Leading a happy life with canine epilepsy14 January 2016

Epilepsy can be broadly categorised into two types: primary (or idiopathic) and secondary (or symptomatic).

Primary epilepsy

The majority of dogs diagnosed with epilepsy will have primary epilepsy where no underlying cause for the seizures is found.

Dogs with primary epilepsy are healthy in all other respects. You would not be able to recognise a dog with primary epilepsy if you saw one. The only way to find out is by asking the owner or by seeing the dog have a seizure.

Unfortunately, there is no single test which can determine if your dog has primary epilepsy. Your vet may first perform a series of tests to rule out secondary epilepsy, before being able to make a diagnosis See “Diagnosis and speaking to your vet” for more information.

While primary epilepsy can affect any dog, some of the breeds which most commonly develop the condition include:

Secondary epilepsy

Secondary epilepsy means that there is an underlying condition causing a dog to have seizures. When you take your dog to your vet, they may suggest running some tests to check whether there could be an underlying health problem which could cause your dog to have seizures. Some of the underlying conditions which can cause a dog to have seizures are:

  •  Head injuries
  •  Brain tumours
  •  Liver or kidney problems
  •  Infections
  •  Eating toxins (such as insecticides)
  •  Low blood sugar levels

How common is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a relatively common condition in dogs, with up to five in every 100 dogs being diagnosed with the condition. Whilst primary epilepsy can affect any dog, it is more common in pure-bred dogs. Most dogs with primary epilepsy will experience their first seizure between one and five years of age.