I look forward to sharing a very profound story, lesson and piece of our lives with you. For the last fourteen years our family has included our dogs with just about everything we do from outdoor activities to purchasing a couch large enough for 6 dogs. If you are reading my article, I imagine you have been part of or experienced the horrific act of a dog having a seizure. Please read on so I can share a success story on canine epilepsy.
Tank is our young 6 month old German shorthaired pointer. He earned his name at birth due to the fact that he was one of the biggest pups in the litter and he plowed his way to feed over the others to get milk from mom. One late afternoon as Tank sat in his lazyboy recliner watching animal planet, he went into a stiff posture and started convulsing violently. As his body fell onto the floor with a thud assisted by a gasping sound you would expect from someone who was trying to regain their breath after holding it for an overextended time, the 1 minute seizure seemed like eternity. Rushing to hold him, my wife was already calling our Veterinarian Dr. Dose. As a million thoughts raced through my mind wondering if he was having a heart attack, choking, or some sort of internal organ failure, he continued to convulse and lose all control of his bowels. The uncontrollable thrusting and gasping started to slow down and his body started to feel a little limp. He laid there with his eyes wide open but didn’t show any signs of coherency. While I made my attempts to have him acknowledge my existence and calling his name to try and calm him, Dr. Dose was explaining to my wife what was occurring as a seizure was in progress.
Tank seems to be coming out of the fog. I frantically try to stay calm, gently pet him and try to reassure he is going to be OK as I suddenly realize he still feels confused. He fights through his inability to gain stature, balance and awareness to a mode of fight or flight. The growling and rage compared to that of an animal that was cornered. He made a run for personal safety as his vision and awareness of his surroundings was seriously impaired. Tank hit the wall with enough force to damage the sheetrock. Being the back seat quarter back now, I should have given some space but this was our first episode for both of us. I grabbed a blanket and covered him and proceeded to take him to the backyard so he wouldn’t hurt himself. As Dr. Dose relayed informational instructions to my wife, we gave Tank some time on his own to regain some sort of normalcy. I can share from personal experience having a dedicated and professional veterinarian such as Dr. Dose to help you understand what was happening and what to do is invaluable. Late into the night we took Tank to the Doctors office. We spent some time discussing the possibility of Tank having juvenile epilepsy or various reasons to why the seizure was triggered. The list of reasons was comprehensive. Tests were scheduled and performed. He was put on medication known as Phenobarbital. The long sad drive home was filled with an extensive list of “what if’s” and the hopeful thinking this would be the only seizure our baby would ever have again. The next day his body was trying to adjust to the medicine. His balance was off and a few times witnessed and heard the heartbreaking sound of him stumbling into walls and furniture.
We had a consultation with Dr. Dose and learned about the intricate and diverse nature of not just having a seizure but how Tanks life could or will change. This would affect ours as well. There were hundreds of reasons that could have caused it. I could go on and on about the possibilities for his situation but this is not what this article is about. Going forward the doctor said it is about monitoring and adjusting medication if it persists. Of course there are specialists that can do extensive tests but at this stage we are hoping it is a onetime occurrence.
Not so lucky! Three weeks later while in bed, he became restless and minutes later he subsided to a full blown out seizure again. Our hearts sank as we made sure he was in a safe place and learning from the first episode, we gave him space to let it run its course and again my wife was on the phone with Doctor Dose. We are now starting to have the indication that our Tank didn’t have a onetime deal but would have to live with this the rest of his life. Over the next couple of years there were cycles and clusters of seizures that ranged as frequent as multiples in a week and rarely made it more than a month in between episodes. As time went on, blood tests were done to assure it was OK to increase his dose of Phenobarbital. As the frequency of seizures started to happen, Potassium Bromide was added to his regiment twice a day. Daily at 6:00am and 6:00pm became a time stamp for our daily lives.
The dynamic importance of the first few years and the basis for the title of this article revolves around a little book. Dr. Dose recommended we keep a daily log of Tanks activity, behaviors, foods, weight, medication, seizures, duration and well you get the picture. We kept track of just about everything as we were determined to find out if there was something we could identify as a trigger to his seizures. Some felt this may not be as helpful because it was more than likely a neurological issue that could not be controlled. We wanted to believe we could narrow down the factors and if we could find a pattern we could make adjustments of some sort and do a better job at controlling the amount of episodes our buddy Tank was having. Dr Dose told us about a person who would have a seizure every time this person would smell a bakery or be walking by one. It could have been the smell of bread or something. It was like time to be a detective and see if we could help. We fully understood that this wouldn’t be a cure but again it gives us hope to possibly help or reduce his episodes. I will tell you that a person will need to be dedicated to truly monitoring and logging daily until something is discovered.
Here we go! After extensive monitoring of all daily factors associated with Tank, we came up with a couple of common denominators. We could tie a seizure to Tank on just about 99% of the time whenever he had anything with cheese or the Peanut Butter cookies we purchased from a large chain store. At first we were thinking what a coincidence but could it be true we found the triggering attributes? Immediately we cut these items out of the food stream. It was hard to do for the other dogs as they sure enjoyed the peanut butter milk bones and pizza! For the first time ever, tank was looking at two months without an episode. After week three during the first seizure free month, it was day by day for us wondering when? During first couple of years this was the week we would prepare for him to suffer through another one. We still couldn’t believe we are in the second month and nada! We were wondering if we hit a point of coincidental chance still considering no seizure after three months. Sure enough we need to know so I figure lets really see if cheese could be a trigger or not and gave Tank a slice of mild cheddar. That night he exhibited the restlessness like in the past before an episode and sure enough it was a grand mal. It was now time to keep cheese out of reach for Tank.
A few more successful months went by and now it was time to test the peanut butter milk bones. Sure enough we got the results at Tanks expense. Well I can tell you that we dialed in two items that without a doubt caused havoc in his life. One of the greatest mysteries is how or what does the two items have in common? Cheese and peanut butter milk bones seem so far apart its mind boggling how it is these two items we identified. Tank went years without a seizure and one day while we were having a party, one of our guests gave him a bite of their pizza and presto we gathered more ammo to support our investigative work. Tank lived to be thirteen years old when cancer claimed the guy. His last six years the guy ate like a king. We wanted to make sure he didn’t eat any foods with preservatives or processed ingredients. We also supported his diet with a soy based dog food that was also hypoallergenic. As he got older we wanted to make sure we didn’t go down any paths that would lead him to epileptic fits because it would be a greater strain to his aging body. He got so accustomed to raiding the garden he would actually pick his own tomatoes, green beans and radishes. Most of the time he couldn’t wait for someone to take the greens off the radishes so he would consume it before you could cut it.
I want to make it clear to anyone who reads and hopefully enjoyed this article that this story is based on our true experience, trials and jubilations while sharing our lives with Tank. We are not saying this would work on all dogs, but if you love your dog and have the desire, you may be able to gain some sort of insight as to a common denominator related to seizures in your baby! They key to the possibility of having a similar success in finding such attributes is to take the time to track all daily factors related to each and every issue in your dogs life. This will include what types of food, stressors and even including if your dog was exposed to any type of chemicals which could include the monthly exterminator service.