of epilepsy.
4. NUTRIENT AND VITAMIN DEFICIENCY
In the process of finding a solution for epilepsy it is crucial to pay attention to your dog’s diet and provide them with the essential nutrients
HAIR TESTING AS A TOOL FOR DETECTING THE CAUSE OF EPILEPSY
A part of the diagnostic process for any dog with epilepsy should be hair testing for mineral and heavy metal levels. This simple, yet highly accurate, test can be purchased from our online store. Regardless of what diet you feed your dog, their food is likely to be depleted of essential nutrients as a result of widespread agricultural soil depletion. Providing the following supplements will greatly increase your dog’s chances of being epilepsy-free.
SUPPLEMENTS AND VITAMINS FOR DOGS WITH EPILEPSY
- GreenMin — essential minerals, amino acids and phytonutrients to ensure proper brain function.
- SoulFood — new generation fermented, certified organic, complete multivitamin and organ support.
- FeelGood Omega — sustainable mercury and toxin-free source of Omega 3s EPA and DHA, crucial for neuron repair, supporting brain function, and reducing brain inflammation.
- LiverTune cleanse and detox for dogs with epilepsy is especially important because they often suffer from greater than average heavy metal and toxin build up. The liver is also closely tied to brain function in general.
PART 3 - OTHER IMPORTANT FACTORS THAT CAN CAUSE EPILEPSY
5. TOXIN AND HEAVY METAL BUILD-UP
It may surprise you that a large portion of epileptic dogs stop having seizures completely when they go through a heavy metal cleanse and general detox.
Let me share a story with you.
Penny had a great life, she was loved and cared for, and fed homemade food, until one day she had an epileptic attack. However, even before the episode, it was clear that something wasn’t right. Her coat was coarse and she was becoming increasingly stiff.
Blood work results showed no abnormalities, but her HairQ Test results showed very high levels of both mercury and strontium.
When I shared the news with Peggy’s guardians, they mentioned that Peggy was frequently fed fish. I often see elevated mercury in dogs on a fish diet, however, the strontium was a puzzle to me because I didn’t see elevated levels of strontium often.
However, this was shortly after a nuclear plant disaster in Fukushima, where radioactive strontium was released into the ocean and found its way into fish bones. The atomic structure of strontium is similar to that of calcium, and this is why it deposits in bones. Small fish like sardines are eaten whole, which means the bones are consumed, and the shores of Japan are the spawning grounds for sardines that are then exported and canned under a variety of sardine brands. The mystery was solved.
It is still unclear if the levels of strontium in ocean water persist, however some studies done after the accident suggest an increase of Sr90 levels in ocean water and sediment 100x greater than levels prior to the accident.
Considering that strontium 90 has a half-life of 30 years, I generally suggest not feeding small fish to dogs. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130611084207.htm
Note: People mistakenly believe that feeding ‘local’ sardine brands is safe, but this may not be correct. Most sardine canneries purchase sardines on the international market and Japan is one of the largest sardine exporters. In general, canneries are not obligated to put the origin on the label.
If your dog has epilepsy it is essential to take every dog with epilepsy through the LiverTune cleanse mentioned in PART 2.
We used this protocol to treat Penny, and she lived seizure-free until she passed away at the age of 16 years.
6. VIRUSES, BACTERIA, AND OTHER MICROORGANISMS
While infections are not common causes of epilepsy, some diseases such as distemper, toxoplasmosis, or tick-borne diseases may cause central nervous system abnormalities and seizures.
Distemper is relatively rare and if you follow my holistic approach to vaccination protocol, your dog should be safe from this disease.
Feeding a natural diet that includes essential supplements will keep your dog’s immune system in good shape.
Processed foods are often the source of toxins and impurities and should be replaced with an all-natural, raw or cooked diet.
To learn how to make homemade raw or cooked meals for your dog here are two resources:
A free video course on how to create natural raw or cooked meals for dogs.
In some cases, vaccination can trigger seizures in a susceptible dog. I have seen this with the rabies vaccine, but also with other vaccines.
Opinions about the reason for such reactions vary. Some people believe that vaccines create an imprint of the disease's symptoms, others believe that excessive stimulation of the immune system can result in auto-antibody production, which may lead to neuron inflammation and seizures.
Excessive vaccination may also lead to the accumulation of mercury within the body. Once again, you can HairQ Test your dogs to see where their levels of mercury are at.
Minimize vaccines if possible and follow this safer vaccination protocol for dogs.
- If HairQ Test results show elevated mercury levels, I recommend using a homeopathic preparation Mercurius Vivus 200 C - two doses 12 hours apart.
- If the mercury levels are not elevated but epilepsy started within a few weeks following vaccination, you may start with the homeopathic remedy Thuja 200 C two doses 12 hours apart. This remedy is known to counteract vaccine side effects.
If you suspect or know that your dog’s epilepsy started with a rabies vaccine, it is safe to administer homeopathic Lyssin 200 C - one dose and see what happens.
8. FLEA, TICK, AND HEARTWORM MEDICATION
Once in my practice, a patient who had never had a seizure before, suffered a full grand mal seizure within 30 minutes of topical flea medication being applied. The reports of epilepsy after the use of flea and tick medications are relatively common, and you can find them on the environmental protection agency website.
Remember that any foreign chemical agent can cause a metabolic disturbance.
9. BRAIN TUMOUR RELATED SEIZURES
A brain tumour is the most feared differential diagnosis. Unfortunately, I have had two very personal experiences with brain tumours.
Sadly, both my brother and my brother-in-law died from brain tumours, but only one of them had epilepsy.
To determine if your dog has a brain tumour it is reasonable to wait and see if the attack repeats, and observe the frequency. If the periods in between attacks become less frequent with treatment, it is less likely that a tumour is present.
CT SCAN or MRI is a diagnostic method of choice to rule out a brain tumour.
10. ARE DRUGS NECESSARY FOR THE TREATMENT OF EPILEPSY IN DOGS?
Not always. The most commonly used drugs in conventional treatment protocols are phenobarbital, potassium bromide, sodium bromide, or a combination of phenobarbital and potassium bromide. Other medications can also be used, but listing them here is unnecessary.
The most important part to remember is that before you consider giving your dog anti-seizure medication, I suggest you take the steps suggested in this article, as many dogs stop or reduce the frequency of attacks to a level where drugs will not be needed.
Side effects of anti-seizure medication should be considered, and the pros and cons of using pharmaceuticals should always be discussed with your veterinarian.
I will repeat to ensure that you take these steps first, before starting any drugs.
- A full exam with blood and urine tests, including testing for infectious diseases if indicated.
- HairQ Test to assess mineral and heavy metal levels.
- Switch their diet to a clean, homemade raw or cooked food.
- Essential supplements
- LiverTune detox (give this product for 3- 6 months if your dog currently suffers from epilepsy)
- Wait for two months, if possible, to evaluate the results as the body needs time to rebuild and recover. My experience is that some dogs become completely attack-free, and others will experience a reduction of seizures to an acceptable level. Even if the frequency doesn’t change, your dog will be in better overall health and better prepared to withstand the prescription drugs, if they need to be used.