The problem: Epilepsy
Sporting Gun|April 2021
“My springer spaniel had a couple of fits a while ago and now needs twice daily treatment. Do you think that I will ever be able to work him again? I have read little or nothing about this condition.” ARTHUR ASHMORE, DERBYSHIRE
ANYA CAMPBELL

There is a reason that you have read so little on this subject, Arthur: it is so bloomin’ complicated. Epilepsy is almost more of a symptom than a disease. It is defined as chronic, recurring seizures, for which there can be many causes. Idiopathic (or primary) epilepsy, which is a relatively common diagnosis in about 0.5% of dogs, occurs when there is no detectable abnormality and it is presumed to be a genetic or inherited disease. Symptomatic (or secondary) epilepsy is diagnosed when there is an identifiable structure in the brain, such as a tumour, infection, inflammation or congenital lesion and should therefore be viewed as a different kettle of fish altogether.

How is idiopathic epilepsy diagnosed?

For a diagnosis of idiopathic epilepsy to be made there must be recurring seizures. These tend to occur at rest, when asleep or when calming down after a period of excitement. Diagnosis usually depends on the history involved and we always encourage owners to try to video events. There is often a regular interval between seizures, so recording these on a calendar is worthwhile. Epileptic seizures generally involve convulsive activity of the whole body, with loss or impairment of consciousness, inability to stand, chomping and foaming at the mouth, paddling of the legs and urination/defecation. But there are many variations. As I said, it is complicated.

Generalised seizures are the most common and these can be subdivided into:

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