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Epilepsy is one of the oldest diseases known to man, having been described as early as 2000 B.C.  It occurs quite frequently in dogs, but much less frequently in cats.

Nerve cells in the brain function by the production of impulses that transmit along nerve fibres.  Epilepsy is a sudden, rapid, excessive discharge of electrical energy in-groups of brain cells causing what we call a seizure or convulsion.  Why this spontaneous discharge occurs we do not know, but the condition is hereditary in the dog.

Epilepsy usually becomes apparent between 6 months and 5 years of age.  Nearly all breeds, including mixed breeds, may be affected.

Medication for epilepsy does not ‘cure’ the disease; instead, treatment is designed to ‘control’ the disease.  Successful therapy is measured by the ability to decrease the frequency, duration and severity of individual seizures. 


Epileptic seizures seldom last more than 5 minutes, but to the unprepared observer they are extremely alarming and seem to last much longer.  There is usually little danger in handling most animals during a seizure, but one should avoid the mouth because accidental bites can occur.

Most seizures can be described in 3 distinct phases.  The first phase is called ‘aura’ and is a very brief period before a seizure during which the affected animal seems overly anxious.  He may come scrabbling out from under a piece of furniture or jump from a chair and the eyes seem wildly dilated.  This phase generally is less than one minute in duration.

The second phase is the actual seizure.  Usually, each attack is different and can range from a mild muscle spasm to a severe convulsion with elimination of faeces and urine.  Loss of consciousness may or may not occur.

The third phase occurs immediately after the seizure and is characterised by confusion, weakness and rapid breathing.  The severity of this phase depends on the severity of the convulsion.  Blindness (temporary) and total exhaustion may follow a severe episode.    


Status epilepticus is best described as a constant seizure state.  Each seizure seems to stimulate another one and the effected animal has one seizure after another.

Since this condition can be fatal, call your veterinarian immediately.



• Many epileptic dogs become worse if not controlled.
• Medication must be given for the life of your pet.
• Even a well-controlled case may have an occasional mild seizure.
• Discontinuance or ‘skipping’ of a treatment may cause a seizure in the controlled case.
• Medication must be given one to four times a day, depending on the individual case.
• Determination of your pet’s dosage may take several months.  Proper dosage is determined by the effect of the medication on your pet’s seizure and periodic blood testing to ascertain that an appropriate level of medication is present in your pet’s blood Prevention of all seizure is the desired goal.
• Frequently more than one medication is necessary.
• Do not become discouraged if a seizure reccurs.  Call the veterinarian to discuss changes in dosage or medication.
• Record the date and duration of all seizures.  Make a mental note of the severity.


1. Your pet’s seizures recur.
2. There is a change in the behaviour, attitude or general health of your pet.
3. If you are unable to medicate you’re pet.

© Forrest Hill Vets (2000) Ltd