Cisco’s initial seizures were mild. His eyes glazed, he couldn’t stand up. As time went on, the seizures got worse including thrashing, foaming, and peeing. Sometimes he would be recovering from one seizure then start another one. At first it was difficult and traumatic, not for him but for us!
We learned that we were better able to care for him by changing the way that we felt and reacted. Think of Cesar Milano’s approach of calm, assertive energy, which his web site Cesar’s Way defines as “being always compassionate but quietly in control.”
1: Avoid assuming how a dog perceives a seizure.
It is normal to project our own fears when watching a seizure, imagining that the dog is in mental and emotional distress. However, through the years and episodes we found that within 15 minutes our dog is typically up, happy, ready to eat and drink. He doesn’t seem to remember anything.
2: Stay calm – how you act and how you feel.
Focus on the moment. One way is to start counting seconds to yourself. Know that you can manage the situation for the 5 to 20 minutes that the seizure and recovery lasts. Know that it will end. Address your dog’s needs effectively rather than emotionally. Observe. Learn.
3: Find out more.
Talk to your veterinarian, search the internet. It helps to know what others have found useful. My favorite canine epilepsy web site is Epi Guardian Angels; see their article on Coping with Seizures and a wealth of other support information.
4: Keep a log.
I keep a detailed log, recording the day and time of each seizure, when he last ate, how severe the episode was, how long he took to recover, and whether it was a single or double seizure. The log tracks events as vaccinations, switching dog food, and variations in meal time. I even tried mapping to phases of the moon. The log is helpful when discussing options with our veterinarian. We did see a reduction in seizures when we switched to dog food and dog biscuits that did not contain BHT or BHA preservatives. Otherwise it hasn’t helped us to determine seizure causes, but it makes me feel better to do something even if it is just logging data.
5: Be aware of potential issues with other dogs in the house.
At first, our other dog would attack when a seizure occurred. We would separate them until Cisco recovered. However, we found that keeping a calm, assertive watch on our other dog allowed him to stay nearby. Now he even helps during the recovery time by licking Cisco’s face. We invested in a second doghouse so that they would not be in a confined space together when a seizure occurs but otherwise have found that they can coexist safely.
Cisco has been with us for ten years. He has had almost 40 seizures but is healthy and happy and a joy. Once we adapted to the situation, we are better able to help him when he needs it.
Cesar Milano, Glossary of Terms
Epi Guardian Angels, Coping with Seizures