Epilepsy in the shih tzu and other dog breeds

Epilepsy can affect any breed of dog, which includes our beloved Shih Tzu. There is a higher incidence of epilepsy in pure breed dogs of any size than in mixed breed dogs. For this reason the condition is likely to be inherited.

What is the main sign of epilepsy in the Shih Tzu or any dog? Seizures will be your main sign. Seizures can be categorized in three ways:

*Intracranial *Extracranial *Seizures of unknown cause

Intracranial seizures are the result of detectable defects like a tumor inside the brain.

Extracranial seizures are caused by metabolic or toxic changes outside the brain that affect the brain and cause a seizure.

Seizure of unknown cause is called “idiopathic epilepsy.”

If your Shih Tzu is less than one year of age, the seizures are likely caused by congenital/genetic problems, infections or toxins. If your Shih Tzu is greater than six years old the seizures are likely caused by tumors or infectious/inflammatory problems. If the Shih Tzu between 1 and 5 years of age is normal between seizure episodes they are most likely in the third category of idiopathic epilepsy.

Epilepsy is similar to a lightning strike on a house that sends abnormal currents through the normal electrical system.

It is important to be able to recognize a seizure. This is often a difficult task for the Shih Tzu pet owner or any pet owner. Seizures can be so minor and show as only slight loss of muscle control that they can hardly be detected. Seizures in the Shih Tzu or any dog can also be so severe that the Shih Tzu paddles on the ground completely out of control. The Shih Tzu will be totally unaware of its surroundings and will seem abnormal after the seizure.

If you witness such an episode in your Shih Tzu and own a video camera, you might try taping the episode for your vet to see exactly what occurs. This will help your vet give you a more definitive explanation or diagnosis of what is going on with the Shih Tzu if you are unsure your Shih Tzu is actually experiencing seizures.

There are treatments for epilepsy, but no cure. The goal is to control the seizures and prolong the life of the Shih Tzu or other breed of dog afflicted with epilepsy. When left untreated, the disease and episodes will continue to worsen.

Treatment for epilepsy usually consists of a barbiturate like Phenobarbital. This drug can be used to treat the Shih Tzu or other dog with epilepsy over the long term, very much like treating epilepsy in humans. If you know of someone with epilepsy who has to take a barbiturate to control the seizures, you will also know most of these people can lead happy and productive lives on the medication. This is true also for the canine species.

The general goal of using barbiturates is to either reduce the number of seizures by half or to double the time between seizures. It is important to note the disease will never be cured by the medicine, however, as stated previously; it can lessen the misery of the Shih Tzu or other dog breed and also prolong its life. How well drugs control epilepsy in your Shih Tzu depends on each individual case.

The second choice in drugs for epilepsy in your Shih Tzu is to treat with potassium bromide. However, this drug does not have FDA approval. It is available to treat seizures in dogs by special license only. Some veterinary medical schools have this special license, and so do some private vets.

Just remember that if your Shih Tzu is diagnosed with epilepsy there are adequate treatment plans available and it is not a death sentence at all. Proper treatment is essential. Consult with your vet as soon as you notice any of the signs of epilepsy so he or she can begin an appropriate therapy program for your Shih Tzu.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace the consultation and advice from a qualified licensed vet or animal care professional. Please consult the appropriate professionals for any kind of health problem in your animals.

Source: Merck Veterinary Manual, eighth edition

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