What You Need to Know About Beagles and Epilepsy

Epilepsy can be found in any breed of dog, just like it can in humans. Among the most common incidences of epilepsy in dogs, Beagles are one of the top seven breeds that can have epilepsy.

You need to make yourself familiar with the bloodlines from which your dog came. Some Beagle bloodlines seem to be more prone to epilepsy than others, so do your research.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is similar to an electrical storm in the brain. Neurons in the brain misfire and disturb the normal chemical and electrical activity going on in the brain at all times.

Epilepsy is not really considered to be a disease itself; it is the manifestation of symptoms that were caused by something else. The cause can be either genetic or stem from exposure to environmental substances.

There are three types of epilepsy seen in dogs.

  • Petit Mal Seizures
  • Classic Epilepsy
  • Status Epilepticus

Symptoms of Epilepsy in Beagles

The problem with epilepsy is that the Beagle can begin to experience the symptoms at any age from 3 months to 9 years, so there is no way for you to tell if your dog is prone to have it. There is also, of course, no way to guarantee that your dog will never be exposed to any factors that could bring on epilepsy.

Common symptoms of each type of epilepsy

  • Petit Mal Seizure – This form of seizure lasts a very short time and you may not even notice it if you are not paying close attention. The dog may start staring or fall down, be nervous or agitated.
  • Classic Epileptic Seizure – This type goes through 3 phases. The first phase is similar to Petit Mal and can be difficult to detect. The dog may seek you out for comfort or run and hide. In the second phase the dog will usually fall down, and then may appear to moving his legs as if he is running, or the legs will be shaking, the dog will be unconscious and his bladder and bowels may evacuate. This period is usually lasts from 30 seconds up to 90 seconds however, it can be longer. The third phase is when he recovers. This can take any period of time from 15 minutes to days. The dog may be agitated, disoriented, lethargic or pacing constantly.
  • Status Epilepticus – This is the most severe form of seizure, but is also the least common. The actual seizure itself can go on for 15 plus minutes. When your dog has this type of seizure it is possible for it to result in permanent brain damage or be fatal without immediate treatment.
    Depending on the type and severity of the seizure the dog may also be aggressive, scared or scream.

Anytime you think your dog is having an epileptic seizure contact your vet immediately!

What to do until the seizure passes

  • Keep the dog warm, wrap them up and hold them, but don’t move him around.
  • Stay cool and calm. If you get upset or use a loud voice the dog will only become more agitated.
  • Do not try to grab the dog’s tongue; this is not necessary.
  • Get ready to clean up after the seizure. There will likely be urine, defecation and/or vomit.

Some dogs may have an episode of epilepsy once or a few times and then never again. Some may have an episode only very rarely. It really is quite similar to the way epilepsy affects humans.

What Causes Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is generally thought to most often be genetic or inherited in nature, and is referred to as idiopathic epilepsy. This really means that they do not know what really causes it. However, there are some cases that are acquired by exposure to outside influences.

  • Viral Infections like distemper, bacteria or fungus
  • Problems with Blood Chemistry
  • Poisoning – lead, mercury, insecticide or snake bites
  • Head Trauma from an injury or an incidence of electrocution
  • Cancer or Tumors in the brain

Your Beagle’s Epilepsy can be Treated

Your veterinarian will give the dog a physical examination, including laboratory tests. If no cause for the seizure is detected then he may check brain activity by use of an EEG. If the vet cannot find a physical cause, then he will most likely determine that it is genetic.

The vet will usually prescribe phenobarbital which is an anticonvulsant medication. This is not a cure; there is no cure. The anticonvulsant will reduce the frequency of the seizure, and reduce the severity of the seizures when they do occur.

The vet will monitor your dog’s progress and adjust the amount of the dosages of medication, for the maximum benefit. There are other drugs that can be used, but most are more expensive and can also have side effects. Some of these other drugs are available if your dog has other medical problems that would prevent him from taking phenobarbital.

Never stop giving your dog the prescribed amount of the medication on schedule, as it could trigger a seizure.

In any case, if your Beagle has epilepsy, neutering or spaying is a must. You do not want to pass on a genetic condition to future generations of these fabulous dogs.

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