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With Dr. Barry

Watching your dog have a seizure is more than upsetting. In this series of brief articles, I will discuss the signs and symptoms of seizures and how to successfully treat seizures so your pet can lead a healthy and happy life. I will suggest a must have supplement, NeuroConnex, that I have found to be beneficial to my seizure patients, please see the article called, "A Spoonful of Sugar".

To Your Pet's Good Health,    Barry Miller DVM

What You Need To Know
What You Need To Know

The first thing pet owners usually ask themselves when they see their pet experience a seizure for the first time is, “What just happened, did my pet just have a seizure?” This is a natural response to seeing your pet go from their normal state to becoming unsteady, confused and falling to the floor. Seizures can look like a twitch or uncontrollable shaking and can last from less than a minute to several minutes. They can appear unconscious but seem to be paddling water and begin to drool. The sad news is pets can experience seizures just like humans.

I understand that watching your dog have a seizure is more than upsetting. I have written these short articles to help you navigate understanding this disease and assist you in helping your pet lead a happy and healthy life.

What is a Seizure?

A seizure is literally an abnormal burst of electrical activity in your pet’s  brain that the brain is unable to handle or compute. I discuss the causes of seizures In the section called What Causes Seizures?

Frequency and being committed to treatment:

The more frequent your pet has seizures the more predisposed they are to having more, so it is important to control seizures with proper medication and a regimen that will nurture a healthy nervous system. If your pet has seizures on a frequent basis they may be diagnosed with epilepsy. You will need to be committed to providing your pet with their medication on a routine schedule and in going to the Veterinarian for regular drug monitoring.

The Goal of Seizure Treatment:

The goal of seizure treatment is to typically have less than one seizure every 6-9months.

Keeping yourself and pet safe during a Seizure:

When your dog has a seizure especially if it's a violent one stay away from the pet's mouth, your pet will be in chomping their mouth since they're completely uninhibited during a seizure. In this state they may unknowingly hurt you. Remember your dog is not conscious of what it is doing. If you can move them to an area where they will be safe from hitting their head or if they are on a hard surface like concrete, place something under their head. This might mean dragging them onto a carpeted area.

Keep a Calendar:

I often recommend that my clients keep a calendar to keep track of their pet’s seizures. This will allow your veterinarian to determine the frequency of the seizures over a certain period of time.


What Causes Seizures
What Causes Seizures

There are several reasons why your pet can suffer a seizure.

Is it Genetic?

Especially if it is a younger pet, pet parents want to know if it is hereditary or genetic.  There can be a genetic predisposition to seizures in certain breeds of dogs but is not limited to the following pet breeds:

  • Beagle.
  • Keeshond.
  • Belgian Tervuren.
  • Golden Retriever.
  • Labrador Retriever.
  • Vizsla.
  • Shetland Sheepdog.


Genetic epilepsy tends to show up between 10 months and 3 years of age, but dogs as young as 6 months or as old as 5 years can show signs.


Was it something they ate?

Our pets do not always have great dietary discretion. I’m sure if we could ask them why they eat the things they do, they just might answer” because it was there”. 

So one of the causes of seizures can be the ingestion of prescription products intended for both Humans and Pets.

Prescription Products that can cause seizures in pets but are not limited to are the following:

  • Anti inflammatories
  • Pain Medication
  • Blood Pressure Medication
  • Anti Depressants

Another potential cause of seizures can be ingesting Insecticides and fertilizers. The very products that protect our pets from fleas and ticks if ingested can be harmful. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions so there is no possibility of ingesting products that are not meant for your pet to take internally.  Also any over the counter products such as:

  • Tylenol or Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Advil or Naproxen
  • Some caution should be given to vitamins or some supplements

Sickness and seizures:

Illness, especially chronic or prolonged illness can cause seizures in our pets. For example:

  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Encephalitis
  • Strokes
  • Brain cancer
  • Anemia
  • Blood pressure
  • Or electrolyte imbalances caused by dehydration or excessive fluids in the body

As you can see some of the causes of seizure can be prevented by storing all medications including vitamins and supplements, insecticides and fertilizers out of the reach our pets.  There can be a genetic predisposition to seizures, if your pet’s breed made the list it is not a guarantee that they will have seizures. Keeping our pet’s healthy as they suffer through illness, especially chronic illness is important in the prevention of further health issues like seizures.

Was That A Seizure
Was That A Seizure

Signs and symptoms of a seizure:

Recognizing a seizure in your pet will be important to achieving a successful treatment.  It is important to know that your pet will often show signs before he has a seizure, a Warning Period. During this Warning Period you may notice your dog acting atypically scared, worried, or stressed out or is clinging to you. They may also stare off into space and seem confused. A housed trained pet can suddenly not be able to control their bowels during these symptoms. During this time your pet is not conscious of what they are doing and will be unresponsive and unaware of their environment.

As the seizure progresses you will see these Signs and Symptoms:

  • foaming at the mouth
  • twitching
  • drooling
  • chomping
  • collapsing
  • making paddling motions with their legs.
  • it’s also not uncommon for dogs to urinate or defecate.

After your pet experiences a seizure you might also find these Signs and Symptoms:

  • walking in circles
  • bumping into things
  • drooling
  • generally being disoriented and wobbly.
  • your pet may also become temporarily blind
  • you might see blood if they bit themselves during the event.


Recovery from a seizure will be individual to each dog, it can be seconds to a day.


Was it a seizure:

To know if your dog is having a true seizure or not consider your pet’s consciousness or their awareness of its surroundings during the event in question. Ask yourself these questions if your pet is doing something that appears to be a seizure:

  1. Is my pet aware of their surroundings?
  2. Will they respond to being called by name?
  3. Is my pet easily aroused or responsive to me?
  4. Can it be woken up if it appears to be asleep?

If your pet is conscious and can respond to you or its surrounding it is not having a true seizure. If you have any concern or question as to whether or not your pet had a seizure it is important to take your pet to your Veterinarian for an assessment and to describe the events of what happened.



A Spoonful of Sugar, What you need to know about Treatment and Supplements
A Spoonful of Sugar, What you need to know about Treatment and Supplements


The good news about seizures is that over the years I have seen many dogs treated with reliable medications like Phenobarbital and other anti-seizure medications achieve a healthy and normal life with only occasional seizures. Modern medicine has also provided other medications that can be used to help control and treat seizures for example Zonisamide, Keppra or Levetiracetam and K BroVet.

Is Drug Monitoring Necessary?

Be aware that Phenobarbital requires regular therapeutic drug monitoring, approximately every 6 month, which will require visits to your veterinarian to determine your pet’s blood level of Phenobarbital and how effective that level is at preventing seizures.

When your pet is placed on Phenobarbital it is important to know about something called a Therapeutic Window. There is a therapeutic window that a dosage of Phenobarbital is effective, if your pet’s dosage is not within that window there are negative consequences.

If the dosage level has reached the maximum dosage allowed then there's nothing more Phenobarbital can do to help prevent seizures, going to a higher dose will only further damage your pet’s liver.

On the opposite side of the spectrum if the dosage is too low and is not in the therapeutic window there's no real benefit to giving the medication. So regular therapeutic drug monitoring will be an important part of your pet’s treatment.

Commitment Required

It will be important to keep your pet on his medication regularly (especially Phenobarbital) and also to give the correct dosage every time according to your Veterinarian’s prescription instructions.

As mentioned previously it's important to control seizures because the more seizures they have the more prone they will become to having more seizures and the more difficult it can be to treat and prevent them.

New medications like Zonisamide and Keppra or levetiracetam can be used to reduce or eliminate Phenobarbital and have much fewer side effects. Some of these drugs might be an option for a pet that is experiencing very few seizures over the course of 6-9months.

What can I do to reduce the damage of my pet’s seizure medicine on their body?

The advantage of combining supplements with traditional western medicine is that a pet has an increased chance of living a longer and more comfortable life.

Supplements can also be used to improve the overall health of the pet and prevent some of the negative side effects of the medications damaging your pet’s body.

I recommend NeuroConnex to my patients to help reduce the damaging effects of seizures on their pet’s body and to help support a healthy nervous system.

NeuroConnex combines both Neuroprevin™ and PolicosanolPlus™ which has been shown to enhance nerve formation and then promote the maintenance of these nerves. Evidence supports its use as a functional ingredient for nerve regeneration as well as neuroprotection from the effects of environmental pollutants and aging.

Another supplement that we recommend with any pet that is taking seizure medications like Phenobarbital is that they’re on a liver supplement, such as Liver Support Chew Tabs, Denosyl or SAMe. Anti Seizure medications can damage or stress the liver, Liver Supplements help to support the overall health of the liver. By supporting both the liver and nervous system of your pet your pet will be more likely to have a healthier and happier life.

One more thing, Diet

Changes to diet can be beneficial depending on your dog’s specific situation. Many case studies have shown a correlation between food allergies and epilepsy. Switching your dog to a hypoallergenic diet like a prescription diet of Purina Pro Plan HA or transitioning from an over-the-counter commercial food to home-prepared meals with organic ingredients can prevent seizures and make a huge difference in your dog’s overall health.

Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6 oils): Many humans with epilepsy  have been helped by eating a ketogenic diet (high in fat, low in carbohydrates). High fat seems to decrease the excitability of the neurons in the brain, and the addition of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (both of which are found in wild-caught-salmon oil) can decrease seizure frequency and intensity in dogs.

Nutraceuticals: The exact mechanism of action of each supplement is beyond the scope of this discussion, but a variety of vitamins and nutritional supplements have been highly effective in decreasing seizures in dogs. In my practice, we regularly recommend the following for our epileptic patients: DMG (n, n dimethyl-glycine); Choline; taurine; L-tryptophan; magnesium; melatonin; phosphatidylserine; and antioxidants such as vitamins C, A and B complex.


Recommended by Dr. Barry!