A new study carried out at the Royal Veterinary College and published open access in the Veterinary Record1, has revealed various changes in the behaviour of dogs before a seizure, which may give owners advance warning and help them avoid triggers.

The research, carried out by PhD student, Dr Sarah Finnegan and a multidisciplinary team of neurologists, behaviourists and biologists, found that 65% of owners reported pre-seizure changes in their dog, most commonly clinginess, excessive energy, and unsettled sleep. These signs varied between dogs, with other common changes including clumsiness, excessive panting, becoming withdrawn or quiet, and lacking energy.

43% of owners also reported seizure triggers, which commonly involved stress, food and excitement. A wide range of other triggers were reported by owners including loud noises, fireworks, storms, household products (cleaning products and air freshener), and preventative healthcare including flea and worming products and vaccinations.

60% of owners believed they were able to predict an upcoming seizure in their dog by using a combination of pre-seizure changes and recognising triggers. Nearly half of these owners were able to do so 30 minutes or more before the seizure commenced.

Dr Rowena Packer, BBSRC Research Fellow and research lead in canine epilepsy at the RVC, said: "It was fascinating to discover how in-tune many owners of dogs with epilepsy are with subtle changes in their dog’s behaviour before seizures. Many of our findings echo what is seen in human epilepsy patients and add evidence to support the presence of prodromal pre-seizure periods in dogs as well as people.

"Collecting further objective data to confirm these findings and explore ways to proactively utilise this period for seizure management are of priority for future research.

“This study also highlights how crucial it is that owners of dogs with epilepsy keep good records, not just of their dog’s seizures, but also of changes in behaviour and exposure to potential triggers, to gain a better picture of patterns in their dog’s seizure activity. The RVC Pet Epilepsy Tracker app allows owners to keep records, that can also be shared electronically with their vet and with RVC for further research.”

Reference

  1. FINNEGAN SL; VOLK HA; ASHER L; DALEY M; PACKER RMA (2020) Investigating the potential for seizure prediction in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy: Owner reported prodromal changes and seizure triggers. The full paper is available in Veterinary Record: https://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/early/2020/05/21/vr.105307 

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