Seizures, or epilepsy (often referred to as a seizure disorder) is a chronic neurological condition characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures. It is commonly controlled with medication, although surgical methods are used as well., This condition when unexplained neurologic activity results in motor stimulation giving abnormal muscle activity can be very localized and only be observed as a slight twitch or focal tremor of one area. Or this can be a full “grand mal” which involves full muscle contractions known as paddling, accompanied by vomiting, defecation, urination, and sometimes chewing. Your pet will often be noted to have a period of time before a seizure (pre-ictal or prodromal phase)when they are very clingy as if trying to get your attention or very distant and trying to hide in a quiet place. The seizure can be mild and only last a few seconds to a minute or be more significant and last many minutes. Rarely, a pet can go into a seizure, or series or “cluster” of seizures that only anesthesia can calm. After a seizure, (post-ictal or postdromal phase) your pet may appear disoriented, possibly not recognize you, may appear temporarily blind, and be unstable for some period of time during “recovery”.
Epileptic seizures are classified both by their patterns of activity in the brain and their effects on behavior. In terms of their pattern of activity, seizures may be described as either partial or generalized. Partial seizures only involve a localized part of the brain, whereas generalized seizures involve the entire cortex. The term ‘secondary generalization’ may be used to describe a partial seizure that later spreads to the whole of the cortex and becomes generalized. All the causes of epilepsy are not known, but many predisposing factors have been identified, including brain damage resulting from malformations of brain development, head trauma, neurosurgical operations, other penetrating wounds of the brain, brain tumor, high fever, bacterial or viral encephalitis, stroke, intoxication, or acute or inborn disturbances of metabolism. Hereditary or genetic factors also play a role. While this condition can result one or more these contributing factors, more commonly this is considered idiopathic or of unknown cause.
The level of intervention for this condition in your pet is dependent on the characteristics your pet shows. Medically, Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide are the common medications and dose is varied to effect for your pet. Other interventions that a holistic practitioner may suggest before, or along with, the medications, are improving diet, improving digestion, aiding/supporting liver processes, determining musculoskeletal contributions, as upper neck neurology can exacerbate seizure activity. The liver is thought to be one of our main detoxification organs and crosses the “Blood Brain Barrier” to detoxify the Central Nervous System (CNS). If this organ and its associated processes are subdued or inhibited, there could be “toxic” effect to normal by-products of metabolism building up in the CNS fluids. Conventional medications, while often necessary, also add to the burden of “detoxification” to the liver and other organs.
When to start therapeutic interventions, again, depend on the characteristics of the condition your pet is having. While modifying nutrition and aiding digestion and even aiding and protecting the liver can be done early without worry of harm to your pet, the medications are generally considered to be a life-time treatment once started and as they also add burden to your body’s organs, your veterinarian may be conservative in your pet’s treatment. Veterinarians generally consider frequency, duration, severity and after effects of seizures to your pet and only begin medical therapy once the condition is deemed altering quality of life more so than the lifelong medications, with their side effects, are. Your veterinarian will do his or her best to advise you regarding when to consider medications versus just “watching” and recording the seizures.
One additional possible, but more rare, condition that causes seizure activity is a tumor or mass in or around the brain or spinal cord. Less commonly available diagnostics such as MRI’s and other scans can better isolate these, but therapies are often not available in veterinary care as in depth as in human care, so your veterinarian may advise these diagnostics only in certain circumstances.