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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Uniting Dogs Across the World for Canine Epilepsy Awareness

Gibson - diagnosed with Canine Epilepsy in 2009
November is national Epilepsy Awareness Month and a good time as any to talk about a cause very close to my heart - Canine Epilepsy. As many of you know, my five-year-old wooly Siberian Husky boy, Gibson, is an "Epi-dog" who was diagnosed in 2009 after being hospitalized for a cluster of Grand Mal seizures. I shudder when thinking back to those earlier days. It was a very scary time for me. Last November, I chose to share my personal journal notes with readers in a blog entry titled One Husky's Journey with Epilepsy to Highlight November's Epilepsy Awareness Month as I traveled with my boy through some new and very rough waters called Canine Epilepsy. If you are interested in reading those entries, which are raw and in-the-moment writings, please feel free. 

It still brings tears to my eye recalling that very first seizure episode he had in January of 2009. As you will read, I had discovered him motionless post-seizure and trembled as I thought I had lost my beautiful three-year-old boy and just couldn't understand why. Did he eat something? Did something bite him? What was wrong with Gibson? As I made that very scary, heart-pounding emergency call to the after-hours emergency vet hospital, I was alone at the time and remember pleading with them to have someone come and "help me." I knew nothing about Canine Epilepsy. I did not know about seizures, the stages, or what to do. Since them, I have studied and continue to study everything I can. The mother and journalist in me kicked in and I talked to as many people with experience as I could. I researched all the resources, treatments, and medications. I learned as much as I could from our team of terrific veterinarians, and basically I have made myself an expert on this neurological condition. I was determined. I was going to help Gibson become strong, and through it all, Gibson actually made me strong. I continuously championed him to fight this and lead a healthy, wonderful life. Together, we would be what I call "Gib Strong."

During those first early days is when I first turned to the Internet and social networking. At the time, I did postings on MySpace and put out a "cry for help" for anyone else who had experienced seizures with their dog. One day, I had received a response - and this wonderful gal, Laurie, who is a nurse and hails from Texas and did not know me at all, took the time to write to me many, many times about her experiences with her own Epi-dog, Max. She told me what to expect, things to to research, questions to ask my vet, and side effects of the meds. She even went so far as to give me her phone number and talk me through some tough scary moments. She was truly a beacon of light during a very dark and scary time for Gib and I, and I can never thank her enough for that. Today, I consider her one of my dear friends! And her handsome, sweet Max, along with many other beautiful Epi-dogs from across the world, is featured in my Canine Epilepsy Awareness video I have posted further down in this blog entry.

Gibson (right) having fun during run time with his family.

When Gibson was first diagnosed, I did research. I needed to find the answer to the question "Why?" In the beginning, I did not realize there is not always a reason or cause to be found. There are explanations as to what a seizure is, what the stages are, and what to expect in your dog's behavior afterwards. But I wanted to know why he was having them. I explored the genetic link by contacting his mother's owner. She seemed surprised, but after talking for a bit did mention her girl had two seizures after she turned five. Their vet had said it was possibly due to a toxic reaction from some poison ivy plants that were growing around her doghouse. It was all inconclusive and since she didn't have any more, they did not pursue it any further. So I made note that there may be a genetic connection, but that became a dead end due to lack of information. At the time, we were having construction done on our house, and that could have cause stress and anxiety (although he showed no visible signs of it). 

Many dogs live long, happy lives with Canine Epilepsy.

I have since switched what I feed him, going for food without wheat gluten and adding homemade meat, treats, and veggies to his diet, including daily doses of 100% pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie). I make sure his (and all the Sibes') environment is as stress and toxic free as I can make it. I have him on a very, very precisely timed food and medical schedule (he is on a combination of Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide, and is also being treated for a low thyroid condition) and I added the supplement Milk Thistle (speak to your vet about dosage, which goes by weight) to aid in cleansing his liver. I am vigilant, if not anal, about his schedule. I am confident I am doing all that I can to keep him healthy, despite having Canine Epilepsy. Am I overprotective of him? Of course. Do I panic if I am getting near the "have to have" medicine dose time? Absolutely. Do I have ears on him always? You bet! I've even installed a baby room monitor by his bed so I can hear him at night.

An important thing to always have on hand when you have an Epi-dog is a Canine Epilepsy First Aid Kit. For Gibson, I have a basket that contains:
  • instructions in case of a seizure (for when you have a pet sitter)
  • a journal (to note episodes, meds, reactions, etc.)
  • instant ice packs (in a pinch anything froze will do. That first time I used a loaf of frozen Italian bread and a bag of frozen peas!)
  • emergency vet and vet hospital contact numbers
  • calming spray
  • alcohol wipes (personally, I prefer ice packs)
  • paper towels
  • pet bath wipes
  • portable water bowl
  • bottle of water
  • disinfectant wipes (for area clean-up post seizure)
  • latex gloves (for clean-up) 
  • a car ramp or blanket (for a makeshift stretcher) for moving pet, if need be. 
A staple I always have in my freezer in addition to ice packs, is a carton of Breyer's all natural vanilla ice cream to help stabilize sugar levels post-seizure. A few teaspoons are all that is needed, along with some water and light protein-type snacks. Remember that seizures are very scary for us to witness, but pets will not remember their seizures. They may be scared or confused by how they feel afterwards though. Keep talking in a calm and reassuring manner. Keep them cool. Don't be alarmed if they seem "out of it" - dazed, confused, "drunk-like," and even experience temporary blindness post seizure. Keep them away from stairs or anything that could harm them, including objects that could fall on them and other pets who may be confused by the episode.

Some additional suggestions from a reader who is a fellow Epi-dog parent, include:

*Ask your vet for liquid Valium and always have it handy. If they go into a second seizure, it slows down the clusters and can stop a severe seizure
* Low fat treats to eat after a seizure (tuna, cottage cheese, chicken breast)
* Always remove other dogs who may be present as they can turn on the seizing dog, and attack him. (This is a natural instinct within the other dogs, so they shouldn't be punished if they do that. They should just be separated for a while.)
* A seizure pillow - to prevent injury to the dog head, teeth, neck and skull
* Ocular pressure gently on the eyes calms the dog while having a seizure. Gently put pressure on the closed eyes, count to 8 seconds and release - repeat for around 5 minutes.

Recently, I have sadly learned through the grapevine that Gibson's mother (and the mother to Gibson's three younger siblings) began to seize again. Unfortunately, the hu-parents divorced and she was left behind with one of the family members. When she had the seizures, I heard she was brought to the vet and put to sleep. This made me cry. There were so many options for this beautiful girl who was good enough to breed, but not good enough to save. It still breaks my heart. She could have had a good chance at a healthy life if only that family member chose to find out ways to help her. Is it easy? No. Is it cheap? No. Is it worth it...oh my yes! Gibson has enriched my life and taught me so much, I couldn't imagine him not being part of my family. He is what you would call "an old soul" in a young body. He is wise. He is kind. He is gentle. He is worth every moment, every penny, and every ounce of my strength to help him have the wonderful life he so deserves - as all my Husky "kids" deserve.

If your dog has seizures, please contact your vet immediately.

When researching information, know there are some excellent Canine Epilepsy resources out there, including support groups. Please do not hesitate to contact them. They are there to help, to listen, and to share their expertise and experiences. Here are a few to check out:





Siberian Husky Health Foundation (who are currently updating their website).



This post is not about sadness. This is not about fright. This is about awareness. Canine Epilepsy does not have to mean a death sentence. There are options and there are treatments, both medical and holistic. Please check with your vet for a plan that will work best with your pet. There is no guarantee that once seizures are controlled that they will never come back. They could. We all pray that they won't. We hold our breath when even discussing the length of time pets are seizure-free for not wanting to tempt fate. We jump at certain sounds. We study their every move every day to be sure we don't miss an early warning sign. Epi-dogs have special needs, but there is also a very special bond that exists between Epi-dog and hu-parent. Gibson is such a beautiful, loving, wonderful boy. I would not trade him for anything. I will continue to study Canine Epilepsy and learn about all new treatments and holistic measures to keep him living the best and most healthy life possible. In the words of one of my amazing vets, "Let him live his life." And that I will do...with all the love and care I possess.

I want to take a moment to thank all the beautiful Epi-dogs who have joined Gibson and I in helping to spread the word about Canine Epilepsy Awareness by being part of this slideshow video tribute to all Epi-dogs. This video shows not only their beauty, but how they are busy living their lives. Please share so other Epi-dog parents may know that there are options and they are not alone. Let's all wear the purple ribbon proudly and stand "Gib-strong" together until one day research will provide us with a cure. 







16 comments:

  1. That was totally awesome! I am going to make sure that I post a link to it in my bloggie. I loved seeing all those other doggies who suffer from epilepsy just like me! Plus it is good for the humans to know about it since it is so common.

    Slobbers,
    Mango

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  2. Thank you for sharing such an interesting and factual post for us. Gibson is very fortunate to have such a caring family.
    We all have so much to learn.

    Big Nose Pokes
    The Thugletsx

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  3. Gibson is such a looker and I'm so happy that you are taking sure wonderful care of him. I did not know any of those things but the info was so good. Thanks for putting it all together so nicely. Gibson, you're doing great pal!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your dog's journey through epilepsy. I've had 2 epi dogs, but 20 years ago when the most common treatment was euthanasia. It was heartbreaking.

    Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, seizure free furever!

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  5. Wow...This was fantastic. You did a wonderful job on the video.

    I found so much useful information about K-9 Epilepsy from the things you were saying about Gibson that I never knew before. I was so thankful when April stopped having seizures that I put aside all thoughts that it could happen again. I am printing out the information in your post today and will keep it in my Canine Medical Information book just in case.

    Thank you so much for a job well done and for all the information.

    :o)
    Amber's Mom

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  6. I came over here from Mango's post, didn't realise one of your sibes had epilepsy. Since Pippa had canine erlichiosis, I have tried to become a lot more aware of illnesses that dogs face, and the symptoms. Like you I did loads of research on it too, and tried to share it with people. One of the great things about dogblogs I guess.

    We have a husky friend with epilepsy and he is on pheeno too. Not sure if they use the internet, but if they do, we will mention your post. Gib-strong - I like that, for lots of reasons.

    Pippa and Katherine

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  7. What a beautiful AND informative post. I don't have a dog with seizures but I read every word because i want to be informed. One never knows. I rescued a Sibe thinking I would avoid getting a dog with hip dysplasia if I didn't get a full GSD. ha! I was terrified of having a dog with HD. But the universe sent her to me and she taught me a thing or two about facing my fears and learning to happily live with a few inconveniences like HD or a genetic disease. sadly there are too many poor breeding practices today. Our fur friends shouldn't have to suffer like this. But like you said, it's worth every penny and every moment of heartache.

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  8. You did a great job with the video! It clearly shows that epilepsy touches all breeds. I also like the idea of your emergency kit, I will make one for Kelly. I do have a journal to keep notes in, and fortunately haven't had to use it too often.

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  9. Thank you...for all of this! Our Quinn had two seizures on Friday night into Saturday only they seem to be of the Complex Focal Type...we are still doing tests and getting the information to our regular vet and it is a very scary situation.Check our posts for the past 2 days. Your words give us hope and comfort and lots of knowledge we did not have before. Thank you for sharing Gibson's story.

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  10. Thank you for sharing, my Broo is an epi dog, and when I witnessed his first seizure I had the same emotions as you, and thought I was losing him forever and could not figure out why. Thank God for the internet, we determined he had a seizure from simply googling what happened. Thank you for spreading the word! Before owning Broo I had no idea dogs had seizures like that.

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  11. This was an amazing post; so informative and filled with hope. I do not have an epi dog, but Kodee suffers from a neurological condition. I "heard" in your story much of the same thoughts to need to research to remain positive, to spread awareness yet still enjoy our wonderful dogs. Well done.

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  12. What a really wonderful and important post -- I really learned a lot about Canine Epilepsy (I didn't know anything about it before). Thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge. :)

    Woofs & hugs, <3

    ~Bailey (Yep, I'm a girl!)

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  13. A very timely post... a friend's dog was just diagnosed with epilepsy. Thanks so much for all of the information - I'll be passing it along.

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  14. I glad u helping the critters with the E-thing. I send all of them a hug. {{{luv}}}

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  15. Hi My name is Macadamia Nut..."Mac" and I am an 8 year old Siberian. I live with my brother Gus, and 27 other Siberians in Rainier, WA. I am now on pheno barbitol and am doing well, although I am weak in my hind end these days, and am not quite as alert as I once was. I am cinnamon with brilliant blue eyes and I am well loved, along with my brother Gust of Wind..."Gus" here at Stargazer Siberians in Rainier, WA. Thank you for your post.

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  16. I am so happy that you are sharing about Canine Epilepsy! My name is Penny and I am a Boston Terrier. My mom was worried that I had Epilepsy but so far my Doctor says the three sezures I have had are not caused by Epilepsy or Diabetes!!! I am so happy that you are raising awareness for all the fur friends out there who suffer from Canine Epilepsy and that you are helping them!!! Me and my Mom send lots of Hugs and Love your way!!!

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