Epilepsy in Dogs – How We Control Ours

I have spent hours trying to research this problem. This is not a scientific survey but we have records of every fit our dog, Wazir, has ever had and we are personally convinced that Zonegran stops the fits. I read Zoology at University College London so please bear with me.

We have a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Wazir. He is an epileptic. We used to blame his breeders but we now know that epilepsy is possible in the meanest mutt and not just the interbred showdog.

So, if you have an epileptic dog, here are the facts. Wazir weighs 22kg and is four years old, he has had epilepsy ever since an encounter with a labarador which frightened him by attacking him when he was one year old.

Wazir takes 50mg of Gardenal (a barbiturate) and 750mg of potassium bromide twice every day. This dose has been reduced from 75mg (1 ½ pills of Gardenal) twice a day and the dog is much happier for it, being less “doped up” he is transformed from an “old dog” to a dog we think more normal for his 4 years of age. We have tried a “super-magnet collar” and, if anything, it made things worse.

These drugs keep the epilepsy at bay but, around once a month, Wazir has a series of epileptic fits.

We have dosed him, for the last 21 months, with Zonegran 100mg, two capsules every four hours whenever fits have started. After around 12 hours the fits stop and we give a final single capsule when the last fit has been more than four hours.

This stops the fits but the dog doesn’t like the effect that this drug has on him and we have to be devious to get the capsules down him. Smoked Salmon, jamon serrano and pate de foie gras are useful tools.

Zonegran is a medicine used for human epileptics. It costs, here in Spain, €130 for 56 capsules. At two capsules every four hours, plus one at the end, the packet lasts around four months or four times of epilepsia. Our rule is to let Wazir have three fits and then start the Zonegran: the fits are over within 12 to 15 hours after starting the Zonegran.

Our vet (who we love and has known Wazir since 3 months old) told us that there was no way that Zonegran could have an effect in less than a week of constant use so we recently decided to try going through Wazir’s monthly session of fits without using Zonegran and to save money. Instead of having three fits before we dose with Zonegran and five or six fits while it takes effect, over a time-frame that normally does not exceed 36 hours, the poor dog had 39 fits in the three days before I could get to a chemist that stocks the drug and nine fits in the subsequent 13 hours before the drug stopped them.

48 fits over 90 hours compared with an average 9 fits over 24 hours. Wazir lost control of his bladder and bowel which does not normally happen. It obviously had a devastating effect on the dog who we thought might even be brain damaged afterwards (he seems OK now, three days later). Poor Wazir, who is normally blind after a fit but needs to take exercise because he primarily has fits when asleep or resting, was just lying in his own excrement unable to move through exhaustion. My wife had to fly back from the UK to help me cope with the sleep deprivation.

The makers of Zonegran are Eisai, a USA / Japanese company with a base in London http://www.eisai.com. €30 per fit session (roughly every month) on Zonegran is something that few pet owners can afford. Of course, human medicines are often subsidised by the state but if enough pet owners ask them, maybe they will release a veterinary product. They have no email address on the website and the telephone numbers take you through to a nurse so you may well have the same problem as me in getting through but please persevere.