Saturday, November 20, 2010

One Husky's Journey with Epilepsy to Highlight November's Epilepsy Awareness Month

I wanted to discuss an important topic that is very personal in our Sibe-loving family: canine epilepsy and seizures. With November being Epilepsy Awareness Month, I wanted to take this opportunity to share my experiences with canine epilepsy and assure folks that our furpals can indeed live a happy, healthy, loving life with epilepsy.

In January of 2009, I had an awful experience with one of my Sibes – Gibson – shortly after he turned three. This was when I first reached out via social networking to other canine owners seeking comfort and guidance from those who also experienced such a horrible event. As a result of that, I have made so many wonderful and supportive friends who have over the time continued to check in on Gibson, and I have also learned from others that we are truly not alone in helping our beloved furpals to learn to live healthy lives with this affliction. It still brings tears to my eyes when I read my first journal entry. So to help spread awareness of epilepsy, I've decided to share some of my personal online journal entries written during our experience as it happened:

Friday, January 16 – 6:15AM
Had an awful scare this morning...let me know if any other Husky parents have had this experience: Woke up to a loud triple bang...went down to the family room to check it out and heard my Huskies crying a low soulful cry...I knew in my heart something was wrong...when I got into the family room, I found my three-year-old stiff as board in his kennel, foaming mouth, eyes wide and glassy and pupils dilated. For a few seconds he sounded like he was sucking air through his foaming mouth, then the breathing stopped. I thought I lost him. I was terrified and kept calling his name and petting him...I saw a faint, very faint twitch in his eye and kept talking to him & then ran to grab a phone and called our emergency vet hospital. When I turned back around, he had somehow miraculously gotten himself up and was terribly disoriented, pupils still dilated, and no real control over his motor skills. We got him to the emergency room and after awhile started becoming more and more alert. They ran some blood tests, all of which came back fine. He was transferred to our regular vet hospital where our vet admitted him for the day to test him and keep him for more observations. Conclusion - a seizure of some sort, possibly epilepsy, which they say is prevalent in Huskies. Apparently, the banging I heard was him having his seizure, although it lasted about a few seconds...followed by the five minutes or so of the complete stiffness...it felt like an eternity of hell for me. They did a liver profile bloodtest, which came back fine. THANK GOD he was alright...I started out the day thinking I lost one of my precious "kids" and it truly was a miracle to see him up after seeing him so stiff and foaming. So scary. We are keeping a close eye on him and I have now have a baby monitor connected to their bedroom and a portable one for me! The vet said he may never have another seizure, or he could have more, we have to take it day-by-day for now.

March 7, 2009 - Saturday
"Husky had Another Seizure"
It hasn't even been two months yet, and my 3-year-old Siberian Husky had another seizure at 3AM...at least this time I knew what was happening and wasn't so freaked since that first scary one in January. I sat right down by him and kept talking to him and kept a cold pack on him. He's here with me right now - and just out of it for about a half-hour, less disoriented, but a bit agitated. I had a suspicion something wasn't right as he didn't eat much during the day (he's 94 pounds and almost NEVER turns down a meal!) and then he threw up at dinner time. I'm trying to see if there was a catalyst - he usually eats breakfast around 9, and we had a construction guy here at that time, so he and the rest of the Husky kids stayed in the house for the morning, and his breakfast was pushed off a couple hours...it was much warmer, almost 50 compared to the usual 17. I've been feeding him twice a day to keep his blood sugar levels even, so I don't know if having breakfast later threw him off, or being in longer than out, or the warmer weather, or the "excitement" of having a stranger working here...I know it's said there's not always a "reason," but after he rebounded from the first one in January, I was hoping he'd never have another...or at least not one for a long, long, long time. Ugh. My poor boy. The ice cream suggestion worked well, followed by water, and then he searched out his bowl for a little food. I cleaned him up from the seizure with bath wipes and water, and now he is lying here by me on his bed in the living room. Well, no more sleep for me today-I'm watching him very closely - and he just let out a big sigh, so he finally in a relaxed state. It was interesting to look back now as his "gal" and younger siblings were crying for him (his gal still is! I'll have to let her come by him now), and when he first came out of the seizure and was still in the stage of disorientation where he couldn't see yet, he went over to nuzzle his sweetie and let her know he was OK. Amazing. He is so wonderful...and he has so much heart and soul. I just hope and pray he does not have another seizure for quite some time.

March 7, 2009 - Saturday
ANOTHER Seizure for my Husky Boy 2:22 PM
 After his 3AM seizure, my Husky boy had another at 11AM. I am really worried. He was out for a bit, then the contractor had to do some work, so they all came in, had breakfast about 9AM…at 11, my oldest Husky (his "girlfriend") started crying, at first I thought she wanted to go out and see what the man was doing on "her" deck, then I went down, and found my boy in full seizure again. She was letting me know...but I am now worried about why he had another one so close...I know that can happen, but now I am concerned about the frequency. We'll see what happens over the weekend. I have a call in to the vet...and of course, it's about 60 today when he could use a nice cool day. I may have to crank on the a/c for him if it gets any hotter...

March 7, 2009 - Saturday 5:26 PM
"Another..."
3:15PM - another seizure...this one worse, but quicker. He’s throwing his head around, teeth clanging, etc...still waiting for vet call...beyond worried now...he's panting hard...I have cool packs on him...

March 7, 2009 - Saturday  7:30 PM
"My Husky is in the Hospital Now"
My boy's in the hospital now. His third seizure was bad-muscularly. Our vet had us bring him to the vet hospital at 4PM. Although it seemed to last a shorter amount of time, he's now moved into having "clusters" of seizures. They suspect epilepsy. He's staying for observation and if he has a fourth one, they will give him a shot to break the cycle, then we'll go for an MRI before starting a course of permanent treatment for the seizures. I'm hoping he does not have anymore tonight. I will be checking in with the hospital in awhile. Possible stress from construction & heat could have led to episodes. His sweetie and younger sibling sis really really miss him. So do I. 

March 9, 2009 - Monday 10:03 AM
"My Boy's Back Home" 

My boy's back home...disoriented and confused, but home. Had a follow-up with our vet today and they started him on meds - Phenobarbitol and Potassium Bromide. The intent is to start decreasing his Pheno in 30 days after the PB starts to kick in. Hopefully, this will control the seizures...

There are many more entries after that chronicling our journey, but those were the initial few scary days when it all began, almost two years ago.

There are some things I highly recommend that I would like to share. First, do not fear a crate. I've learned to use one for when we go out or when they sleep. Besides the fact they love their own quiet personal space, it keeps an epileptic dog very safe, and it keeps the others who may get scared or nervous away from the one who is in distress. (There have been some cases cited where other pets have attacked the seizing pet.)

Create an epilepsy First Aid Kit and keep it in an obvious place. It is helpful for pet parents as well as pet sitters. Gibson’s kit  is a basket that contains the following:
  • Instructions in case of seizure.
  • A journal that contains entries of each episode, length of seizure, medication, side effects,  results, etc. It also lists my vet’s number as well as the emergency vet hospital.
  • An instant ice pack. (In a pinch, anything frozen in freezer works – the first time I used packages of frozen veggies and a frozen loaf of bread. A small cost to toss them for the great effect it had).
  • Thermometer.
  • Alcohol swabs. (I personally use just ice packs as I try to keep the chemical-stuff at a minimum).
  • Calming spray.
  • Paper towels.
  • Pet bath wipes.
  • Chlorox wipes.
  • Latex gloves.
  • A portable bowl.
  • A bottle of water.
And I always keep a tub of Breyer’s All Natural Vanilla Ice Cream in the freezer (for post-seizure treatment to aid in raising up the blood sugar levels).

Let me wrap this up by saying – Gibson is doing well. Yes, he has indeed gained weight from the meds (he has remained on the duo dispensation of Pheno and Potassium Bromide and he is closely monitored). Yes, initially, he was extremely lethargic, and very out of it. I have since made some lifestyle changes for him (and for the other Sibes as well) that I believe help promote better overall health and help him combat his ailment. He is still on specifically timed meds (which I am absolutely religious about the timing) and under continuous veterinary care. I always have his checkups and blood tests done every six months so I can monitor things and be sure his medication levels are holding steady and that there is no indication of liver damage. I have added (as you have read in previous posts) pure pumpkin puree, green beans, and carrots to his food as natural, healthy, lo-cal, fiber and nutrient packed ingredients. (My inspiration for starting the Canine Cooking  Corner Tuesday blog hop). I’ve cut down on “chemicals” by giving him raw carrots instead of processed snacks. I take him for walks and let him run with his pack family. He has a canine cooler bed to keep his body temperature cool. There is an a/c and fan in the Sibes’ bedroom, and they have a pool on hot days to run through. I try not to change his environment. I purchased an adjustable pet ramp to use as a stretcher (a blanket will also serve this purpose for lighter dogs). And, as my awesome vet recommended, I let him "live his life." I pray he may never have another seizure again and that the meds do not harm him in the long run. But above all, I let him know just how much he is loved everyday. I don’t know if this regime will keep the seizures at bay, but all I know is I need to try everything in my power to give him a normal, healthy, happy, loving life. He deserves absolutely nothing less.

I believe it’s my turn to pay-it-forward for all the wonderful folks who answered my call of need. I can only hope that by sharing my experiences with canine epilepsy, I may in turn give hope to other Hu-families who are experiencing, or may experience, seizures in their beloved pets. 

I'd like to add an important footnote here: always, always, always contact your vet immediately if your dog is having a seizure. Key factor is to be sure he is safe and secure. Keep other pets away from a seizing dog. Move anything that could get knocked over or fall on him while seizing. I personally spoke to Gib and stroke his fur to let him know I was near so he had nothing to fear, just in case he had any type of awareness during the seizure. There will be a distinct odor from discharge during the seizure, so don’t be alarmed. And due to the immediate temporary “blindness” they experience, never leave him alone. Get a little water and natural ice cream into him afterward. 

Here are some good resource links on how to respond to a seizure and information on canine epilepsy and medications:


18 comments:

  1. Outstanding post. AND we are so glad that Gibson is doing well. Phantom has had a number of seizures over the years, nothing as serious as this, but we understand how scary they can be. Mom monitors Phantom's and keeps track of all the factors at the time. But he has not needed to be medicated because they are short and infrequent. This post has such wonderful information in it.

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

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  2. WOW! What an awesome dog Gibson is and what a great dog mom he has. It must have been so scary the first time it happened and then so many after that. So glad you were able to get the help you needed and he is being taken care of. Sounds like he is doing better now. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

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  3. Thanks for the great information. My dog Kelly has had a couple seizures, of unknown cause. It's very scary. I wish you and Gibson the best.

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  4. This is a great post-thank you. We are all very glad that Gibson is getting on well, arrooos,

    RA & Isis

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  5. I had no idea this was so common. Your post was wonderful. I can't imagine ever having to go through this, but if I do at least now I feel more equiped to handle it. Thank you for sharing it all.

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  6. What a terrific post and so glad that Gibson is doing well. We know that the seizures appear more common in Sibes but are fortunate not to have to deal with them here - yet. But if we ever do, this post is a terrific resource.

    Thanks.

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  7. Thanks for sharing such great experience and information.

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  8. Thank you for sharing that with us. My Bentley had a seizure one Sunday morning out of the blue. I was terrified, but I sat beside him talking him thru it because I knew he was as scared as I was. When he came out of it, I called the vet who told me to give him some candy to raise his blood sugar.

    We tested the next day but nothing showed up and he never had another. I'm so glad you posted the emergency items to have on hand. I'll work on the list in case we ever have to deal with another seizure in any of the pack.

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  9. Having lost a dog to epilepsy, I think you for this post. The more info out there, the better...

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  10. We are so sorry to read about Gibson. Glad to see he is doing better and you are so prepared for any future seizures. We pray he never has another and my paws are crossed that he lives a long, healthy, seizure-free life! He is a beautiful dog and has great facial markings.

    The epilepsy emergency kit is great! Gibson is very lucky that you are so prepared and educated on his condition. Thank you for sharing such important information. My human, K, was baby-sitting/dog-sitting when the huge lab had a seizure. It freaked her out since she was not told anything about the dog's condition. Very scary experience, and she got banged and bruised, but the dog got through it and was perfectly fine afterwards.

    Suka

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  11. Thank you for all the information! Great post!

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  12. This is a great blog.

    I have traveled a long journey with my wooley husky Baloo who looks just like your Gibson. Since he was 1 he has suffered from severe epilepsy that comes in clusters. In order to control his seizures he was on a very large dose of phenobarb 3 times a day, large dose of Keppra 3 times a day and Zonisamide as well, and he still had breakthrough seizures every few weeks. He suffered from pancreatitis twice from the potassium bromide so we had to put him on Keppra; he had to have oral surgery as his seizures were so violent he broke 2 molars - had to have knee reconstruction has he tore a ligament in a seizure and now is suffering from liver cancer - probably from the high doses of medicine.

    He is now 6 years and is in his last months of life as his cancer diagnoses is pretty bad. Through all of this, his desire to live, play, run and be an active and present member of the family has never diminished. We always believed if he had the will to live, we would give him the opportunity, even though it has cost a fortune in vet bills.

    The emergency kit is good. I would add a few items:
    *Ask your vet for liquid valium and always have it handy. If they go into a 2nd seizure, it slows down the clusters and can stop a severe seizure
    * Use nutrical instead of ice cream as the ice cream can cause pancreatitis.
    * 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.

    Here's a pic of Baloo
    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=691427045&aid=87353#!/photo.php?fbid=321167097045&set=a.65311957045.87353.691427045&theater

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    1. Hi, Chetta...just checking back in. I don't know if you ever saw my post below...I was hoping that all is well Baloo? Sure hope to hear from you again! My Email is FiveSibes(at)gmail.com.

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  13. Hello, Chetta. I feel so remiss that I never saw this post until today. First, I am so very sorry that your furbaby has experienced such serious episodes. My heart is with you. I see you mentioned that he was in his last 6 months of life - and my heart breaks for you - I know it is just about six months and I was thinking of you and hoping that beautiful Baloo is still fighting? How is he? How are you? Please feel free to Email me at FiveSibes(at)gmail(com). We are also on Facebook at FiveSibes: Siberian Husky K9 News & Reviews. It's a community page, so it did not permit me to message you. :-( I'd love to hear from you. Thank you for your additional suggestions, I know they are very helpful for everyone who is the hu-parent of a epileptic/seizure-prone dog to know. I hope to hear from you. Thinking of you both.

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  14. My husky cross had her first Grand Mal seizure this morning. It lasted about a minute and she was disoriented for about two minutes after. We took her to the emergency vet and everything is fine now, we just need to keep an eye on her. She is a rescue from a reserve so I know very little of her family history. I am desperately hoping she doesnt have another one or at least not for a very very long time :(

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    1. I know how scary that must have been...paws crossed she does not have another one! Sometimes things can trigger them and not necessarily be Epilepsy - stressors include stress, certain foods, toxins (inside & out), as well as being hereditary. If you want to chat further, feel free to Email me at FiveSibes(at)gmail(dot)com. Gibson & I are always happy to talk to other Epi-dog parents! Wishing your furbaby all the best.

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    2. Thanks for the support. Luckily she has not had another once since. I have done my research and now I know what to do when a seizure happens. I have made my family aware as well. If this happens again at least I will be prepared.

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  15. Thank you for sharing such an informative and helpful article, keep posting!

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