Follow Us
A Cocker Spaniel standing in the park

Epilepsy common in many dog breeds

Q: Our 3-year-old cocker, Ellie, was recently diagnosed with epilepsy, for which the veterinarian prescribed phenobarbital. We don’t know much about epilepsy in dogs. What can we expect in the future?

A: Epilepsy, or recurrent seizure activity, is common in dogs. The disease can be: 1) primary or idiopathic, meaning there are no structural abnormalities in the dog’s brain, or 2) secondary to infection, trauma, brain malformation, or a toxin such as lead. Primary epilepsy is the more usual type.

Epilepsy is inherited in many breeds, including Border Collies, Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and others. Seizures generally begin when the dog is one to five years old.

The goal of treatment is to decrease the frequency and severity of seizures. Eliminating them altogether is unlikely. Your veterinarian may supplement Ellie’s phenobarbital with another medication, acupuncture or gold bead implants.

If she isn’t already spayed, have your veterinarian do that. Seizures occur more often during a female dog’s heat period, so spaying Ellie should reduce seizures.

You should keep a seizure diary, noting for each seizure the date, time since last meal, duration and other observations, such as loss of urinary or bowel control. Share the diary with your veterinarian regularly.

Your vet will adjust Ellie’s medications and dosages using the seizure diary and the results of periodic blood work to monitor her drug levels and organ function. With treatment, it’s reasonable to expect Ellie to experience shorter, milder, less frequent seizures.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com.

More From Figo Blog
Pet Professionals: Interview With Larry Kay Of Positively Woof | Figo Pet Insurance

Author, dog trick trainer, movie maker,...

Arthritis In Dogs: Signs, Symptoms, And Treatment Options | Figo Pet Insurance

We all strive to be responsible dog owners who...

Pet Food Trends | Figo Pet Insurance

If you thought that pet food is just about...

Getting To Know The Great Dane | Figo Pet Insurance

Looking for a faithful and loving dog with an...

Woman managing puppy behavior

Some behaviors with dogs work best with...

Older calico cat sitting on couch

Walk into any animal shelter and you’re likely...

Patriotic pooch: presidential candidates and their doggy doppelgangers

Election season has been in full swing for...

High-maintenance cat breeds require grooming

Generally, cats have the reputation of being...

HELP