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Canine Idiopathic Epilepsy: Our Experience

Updated: Oct 10, 2023


This post is a big one so we’re going to split it into two parts and one checklist.

Part One: Mars’ Seizures

Part Two: Mars’ Epilepsy Diagnosis (Released next week!)


I truly hope that you’re reading this because you follow our blog or stumbled across our website and not because your dog has had a seizure and you’ve been googling about seizures but even if that is the case, you’ve come to the (semi-right) place. I’m not a vet, but in December 2022 our dog (Mars) began having seizures for the first time and yes, we panicked, but we also documented everything. The sub-section "Mars' First Seizure" goes into as much detail as possible for anyone who needs it.


PART ONE: MARS’ SEIZURES


MARS' FIRST SEIZURE

Okay let’s go! I’ll start at the beginning. On Friday 2nd December 2022, neither Jake or I could sleep. It was 3am and we had the TV on when we heard what sounded like Mars running around his bed. His bed is an XL crate sized nook in the kitchen, under the stairs and we have a baby gate on it so for the purposes of this, it’s a crate. I muted the TV, curious about the sound and Jake and I came downstairs to see what the fuss was about and quickly realised he was having a seizure. (I took one look at him and yelled "he's having a seizure".)


While there are different types of seizures, Mars had the most recognisable type, it looked exactly like a seizure on TV would, called a tonic-clonic- previously grand mal seizure. His head was slamming back against the wall, his jaw was snapping open and closed with force while his body was tense and his legs were stretched out and flailing around. Someone once said that their dog runs in their sleep and how can you tell the difference- trust me, if your dog is having a tonic-clonic seizure, you can tell. We do have videos of two of his seizures, but they're incredibly difficult to watch and not something to be shared.


While Jake stayed with Mars, I ran upstairs to grab my phone, knew in the back of my mind you're supposed to time seizures, couldn't for the life of me find the stopwatch in my clock app with the adrenaline and called the local 24/7 vet instead. The vet on the phone gave us lots of great advice and their staying calm helped us to calm down a little too. They told us to cool down Mars' room, turn off any noise or lighting and warned us that it could take him up to an hour for him to come round from his seizure. This bit is called the post-ictal phase.


When he did come out of the seizing, Jake was in his bed area and positioned over his head and body and Mars, softest dog I have ever met, attempted to bite him. Jake obviously stepped out and closed his gate and Mars struggled to get to his feet because his legs were weak and wobbly. His pupils were huge and his face was covered in saliva and he'd lost contol of his bladder during his seizure, covering his fur and his blankets. Once he was standing we tried to go near to him and he barked in fear at us, he was so disorientated he didn't recognise us or where he was. We left him in the dark for 15 minutes before trying again and once again he barked the second we attempted to get close to him.


After an hour (it was now 4am), I entered the kitchen with his bed in but I crouched down and sat facing his bed but as far away as I could be. He eyed me curiously so I inched closer, whilst checking he was okay with it. When I was in touching distance, he realised who I was and nudged his head at his gate to get near me, and I fully approached and finally we were out of the post-ictal phase.


We then took him outside, gave him some food on advice of the emergency vet, and expected he would be drowsy and tired. We forgot to factor in that this is Mars. He was incredibly hyperactive, we had to keep him outside for a while because indoors he got zoomies and was sprinting around our front room, so we let him run around outside until he'd settled some. We cleaned up his bed area and towel-dried his body and Jake slept downstairs with Mars in the front room because Mars was struggling to settle. Every noise was making him jump and he was pacing around constantly.


THE FIRST VET APPOINTMENT

First thing the next morning I called our regular vet and booked him an appointment and blood test. They physically inspected him and agreed that he was fine in himself and there was nothing visibly wrong and took a blood sample from his neck to send off to test. The vet advised us that sometimes dogs just have one seizure and then nothing so monitor him but it may never happen again. (Incidentally, they used to give the same advice to humans.) The next day his blood test results came in and he was fine- a blessing and a curse. While we were relieved that there was nothing serious wrong with his bloods, waiting to see if your dog maybe has another seizure is not a reassuring place to be.


We got a £20 camera online and put it in his bed. Given that his first seizure was at 3am, we didn't know if we'd sleep through a seizure and miss it. Having a camera means if we come down one morning and he's showing signs of having a seizure during the night, we can not only see it, we can have the full time of it and before and after behaviours.


MARS' CLUSTER SEIZURES (2ND & 3RD)

Obviously it wasn’t just the one. His next seizure was just over two weeks later, on Tuesday 20th December and it was 1am. We were still awake – perks of being night owls – and much more prepared. This time we got the full time from the camera - we still forgot to film it ourselves which is not great, if our camera takes a minute to buffer we're going to lose important time. His seizure lasted 1 minute 1 second and was the same tonic-clonic as the first.


This time, I tried the crouching near his bed the second he went post-ictal and it worked. He was out of post-ictal within five minutes and back to his manic energy so we let him outside to run some of it off and fed him. It was around 4am when we both got back to bed and I was wide awake so when 6am rolled around and he had a second seizure, I was still awake and we got to go through all of it again.


Having multiple seizures in a 24-hour period is called “cluster seizing” and is much more serious than just the one. At the time of writing this, this was Mars’ only ever instance of cluster seizures and both were just over a minute long (which is not so bad). The vet had told us to call straight away if he ever had a cluster seizure. As both of his seizures were around 1 minute long and because it was 7am by the time we had settled, we decided it was better to wait until our regular vet opens at 8.30am instead of calling the 24/7 vet again.


THE VET REFERRAL AND 4TH SEIZURE

We were already going to call the vet first thing after his 1am seizure but the 6am seizure really made it clear that it was time to medicate and time for referrals. Our vet prescribed us some Diazepam to administer to Mars if he ever had a seizure lasting more than 3 minutes and sent through a referral to a specialist neurologist.


Whilst we waited for our specialist appointment, Mars had a 4th seizure (the last one he's had at the time of writing), on Saturday 31st December. Yep, New Years Eve. Once again we were awake for it, but this time it was at 5.55pm. Mars had been asleep though, the same as the other three seizures. He was napping in the front room with Jake for this one and it was pretty much the same as the other three had been, around a minute long, peed all over himself and our sofa, super hyper afterwards. Due to Bank Holidays, our vets reopened on 3rd January but our specialist appointment was 4th January anyway so we waited for that.


...and now you see why I split this into two parts! Next week I'll upload what happened at Mars' referral appointment and how he got his Idiopathic Epilepsy diagnosis. (I'm not doing it in two parts to build suspense or momentum, it's just a lot to type and I haven't finished it yet).

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