Posted on December 7, 2015
Epilepsy Task Force
Far and away, epilepsy is the most common neurological disease affecting dogs and cats. Within the United States, it is estimated that approximately 780,000 dogs are diagnosed with this disorder every year (sorry, no numbers available for cats).
In spite of the prevalence of epilepsy in small animals, relatively little is understood about its cause and treatment. That’s why it’s a great thing that a recently created task force aspires to improve care for epileptic dogs and cats. The task force is comprised of very smart people from around the world and includes veterinary and human neurologists, neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, and neuropathologists. Task force member Dr. Karen Munana was quoted as follows:
Lack of consistency among epilepsy researchers concerning classifications, definitions, and therapeutic outcome measures makes it difficult to draw comparisons and significantly limits the scientific impact of the studies. This affects the development of effective professional guidelines which, in turn, hinders clinicians when they are diagnosing the disease and advising owners on treatment options for the pet’s condition.”
Members of the task force have worked to identify a “chain of care” for animals with epilepsy including the animal’s breeder, caregiver, family veterinarian, veterinary neurology specialist, and neuroscientist. Thus far, the task force has released seven consensus statements (information and recommendations agreed upon by the task force members).
Epilepsy consensus statements
Listed below are the seven consensus statements along with their web site locations so you can access any of the articles that are of interest to you. Be forewarned- they contain a good amount of medical jargon. Don’t hesitate to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you need some help with interpreting what you are reading.
- Consensus report on epilepsy definition, classification, and terminology in companion animals – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/182
Over the years there have been many epilepsy classification schemes used in veterinary medicine. Unfortunately, a term one veterinarian uses to describe a type of seizure might mean something altogether different to another veterinarian. The goal of this consensus statement is to provide a common language that is widely accepted within the profession.
- Proposal for a diagnostic approach to epilepsy in dogs – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/148
A multitude of issues besides epilepsy can cause seizures. When an animal has seizures, the primary diagnostic goal is to identify the underlying cause. Differentiating true epileptic seizures from those caused by other things can be quite challenging. The goal of this consensus proposal is to improve consistency in accurately diagnosing epilepsy in dogs.
- Current understanding of epilepsy of genetic or suspected genetic origin in purebred dogs – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/175
This is a review of epilepsy in predisposed dog breeds. It highlights breed-specific clinical features (age of onset, type of seizure, gender predisposition), response to treatment, prevalence rate, and mode of inheritance.
The breeds discussed include Australian Shepherd, Belgian Shepherd, Bernese Mountain Dog, Border Collie, Border Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Collie, Dalmatian, English Springer Spaniel, Finnish Spitz, Golden Retriever, Hungarian Vizsla, Irish Wolfhound, Italian Spinone, Labrador Retriever, Lagotto Romagnolo, Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen (PBGV), Shetland Sheepdog, Standard Poodle, German Shepherd, Beagle, Dachshund, Keeshond, and nine Dutch breeds.
- Consensus on the medical treatment of canine epilepsy in Europe – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/176
The goal of this consensus protocol is to provide consistency in the management of canine epilepsy using antiepileptic drugs. Recommendations are based on current evidence-based research and experience of the authors. While this specifically considers the legal ramifications associated with prescribing necessary medications in Europe, the recommended treatment protocols can be applied universally.
- Outcome of therapeutic interventions in epilepsy in dogs and cats – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/177
This consensus proposal provides a common language and understanding when describing an animal’s response to antiepileptic drugs. For example, standardization of what constitutes an adequate response will guide veterinarians in the diagnosis of drug resistance as a basis for altering therapy. Not only will this benefit individual patients, it will create a common language when interpreting results of research on dogs and cats being treated for epilepsy.
- Recommendations for a veterinary epilepsy-specific MRI scan protocol – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/194
Use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans plays a key role in arriving at the diagnosis of epilepsy, primarily by ruling out other causes of seizures. There are oodles of different types of images (referred to as sequences) a state of the art MRI scanner is capable of creating. This consensus paper provides a standardized epilepsy-specific MRI protocol.
- Recommendations for systematic sampling and processing of brains from epileptic dogs and cats – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/216
One of the most important ways to learn more about epileptic seizures is by harvesting and examining brain tissue after the epileptic animal has passed away. This consensus protocol provides guidelines for processing the brain tissue.
I’m so pleased that this task force was created. I believe that the information it generates will be wonderfully positive next step in guiding our abilities to diagnose and treat dogs and cats with epilepsy.
Have you ever cared for an animal with epilepsy? If so, I’d love for you to share your experience.
Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health and happiness throughout the holiday season,
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.