Different medication options for dogs that suffer from seizures

Different medication options for dogs that suffer from seizures

Health & Safety

Seeing a dog having a seizure can be very frightening for the owner, and of course, you will need to get your dog checked out by the vet to find out why this might be happening and if anything can be done about it. Canine epilepsy and various other conditions can all lead to seizures in the dog, and if these happen regularly or on an ongoing basis, your vet may well recommend some medications or ongoing treatments that can be used to lessen the frequency of the attacks, or relieve them when they do occur.

While seizures can of course be problematic and potentially dangerous for your dog, many dogs live happy, full lives, even with a diagnosis such as epilepsy, and while attacks can be alarming, they generally pass quickly and do not affect the dog other than when they immediately occur.

If your dog suffers from seizures and you are wondering about the different treatment options that may be possible to help with them, we will outline some of the most common medications and their uses in this article. Read on to learn more.


Phenobarbital is a nonselective barbiturate that works as an anticonvulsant and sedative, and is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for dogs with epilepsy and other seizure disorders. It is given to the affected dog on an ongoing basis in order to attempt to lessen the frequency of attacks, and reduce the severity of them when they do occur. Dogs that suffer from epilepsy and are apt to have more than one attack per month will usually be prescribed phenobarbital to help with this.

One of the main side effects of the medication is that it can cause an increase in appetite and need for water, and as a result of this, toileting more frequently too. However, dogs tend to adjust to the medication very well, and the side effects will tend to decrease over time.

Long term treatment with phenobarbital can lead to liver problems, as the body may have problems breaking down the compound to pass out of the body naturally, and for this reason, vets usually insist on running blood tests on dogs prescribed phenobarbital on a regular basis, usually two or three times a year. This allows your vet to diagnose a potential compromise of liver function early on, before any significant damage is caused.

Potassium Bromide

Potassium bromide is often prescribed alongside of phenobarbital if phenobarbital alone does not have a significant impact on reducing the frequency and severity of the seizures, or may be prescribed on its own for dogs that are considered to be at risk of liver damage from phenobarbital usage. Potassium bromide is considered to be much easier to process by the liver and less likely to cause side effects, but it can take up to four months of constant administration to prove effective.

For newly diagnosed dogs, one course of action is to begin treatment with a combination of phenobarbital and potassium bromide, then proceed with potassium bromide only once it has had the chance to start working.


Diazepam is a medication used for both dogs and people, and many people are better aware of it under its trade name of Valium. Diazepam is usually prescribed for usage on dogs that tend to have clusters of seizures, or repeated seizures, and the medication is administered only once an attack is imminent or part way through, rather than as a daily dose. Diazepam can be administered orally to conscious dogs, or rectally to dogs that are not fully awake, and will help to relax the muscles, reduce the severity of the seizures, and hopefully, bring a prompt conclusion to the attack.

Other medications

Generally, your vet will either decide to issue you with diazepam to treat your dog with when an attack is in play, or prescribe regular medication in the form of either phenobarbital, potassium bromide or both. However, these are not the only drugs that can be effective in treating canine seizures, and some other potential options include Clorazepate, Gabapentin and Felbamate.

Witnessing your dog having a seizure and not being able to do anything about it can be frightening, but if your dog does suffer from seizures, you will usually become familiar with their behaviour during an attack, and even come to recognise when an attack may be about to happen. Work closely with your vet to monitor your dog’s attacks, and keep a diary of their frequency, duration and what happens.

Most seizures pass very quickly; often they are over in just a few seconds. However, if your dog’s seizures appear to be worsening, becoming more frequent or going on for more than five minutes at a time, talk to your vet promptly in case further investigation or an alternative course of treatment is required.



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