This post is kind of a PSA with lots of *important* words, but few pictures.
It wasn't until momma got home from the work place and I was reading blogs with her that I discovered that yesterday was totally epilepsy awareness day (thanks to my friend, and fellow seizure dog, Gibson).
But you know what? Better late than ever because there are so many doggies out there who get visited by the seizure monster, so here goes.
The seizure monster first visited me, Mango, The Relentlessly Huge, in July 2010. Momma wrote about it here.
Now momma had read about other doggies having the seizure monster, but had not realized how awful it was until she saw her beloved mastiff in the grips of that devil. But let me tell you something. The Mango has no recollection of it at all. Except that I kind of smelled like pee for a while and was pretty thirsty.
And the vets were all like "we just need to wait and see what happens next." You know why? Because until you know how often the seizure monster is going to visit, you won't know if you have done something to scare him away.
So we waited almost a whole year and that pesky beast visited me every month or two until one time in May of 2011 he visited and stayed a long time and master was home alone with me and was so scared and so I had to take the phenobarbital.
Let me tell you about that, because while I don't really remember any seizure monster visits, I remember when I started taking phenobarbital very clearly.
The first couple of days were like "no problem, feeling a little light headed, but I can deal with this." But by the third day, I was drunk as a sailor. Yup, I could not even get up without help and given my impressive size, one time when momma was home alone with me it took her ten whole minutes to get me up.
Even then, walking was hard and I would sometimes bounce off the walls and fall down again and when I tried to do my business, my bottom components would collapse and so momma contrived to hold my rear ends up for me. It was quite vexing for sure.
But I started to get used to it and to prove it, here is a little movie from just a week after starting my phenobarbital. You can see how my rear still sometimes had a mind of its own. Whoops.
But pretty soon, I was up and around and moving with my usual grace (ignore the date at the end of the movie - momma is so dopey like she totally didn't know April from May - sheesh).
And you know what? I feel pretty lucky because the seizure monster has stayed away for 10 whole months and not only that, but I get cheese food twice each and every day to help make the medicine go down.
So listen up! If the seizure monster ever visits you. Remember, you are not alone and there are lots of doggies who fight that demon each and every day. Gibson has lots of good links and resources on his bloggy here.
And I am going to share with you the movie he made of just some of the doggies out in blog land who live with doggie epilepsy. It is long, but very happy making. You will see (watch it on YouTube here).
Here are a couple of icons you can put in your sidebar if you want to show your solidarity against the seizure monster.
I'm going to sign off for now and then Mango Momma wants to say some of her blue words, OK?
Mango Man! Oh yeah!
Mango Momma here. I want to share what I have learned about seizures in dogs, but please add your wisdom in the comments.
- Seizures are very common. That's good and bad. Good because your vet will have seen it before, bad because it happens far too often.
- Watching your dog have a seizure is terrifying and nothing you can prepare yourself for.
- Most dog parents will rush to the ER after the first seizure. You should. You should do that even though they will likely take some blood, rehydrate, and then send you home with a prescription to "wait and see."
- Your dog does not know that he or she is having a seizure. But when it is happening you should;
- Stay away from the dog except to try and make sure he/she has a clear, soft space (if possible). With Mango it is just too dangerous for us to approach him at all. His jaws are chomping and his legs thrashing with such force that when he had a seizure in the bathroom he moved the toilet 1/4 inch.
- Talk to your dog. Just repeat over and over, "momma's here" and try to keep a calm aura.
- Clear all pets and children to a safe place immediately for their own protection.
- When the seizure abates, let your dog get up on his own. Dogs are often blind and very disoriented and might not recognize you as a friend. LET YOUR DOG COME TO YOU.
- Make sure your dog has plenty of water. If possibly, offer some vanilla ice cream to get their blood sugar back up and apply a cold compress to the neck to help lower body temperature back to normal.
- Be patient. Mango typically takes an hour to begin to recover. During that time I close off rooms and sit in one place talking to him. I let him wander and settle when he is ready (Dexter is kept away).
- Your vet will want the seizures to establish a pattern before prescribing medication. Rule of thumb is 3 seizures within 24 hours or any seizure lasting more than 10 minutes. Mango had seizures every 1-2 months for almost a year before he had a giant cluster seizure that tipped the balance for us.
- Try to make your house as seizure friendly as possible. We (finally) put up railings on our back deck out of concern that Mango would have a seizure on the deck and fall off. Close off rooms (like the bathroom) where having a seizure could harm the dog. I also recommend closing off stairways. In the few seconds before a seizure, Mango would sometimes wander blindly to some part of the house never visited. An open stairway could lead to a serious tumble.
- Phenobarbital is (in my experience) much worse than most vets will let on. This "cure" was more horrible for Mango (in the beginning) than the disease. He was unable to get up or down or even walk more than a few steps without assistance three days into his treatment.
- If you start phenobarbital, do not be afraid to negotiate a lower dose. Mango's dose was cut in half four days into his therapy. The side effects were unmanageable. He has done well on the lower dose.
- Is it possible that a dog can have seizures from vaccinations, heartworm, flea and tick preventative, or any number of chemicals you use on your lawn or to clean your house? Absolutely. With Mango, I held my breath as I continued life as usual for all those things and did not detect any correlation between them and the onset of a seizure. But it is good to keep track just in case.
- Finally, reach out to the DWB community. A seizure dog can be all consuming and it helps to have friends who understand what you are going through.
Most seizure disorders will not get a definitive diagnosis. We were offered a brain scan to look for a brain tumor in Mango. We declined. As with any procedure, you need to think about the "what if?" For Mango, the "what if?" of a brain tumor is no different than what we are already doing; helping him enjoy life as much as he is able. That, my friends, is the #1 (and the hardest) prescription for every human with a seizure dog.
Love your dog. Help him or her live their lives to the fullest.