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The Hungarian Vizsla dog breed is one that was quite rare within the UK until around a decade ago, but this is one breed that is now very popular, and gaining new followers all the time. The Hungarian Vizsla is a large dog breed of the pointer type, which is classed within the Kennel Club’s gundog group, reflecting the breed’s long working history.
These noble, handsome looking dogs with their distinctive red coats possess a winning combination of good looks, high intelligence and very loving, affectionate personalities, all of which have helped the breed become the 48th most popular in the UK, out of a total of 243 different dog breeds and types. However, like most pedigree dog breeds, Hungarian Vizslas have elevated risk factors for a range of hereditary health conditions, some of which can be challenging and complex to manage – like epilepsy.
Whilst most Vizslas are robust, healthy dogs that lead long, full lives, it is still important for all Vizsla owners and prospective owners to learn the basics of the most common Vizsla health conditions, in order to understand the risk factors and what, if anything, can be done to mitigate them.
In this article we will look at epilepsy in the Hungarian Vizsla in more detail, sharing the symptoms, risk factors and how you can find out if any Vizsla you are considering buying is at risk of the condition. Read on to learn more.
Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that comes in a variety of different forms, and the type that Vizslas are more prone to inheriting is called idiopathic epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy is a type of epilepsy that causes chronic, sometimes frequent recurrent seizures with no obvious trigger or underlying cause, and which is widely considered to be hereditary in origin.
Exactly why the Hungarian Vizsla has higher than normal risk factors for idiopathic epilepsy is not known for sure, but the condition presents more commonly within dogs of this breed than it does across the board for most other pedigree dog breeds as a whole.
Because epilepsy is thought to be hereditary, it is fair to conclude that the comparatively small gene pool and genetic diversity present in each pedigree dog breed can result in an anomaly or mutation becoming more widely spread and established across a population of loosely related dogs, and so epilepsy is likely to be more common within certain Vizsla breed lines than others.
Study into idiopathic epilepsy in the Hungarian Vizsla are ongoing in order to attempt to pinpoint the root cause and risk factors, and over the last few years, research and data has been collated on Hungarian Vizslas as a whole, both those with epilepsy and those without, in an attempt to build up a DNA profile of the condition and its risk factors.
Idiopathic epilepsy can cause the first seizures in affected dogs at more or less any age, but they most commonly occur in dogs aged between around one and five years old.
This means that if you buy a Vizsla puppy that has inherited epilepsy, you may not know this for several years, until the first seizure is triggered and you speak to your vet to get a diagnosis.
It is quite rare for a first seizure to occur in a Vizsla over the age of around six, although still not unheard of.
Epileptic seizures in dogs can be quite variable in terms of their frequency and severity, ranging from so subtle that the dog simply appears to zone out for a few moments, which is easy to miss, to a full -on collapse and fit that may be quite acute and continue for several minutes.
Witnessing a dog fitting can be very frightening for their owner, particularly if it has never happened before and you don’t know what’s going on, but it is important to keep calm and do your best to support your dog until the fit passes and you can get them to a vet. Don’t try to hold the dog down or otherwise intervene, other than to keep your dog safe from further harm.
Try to protect their head with something soft underneath it, but keep a safe distance as you may get bitten accidentally due to muscle spasms in your dog’s jaw when fitting. Reassure your dog when the fit passes, and take them along to the vet ASAP for investigation into the condition and to get a firm diagnosis.
As mentioned, epilepsy in the Vizsla dog breed is still being researched, and there is not yet a formal testing protocol in place to let owners of dogs of the breed know their own dog’s status or risk factors. However, due to the amount of study that has taken place in recent years into the condition, this is likely to change in the future, and Vizsla breed clubs often invite dog owners to submit samples of their own dogs’ DNA for participation in study.
If a dog has close relatives with epilepsy, this indicates the presence of the condition within the breed line, which increases the risk factors for the epileptic dog’s relatives. It is worth finding out as much as you can about your dog’s breed line and ancestry in order to identify any heightened risk factors, and remain alert to the possibility of the condition presenting in your own dog.
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