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The cause of seizures?

[From Tufts August 2011 Issue]

My black male standard poodle is 2 years old. Since September he has had clusters of seizures, from two to five of them within a 24-hour period about every three weeks. He started taking 98.2 milligrams of phenobarbitol twice a day, and 200 milligrams of zonisamide were added twice a day by our vet because symptoms were worsening.

As far as we can tell, there is no familial history of epilepsy, but he is positive for Lyme disease and was treated with the standard dose of antibiotics for it. Can you provide information and advice on seizures, in particular whether further treatment for Lyme disease is recommended as a possible cause?
Peter C. Foltz
Hershey, Penn.

Lyme disease can affect multiple body systems in dogs, but no current evidence shows that Lyme disease causes seizures or any other brain disorder in dogs. In humans, nervous system involvement with Lyme disease (called neuroborreliosis) does occur and is a major concern.

Given the age, breed and seizure pattern of your dog, my primary concern is that your standard poodle most likely has epilepsy. Familial tendencies may not be overtly apparent in many breeds even though we believe this condition has a genetic component. 

Cluster seizures are also not uncommon in dogs with epilepsy. The Tufts neurology services see epileptic dogs with cluster seizures on a regular basis. In most cases, dogs with cluster seizures do need to be on several anticonvulsant medications for control of their seizures. In the majority of cases, it is possible to decrease seizure frequency to one seizure per month or less, but this does require some intensive and consistent follow up during the initial phases of seizure therapy.

I hope this helps answer your questions. It appears that your local veterinarian is making very good management decisions for your dog, but we would be happy to discuss any seizure management concerns with your veterinarian if these concerns arise.
Phil March, DVM
DACVIM (Neurology)
Cummings School

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