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Canine Epilepsy and Seizures in Dogs

By Dr. Cathy Alinovi, D.V.M.

One of the worst experiences for pet owners is to watch their dog or cat have a seizure.  Canine seizures can range from mild ones that look like your dog was bitten by a bug, moderate muscle tremors and drooling, to full-blown laying on the side, screaming, arching the back, defecating and urinating on themselves.  Seeing this happen to your dog and not being able to do anything about it leaves the pet owner with a terrible feeling of helplessness.

What Causes Seizures in Dogs?

Most of the time seizures develop in adult dogs, although even puppies have been known to suffer from epileptic seizures.  There are various causes of canine seizures such as dehydration, heavy-metal toxicity, or a negative reaction to vaccines. Infection and diabetes can also cause seizures.  And yet, sometimes there is no known cause – this is what we refer to as idiopathic epilepsy.

Seizures are a problem when they happen repeatedly, occur with increasing frequency or duration, or have the potential for more life threatening problems.  The overwhelming concern is for a dog that goes into status epilepticus.  This is a condition where the seizures don’t stop and the body gets so hot that the dog’s brain cannot cool down, causing permanent brain damage. Sometimes, status epilepticus can even result in death.

Some dogs have seizures just once and then they never happen again. This is obviously preferable, but not always the case.  The usual preliminary diagnostics when a dog has seizures is to review their blood work and urinalysis results.  Infection and diabetes are two of the most common causes of seizures that can be found in their blood work.

How You Can Help A Dog With Seizures

Diet to treat seizures in dogs

Once all the preliminaries are investigated, I would start with making sure that dog is on a high-quality diet of real food.  For many dogs, it’s as simple as getting them off the kibble and getting them onto a raw dog food diet or a home-prepared diet that is free of grains, byproducts, and chemicals.

Phenobarbital to treat seizures in dogs

For some dogs it takes more work, like heavy metal or liver detoxification, herbal medicines, homeopathic remedies, or even western anti-seizure medications like phenobarbital or potassium bromide. The problem with these medications is they have significant side effects, especially phenobarbital.

Herbal medications to treat seizures in dogs

As far as herbal medications, I use formulations that depend on the individual patient’s presenting picture.  For some patients, a formula called “Di Tan Tang” works very nicely.  Di Tan Tang is an herbal blend that is very similar to phenobarbital in action, without the negative side effects of liver toxicity.  For other patients, herbal formulations that address the liver help very well.  I have used formulas like Liver Happy or Tian Ma to treat epilepsy in dogs.

Another example is the use of whole herbs to treat seizures.  Typically lobelia isn’t used for seizures, unless a respiratory issue is causing the seizure.  Lobelia is an asthma/respiratory herb.  More common herbs used for dog epilepsy include European Mistletoe, Passionflower, Lily-of-the-Valley, Black Hellebore, and Valerian (for calming).

In conclusion, for dog owners whose dogs have seizures and want to seek more natural therapy:

  1. Start with a great real food or raw dog food diet.
  2. Seek the advice of a veterinary practitioner who will look at your dog’s individual symptoms to determine the right natural treatment for your dog.


Dr. Cathy Alinovi is the owner of Healthy Pawsibilities in Indiana. Certified in Veterinary Food Therapy, Veterinary Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Therapy, and Aromatherapy, Dr. Cathy’s approach provides whole body support through both the best in veterinary medicine as well as high-quality, all-natural foods, supplements, and health care products.  She offers phone consultation services as well as in-office appointments. Visit www.hoofstockvet.com for more information.

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