Epilepsy seizures can be a frightening thing to witness for the dog owner, particularly if you were not aware that your dog was epileptic and you are unprepared for their first obvious seizure. Managing a dog with epilepsy also means that the owner of the dog must take special care and pay more attention to various things, and make allowances for the effect that the condition has on the dog as well.
Epilepsy can affect any type of dog, although there is thought to be a hereditary element to it, as it occurs more often in some breeds that others, including the Border collie.
When your vet first diagnoses epilepsy in the dog to an owner that is not familiar with the condition, two common questions are usually the owner’s first concerns- is it treatable, and how long will my dog live for?
The answer to the first question is a simple one: While epilepsy cannot be cured, it can usually be successfully manage with the appropriate medications, in order to reduce the frequency rate and severity of the seizures themselves.
The answer to the second question, regarding the effect that the condition will have on the dog’s lifespan is more complicated and has more variables to it, and we will address all of these factors in more detail within this article. Read on to learn more.
It is impossible to confidently predict the lifespan of any individual dog, whether they have a health condition or not, as there are so many variables in play! However, certain health conditions almost invariably shorten the lifespan of the dog or mean an eventually terminal prognosis; fortunately, epilepsy is not one of them!
General factors in the prediction of lifespan can help to produce a more accurate picture of longevity, and these should include the age of the dog, the average age reached by dogs of the breed, their general health, propensity to breed-specific health conditions, their weight, what they are fed, how fit they are, and much more besides!
Dogs with epilepsy will generally lead a perfectly normal, healthy life in between seizures, and other than the seizure presentation of the condition, epilepsy does not usually have any other negative or otherwise dangerous effect on the body of the dog.
However, the seizures that epileptic dogs suffer from on occasion are not without risk; while most seizures are short in duration, longer seizures or seizures that are occurring very close together can lead to a lack of oxygen reaching the brain, which can ultimately cause brain damage. However, seizures that are controlled with medication are rarely serious or frequent enough to lead to this risk.
Added to this risk, there is a possibility that the fitting dog may bite their tongue, which can lead to a large amount of bleeding. While the tongue usually stops bleeding fairly fast, rapid, un-staunched blood loss can pose a potential threat to your dog, and if your dog bites their tongue in the middle of a seizure, you may not be able to tend to the wound or move them to get them to the vet for several minutes more, when the seizure has stopped.
The vast majority of epileptic dogs require regular medication for their condition, in order to reduce the frequency of their seizures, and make those that do occur less severe. This medication is necessary for the long term, and once it has proven effective in keeping the condition under control, usually leads to an otherwise normal life and normal lifestyle for the epileptic dog.
Many dogs on the right medication protocol will go for months or even years without a seizure, or only occasional, very mild seizures, to the point that they become a minor anomaly and concern rather than a constant possibility.
Dogs whose epilepsy is unmedicated and unmanaged, however, may have a shortened lifespan, as they will run the risk of progressively more frequent or more severe seizures, with the added risk of potential oxygen starvation to the brain.
One additional risk of epilepsy when it comes to assessing the general wellness and potential lifespan of the dog affected is that the seizures themselves can place your dog at risk of danger or injury.
A fitting dog may be flailing around and run the risk of hitting their head or injuring themselves while in the throes or a fit, while if your dog is out walking, a fit may lead to added danger, such as for instance, drowning if near to a pond or going swimming, or falling into the road when out walking.
Vigilance and risk assessment from the owner can help to ensure that the potential of damaged caused as a result of danger or accidents during seizures are minimised.
An epileptic dog whose condition is monitored, medicated and managed, with a vigilant owner who can think ahead when it comes to keeping them safe is highly likely to lead a perfectly happy, normal life and live to the same age that they would have reached anyway, had they not been epileptic.
However, unmedicated epilepsy can be more risky, as this will tend to lead to more frequent and prolonged seizures, which place the dog at risk of oxygen starvation or coming to harm while having a seizure.