Seizure Action Plan

This is our typical course of action when an epileptic seizure occurs. We have everything already in place all the time “just in case” and have learned this through trial and error really and what works best for Harrison. All dogs are different, but this is what seems to work for him.

Preparation takes the pressure off a little in a crisis

Advanced checklist: After a while you will do everything required on autopilot, but in the beginning it may help you function in a panic if you create yourself a checklist so you can methodically follow the steps.

Create a safe place: Our kitchen is Harrison’s safe place, as there are limited obstacles when we need to act fast. We switch the cooker hood/extractor fan light on (without the fan), which provides enough low level light without being dazzling. During the day, we shut the blinds to dim the light. He also has access to the garden easily from the kitchen for when he’s ready to go to the toilet. When a seizure strikes we pick up his water bowl (tipped over way too many times!) and move his bed and toys out to the hallway, then there is nothing left for him to fall over. We also lay down a couple of rugs which help him walk and stabilise on the floor, as he really struggles on the wooden floors after a seizure. We have 2 of these HULSIG rugs from IKEA which cover almost the entire kitchen floor and fit in the washing machine one at a time. Not bad for £9 a piece! 🙂

Emergency Meds: Always have your emergency meds ready to go. Packets and pills can be fiddly when you’re on red alert, so make your life easier by preparing so you can tend to your dog efficiently in a crisis.We keep Harrison’s emergency levetiracetam (keppra) tablets and valium tubes (diazepam)* in a specific container in the kitchen – ensure you always adhere to the drug storage instructions so they can remain as effective as possible. *Please note, this emergency medication was specifically prescribed and instructed by our neurology/canine epilepsy specialist.

Emergency veterinary attention: If things escalate at home, call your vet or out of hours emergency line ASAP. Save both numbers in your phone in advance so you can act fast. We have been advised to take Harrison to the vet should he suffer any more than 2 seizures within 24 hours, as he will need IV fluids & IV medication to stop the cluster of seizures.

Recording the seizure: It may help to keep a pen & notepad near the emergency meds. You need to make a note of the time, date, duration, any special characteristics of the seizure. You will need to keep a full seizure log to recording all of your dog’s seizure activity and if you visit your vet or a specialist they usually want to review this. There are lots of good seizure log templates available online, I found the templates available on the Epiphen website really good. I created my own version in Microsoft excel though, because I’m a geek! 🙂 Our specialist wanted a log which combined the seizure log and medication log as well, so was best to tailor it to suit our needs. Our first neurologist recommended the RVC epilepsy app tracker, but I found it a bit rigid and the export wasn’t in a very usable format either. It might work for some though 🙂

How you can help your dog

Remain calm and if you talk, make sure its relaxing and reassuring. Sometimes silence may be best. If you get any pre-ictal warning signs a seizure is incoming, turn off lights and other stimulus and take your dog to the safe place you have created for them. At this point, you can give them their emergency medication if they will eat it/take it (Harrison hasn’t ever been able to at this stage, as he’s already too spooked).

We have previously tried to put his Thundershirt on during the pre-ictal stage to see if it helped with his seizure or recovery or general distress. In our experience it didn’t seem to help much, but it did mean that he urinated during the seizure, which doesn’t normally happen (due to the compression I guess!). I will add, the Thundershirt has been effective in calming or relieving anxiety at times outside of seizures (when we started puppy class for example and  he wouldn’t sit still!:))

During and after the seizure your dog may overheat, so this is another factor when considering using the Thundershirt, as that will keep the heat in even further. We use ice packs and/or soaked towels to keep him cool. Its best to cool the ears & paws, an ice on the spine can help the seizure activity.

I should add, you need to react accordingly to your dogs seizures. If it lasts any longer than a few minutes and you have already tried diazepam to no avail, or don’t have any at home, then you need to call the vet ASAP. A prolonged seizure is called status epilepticus and can be very damaging/fatal. So read the signs and get the necessary help if you are worried. We had to do this when Harrison got stuck in a cluster, he had 9 seizures within 2 hours and needed IV drugs to break out of it.

Some people claim they have good results with natural calming products such as Pet Remedy or natural essential oils, even things like Bach Flowers Rescue Remedy. Rubbing essential oils into the ears or a few drops of rescue remedy in their water bowl or directly on the tongue can help.

Following the seizure your dog may be paralysed, deaf/blind, confused, disoriented but when they start come round you will want to get their blood sugar up. Some people suggest using a decent, organic ice cream but we found this too stimulating for Harrison, it made him go hyper. We find it most effective to give very small amounts of food often and scatter across the floor so he can sniff it out and find it. This helps to focus his attention and stop him going frantic or gulping it down too quickly.

When the seizure strikes:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Turn off bright lights and other stimulus (mobile phones, games, tv, radio etc). If you have other animals, ensure they are kept away to avoid any unnecessary stress.
  3. Make a note of the time when things start kicking off.
  4. Take your dog to their safe place, as soon as its safe to do so (you may not always have this option before the seizure occurs).
  5. Protect their head and stop them hurting themselves during the seizure.
  6. Be careful around their mouth area in case they have a jaw snapping motion during the seizure, or in case they may bite out of fear.
  7. Administer emergency meds/remedies, if you are using any.
  8. Try to keep them cool.
  9. When they start to come round, remain clam and talk in soft, reassuring but positive tones telling them they’re a good boy/good girl. You may want to stroke them gently, but be wary as they may be a bit jumpy. Some dogs may show aggression as they’re so frightened, so be  very careful.
  10. Administer any post-seizure medication/remedies you have been advised to give as soon as you are able to.
  11. Give plenty of food, they will likely feel ravenous and you need to get their blood sugar up.
  12. Give your dog the time and space they need to recover and just ride it out together. Remember it is probably worse for you to witness, than for them to endure.
  13. If things don’t seem to be improving, call your vet/emergency line ASAP.

Harrison’s seizure events usually last 60 minutes from start to finish. This starts at the point of the seizure itself right through to end of the post-ictal pacing, restless period. After plenty to eat, some pacing about, toileting outside and a nice big drink of water, we know he is probably almost ready to crash out finally. We let him sleep and recuperate until he indicates to us he is ready for walkies or playtime. By the time he wakes up he is his happy go lucky, cheeky self again!

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Nutritionist Help

We had a consultation with a canine nutritionist yesterday. After deciding to switch to raw feeding we were keen to enlist the help of someone experienced and knowledgeable in this area to ensure a smooth transition and a controlled approach.

I had done a lot of research myself of course, but like with the start of our canine epilepsy journey, it seemed a bit of a minefield, there were so many different comments and conflicting recommendations I thought we’d be best consulting someone who knows what they’re doing!

We had a great consultation with thedognutritionist which wouldn’t have been complete without Harrison having a seizure half way through….! Poor little dude, he made a speedy recovery though and is his usual self again after plenty of food, water and rest.

Admittedly, we’d made a few mistakes with his medication since the 1st November (administering the wrong meds at the wrong time) so we have had to implement a better system to prevent this from reoccurring. Obviously you are riddled with guilt after something like that, but at the same time we are only human and mistakes can happen.  I bought a new, larger pill box / dosette box to try and keep us on track. It has 4 compartments for morn, noon, eve, bed administrations. I managed to find it in Poundland, so was only £1, I noticed they’re very expensive in pharmacies! We actually need 5 compartments for 6:30, 7:30, 14:30, 19:30, 22:30 doses but the pill organisers with 5 sections were massive and really expensive. So for now we have kept the 2:30 dose in our original 1 week pill organiser as this is easier for our dogsitter as well, as this is the only dose she administers, so hopefully we can remember during the weekends and keep all his meds on track. I have re-labelled all the sections with correct times, drugs names and dosage too, so hopefully we wont have anymore mishaps for a good long while!

Going back to the raw feeding and nutrition, we’ve only got about a week’s worth of kibble left so are starting the transition now, starting off with a bland protein (chicken) and building up from there. I fed him some raw chicken yesterday as a little test and he wolfed it down, so I think we should be ok! Will be interesting to see how he takes to eating stuff with bones. A lot of people cite great success with raw feeding for epilepsy management in dogs. Our neurology specialist has mentioned ketogenic medium-chain TAG diet as well in her most recent report. This is a high fat, low protein, low carb diet essentially. Good job H loves coconut oil! 🙂 (I should probably get on a better diet myself, all this comfort eating is definitely taking its toll!)

 

 

A bit more than a blip :(

Well the last 24-48 hours have been a challenge, to say the least!

Seems our little Harrison got struck with a bad cluster case again, this time was totally different to anything we have seen before with 2-3 hours between seizures over longer time period, instead of every few minutes like normal.

Our vet has advised to put him on keppra for 10 days which should definitely help break the cluster now. He’s had this medication before after our emergency vet visit back in April, when it really knocked him about. He was all wobbly and weak on his back legs, poor boy.

This time is a different beast entirely… he is super hyperactive, restless, agitated, constantly pacing and barking. Absolutely awful to witness and we haven’t slept properly in two days, neither as he. He must be exhausted as the seizures themselves take such a lot out of him.

I talked to the vet again, who thinks the behaviours are just postictal and hopefully he’ll settle down soon. I really hope so! Supposed to be flying to New York on Tuesday, we’ll be worried sick if he’s not feeling and seeming a bit more himself by then. We would be worried sick anyway, but the timing is so bad.

Anyway, it is what it is and we’ll do whatever we can to make it work as long as he is happy and has a good quality of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resetting the seizure counter back to zero

Yep, today was one of those days unfortunately. After an 18 day break since the last fits, Harrison suffered a couple more. He is resting now after the usual hour of pacing about wanting to eat the world.

He’s been a little tinker both yesterday and today, which makes me wonder whether this led to the seizures. Yesterday he’d gotten into my handbag and eaten some homemade fudge and today he’d had 3 overripe bananas (including skins) off the kitchen counter. Which he has never done before and they’ve always been sitting there on the side, out of his reach we thought but obviously not! Sometimes I have avocados ripening too, so thank goodness they weren’t in there as avocado isn’t very good for dogs, especially not the stones, which he would have undoubtedly eaten!

We’re going on holiday 1 week today, was hoping not to have any more seizures before we go but that’s the nature of the beast. Dreading leaving him 😦 we’re leaving him in safe hands, in our own home so minimal disruption for him.

His annual vaccines are due as well, I’m going to put them off for as long as possible but also ask whether we can have a waiver for a while, until we manage to get into a bit more of a routine with him. The fewer things that could cause or lead to a seizure, the better really.

I hate this illness so much! When there’s been recent activity it makes you question everything. Are we really doing the right thing to try and medicate him and tame this beast?

 

 

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(hopefully) it’s just a blip

Harrison had another couple of seizures last night unfortunately, just after 18:00. He’d vomited his breakfast in the morning, but re-ate it so we weren’t concerned he didn’t get his medication. Hope things settle down soon, we’re supposed to be going away on 6th September, seriously won’t even feel like it if this recent spate of seizures doesn’t subside.

As usual, he paced around restlessly for about an hour after the seizures and we’d given him 50mg of diazepam to break the cluster, but then chilled out and we didn’t encounter anymore issues during the night which is great! Let’s hope for a trouble-free weekend now, what’s left of it.

Since we added in libromide to his medication mix last Monday he had been encountering some adverse side-effects, which have subsided a little thankfully (vocalisation, restlessness), but it can still take a little while for the medication to reach the therapeutic serum range and provide that stabilising effect we really need at the moment. This is very much a matter of patience, not expecting miracles overnight and managing as best you can in the interim. It’s so hard to see your beloved dog go through this though and breaks my heart reading about all the lovely pets who have to be put to sleep as a result of their epilepsy or associated conditions on some of the Facebook groups I mention on the RESOURCES & INFO page of my blog. My heart goes out to all of those people who have lost their pet due to this awful condition. It made me wonder about what humans who suffer with epilepsy have to endure as well, how awful. At least you can explain to humans though once they’re old enough, so they know what’s going on. The worst thing for Harrison is how frightened he is immediately before and afterwards, poor little baby.

One of the founding members of the Facebook groups has setup a couple of fundraising pages. One is to support those who can’t afford a neurological consultation and the relevant  tests etc, as not covered by their insurance or they don’t have any. The other is to raise a bit of money to setup a service to raise awareness, knowledge share, advise and guide others who are managing this condition with their pets. To support them in asking the right questions and knowing when to be firm or assertive and challenge their vet where needed etc. No one knows your animal like you do, even if you don’t have the veterinary knowledge, you are the one who speaks for them and has their best interests in mind. I found this element quite challenging when all the info we were receiving was conflicting. But essentially, not many vets or neurologists are specialised in epilepsy and eventually that’s what you become, with enough time dedicated to research and learning about the condition and treatment. Please see links below to the fundraising pages in case of interest and you’re feeling generous! 🙂

Rusty’s Memorial Neuro Consult Fund

Canine Epilepsy Awareness

 

A whirlwind week

Poor Harrison, what a tough week it’s been. We’ve had a blip, you could say. Since the last seizures came on in the Lake District and last Tuesday morning before I was about to leave to go to work, he’s suffered quite a few more. Saturday morning, Saturday night into Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening. on this run, they were very unpredictable and everything just felt very unstable. Harrison just wasn’t himself, the activity felt very frequent and all of the usual characteristics just weren’t there. We felt very much out of control, as we didn’t get those little warning signs we’ve grown accustomed to. We managed to get through about 200ml of rectal diazepam as well, so very desperate times!

Talked to our vet this morning who suggested we add in another medication called Libromide (Potassium bromide), alongside his current epiphen (phenobarbital). He advised that often dogs need two complimentary meds rather than a higher dose of just the one and this allows things to be maintained to quite a stable level once the dosage reaches the therapeutic range. Really hope this has the desired effect as this feels worse than ever as things are so unstable and unpredictable.

I really hate you, epilepsy!

So I had taken a small break from blogging, as things were going so well of late, we have been living life to the full and enjoying every moment with our little dude, Harrison! Following a very traumatic visit to the emergency vets a few months ago we ended up on some medication which seemed to be really making a difference. Harrison had a good clean run of 69 days seizure free, which we never thought possible at once stage things got so bad! It enabled him to become much more settled and really gave us time to get some solid training in, so he is developing into a really gorgeous and (mostly) obedient pooch. But sadly, whilst on a lovely little family holiday in the Lake District last week (absolutely breathtaking – make sure you go up there, if you haven’t yet!) Harrison started seizing Friday night after a long walk round Langdale Pikes and the aptly named, Harrison Stickle!

Of course we had gone on holiday prepared for any eventuality, so when the moment came we saw the signs immediately and knew just what to do. Luckily we were back at the hotel so had quick access to everything we needed such as an electric fan, small confined space, copious amounts of his kibble and ice cubes. Thanks to the lovely staff at the Shap Wells Hotel who acted quickly in our time of need!

On our arrival home we called the vet to restock our diazepam, then after we picked it up yesterday I had to use it again this morning as Harrison had more seizures just 4 days later. I was home alone and managed to quickly grab the diazepam and act fast enough so he only had a cluster of 3 this time. Poor little baby is recovering now after lots of food, water and 2 hours of wobbling about.

So this is just a little post for therapeutic purposes as I sit here, ankle swollen and throbbing from falling down the stairs right after him this morning  as I tried to grab him frantically before he fell. Poor baby. Canine epilepsy, you really are THE WORST!