A large-scale epidemiological survey of dogs in the UK was recently conducted, with the aim of better understanding the incidence of seizures and epilepsy in dogs.

The veterinary health records of over 450,000 pet dogs in the UK were reviewed and the researchers identified over 2,800 seizure cases for further analysis.

The full text of the study article can be found in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine HERE.  We’ve outlined a few of the most significant findings below:

Out of all the seizure cases, 20.5% of the dogs were found to have epilepsy, based on the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force (IVETF) classification system.

  • 17.1% of the dogs had idiopathic epilepsy (unknown cause)
  • 3.4% had structural epilepsy (brain abnormalities)
  • 6.3% of the dogs had reactive seizures (from toxic or metabolic causes)

An examination of the veterinary records indicates that epilepsy seems to be underdiagnosed when dogs first present with seizures (an initial diagnosis rate of 8.6% compared to 20.5% in a records review).

What categories of dogs are most at risk for seizures?

Being at or above the mean bodyweight for both breed and sex was found to be a risk factor.

Most dogs seen by vets for seizure incidents were purebred. The breeds with the most diagnosed epilepsy cases were:

  • Labrador Retriever (9.8%)
  • Border Collie (7.8%)
  • Jack Russell Terrier (4.9%)
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier (4.1%)

The researchers found that various breeds in the Toy, Gundog, and Terrier groups had the most cases, with certain specific breeds (like those listed above) accounting for many of them.

The median age for first seizure was relatively young for dogs diagnosed with epilepsy, with the .5 to 3-year-old age range seeing the most cases.

What about treatment?

The health records survey found that vets tended to be conservative about prescribing anti-seizure medication after the first seizure.  69.2% of dogs received no medication after the first event.

The researchers note that their retrospective study of seizures in dogs found that dogs tended to be underdiagnosed with epilepsy by their vets.

They suggest that vets need to have a clearer understanding of IVETF diagnostic guidelines.  A diagnosis of epilepsy should be considered in younger dogs and dogs in high risk groups when they present with seizures.


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