22 March 2017

Raising Epilepsy Awareness on Purple Day

Sunday the 26th of March is Purple Day - it is a celebration aimed to raise epilepsy awareness worldwide, a condition that globally affects over 65 million people. However, did you know that dogs can be afflicted with this ailment as well? Up to six percent of the canine population suffers from a form of epilepsy. In fact, epilepsy is the most diagnosed canine neurological disease. This is only a rough estimate since many cases of canine epilepsy remain undiscovered by the respective canine parents as dogs often experience their fits when they are inactive, late at night or during the early morning hours. So, throw on a purple shirt and let's raise epilepsy awareness for all sufferers, human and canine alike!

What is Canine Epilepsy?

Epilepsy manifests in terrifying ways, causing a dog to experience sudden, uncontrolled convulsions. First recognized in ancient times, Hippocrates referred to epilepsy as the “sacred” disease. However, nothing about it seems sacred! Watching a beloved companion suffer a seizure can be an extremely traumatic event. Learning to live with an animal with complex health issues is never easy. In general, we distinguish between two types of epilepsy - genetic and idiopathic. 

Genetic epilepsy is passed down from one generation to the next, and certain dog breeds are more prone to this form of epilepsy than others. 

Idiopathic Epilepsy is caused by unknown factors, and it is often difficult to predict what will trigger the next seizure or when.

Living with a dog that has epilepsy can be a daunting prospect, but with some help from a veterinarian and much planning, epileptic dogs can live a relatively normal, happy and meaningful life.

What Should You Do if Your Dog Has a Seizure?

If your dog has a seizure or a cluster of seizures, let your vet know about it. It's highly recommended to keep a journal and write down anything remotely connected to the event. You may include any other information relevant to your dog's seizure(s). A diary like this can be extremely helpful in diagnosing and treating your dog's epilepsy. Another useful tool for your veterinarian could be a video of a seizure as it happens. Here are just a few important pieces of information to include:

- At what time did the seizure occur? 
- Duration of the seizure(s)?  
- What was your dog doing before the seizure occurred? 
- Did your dog eat or do anything different that day? 
- What medications were given if any?

If you witness your dog's seizure, there are some things you can do to ensure your furry companion's safety. 

- Make sure they don't fall off a bed or down the stairs. 
- Remain calm during the seizure. Your canine companion can sense when you are nervous or upset. 
- Talk to your dog calmly during the epileptic episode.
- Don't attempt to restrain your dog during a seizure. 
- It is not unusual for your dog to urinate, defecate or salivate excessively during a seizure.  
- Do not place your hand on or near your dog's mouth during a seizure. Dogs have no control over their bodies during an epileptic episode and will sometimes clench their jaws which could lead to an accidental dog bite. 

After a seizure, your canine companion might feel disoriented, thirsty or even hungry. They may restlessly pace back and forth. Some dogs take as long as 24 hours or more to completely recover from a seizure; some dogs recover quicker than others. Remember, each dog is unique, and no case of canine epilepsy is exactly the same. 

What I would like everyone to remember on Epilepsy Awareness Day is this...it is not the end of the world if your dog has epilepsy. Yes, it is challenging to live with canine epilepsy, and there's no cure for this condition. However, it can be managed. There may be bumps in the road along your journey together, but you can get through it. Just take a deep breath and deal with it one day at a time.

For more information about Purple Day, Purple Day events or epilepsy, please visit www.purpleday.org. 

Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added her debut historical fiction novel In the Shadow of Her Majesty to her ever-expanding collection of published writings. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.

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