Watching your dog have a seizure is a helpless feeling. What’s even more frustrating is that 30% of dogs that start anticonvulsant medications like Keppra or phenobarbital continue to have seizures. Some of these drugs can have debilitating side effects and can affect your dog’s quality of life. This leaves pet parents, like yourself, looking for alternatives to help bring your dog relief. In this article I am going to review natural approaches that may help reduce your dog’s seizure severity and increase the time in between seizures. It’s possible that some of these may even stop the seizures altogether.
Before we get started, I want to stress two important points. First, anticonvulsant medications play an important role in helping your pup. Seizures cause more seizures, so don’t forgo them altogether. I use them routinely in my practice in conjunction with alternative therapies. On occasion, I can control seizures without them, but this is case dependent. I usually start anticonvulsants with alternative therapies and then titrate down to the lowest effective dose.
Second, there is so much we don’t know about canine epilepsy. This is most likely why there is such a high treatment failure rate. What works for one dog may not work for another. They may even be affected by two different types of epilepsy.
I use CBD in my practice for many ailments including seizures. A recent study showed that dogs treated with CBD had a significant decrease in seizure frequency (1). In my practice, I use HempRx Forte for dogs with seizures. I start with 0.5 mg/kg on food twice daily. In this dosing chart, start on the higher end of the range. This can be increased up to 2 mg/kg twice daily or as needed. For more information about calculating a CBD dose, check out this article.
I recommend that you keep your dog on the previously prescribed anticonvulsants. Keep a journal of your dog’s seizure frequency and severity. If your dog remains seizure free for several months, discuss with your veterinarian the possibility of decreasing one of your pup’s anticonvulsant medications. I generally start with the most toxic anticonvulsant or the drug causing the most side effects. You can learn more about using CBD for your dog here.
In my experience using Traditional Chinese herbal formulas such as Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin can help reduce seizure frequency and severity. The Gastrodia (Tian Ma) in this formula has been found to lessen seizure severity in mice (2). Other formulas such as Long Dan Xie Gan Tang and Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang can also be helpful. If possible work with a veterinarian in your area that is proficient in Chinese Herbal Therapy. You can visit IVAS or Chi Institute to find a practitioner near you.
This high fat, low protein and low carbohydrate diet has shown promise to decrease seizure severity and frequency in children (3). There have been a couple of studies investigating the use of a ketogenic diet in dogs with epilepsy with mixed results (4,5). You can read two case studies of dogs that used a ketogenic diet to gain relief here. This diet might provide relief for dogs that don’t respond well to anticonvulsant drugs.
There are a few drawbacks to this diet including the risk of causing pancreatitis in certain dogs and it’s low palatability. If you would like to try this diet for your dog, I recommend hiring a veterinary nutritionist to help you formulate a homemade version. Purina has also designed a diet for dogs with epilepsy. It is not low in carbohydrate and I have not used it in my practice. If you try it, let me know how it goes!
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