Epilepsy in dogs - can diet help?
What part can a natural food play
Epilepsy is the name for repeated seizures.
Seizures may occur as a single event from a variety of causes, but only if the seizures repeat over a significant period of time is it called epilepsy.
Seizures are caused by an electrical storm in the brain. Brain cells, or neurons, use electrical and chemical signals to communicate with each other, and can be excitatory (activating the next neuron), or inhibitory (shutting the next neuron off). This communication must be balanced for if it becomes too excitatory, a seizure can result.
This excitatory communication should not be confused with an excitable or happy dog.
Seizures in dogs occur most commonly when the dog is relaxed or asleep.
Seizures may be brought on by a brain tumour or a stroke, or the cause may be difficult to identify when it is called idiopathic epilepsy. About 3% of all dogs may be affected, but some breeds, such as Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Collies, Dachshunds, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Poodles, and Golden and Labrador Retrievers are more prone towards epilepsy than others, and epilepsy may sometimes be inherited.
A dog does not have to be a pedigree - mixed breeds can also suffer from epilepsy.
The condition often shows itself at between one and three years of age.
Treatment and Diet
Epilepsy can be a worrying and frustrating illness to diagnose and treat, and any treatment should follow strictly the advice of your vet when medication will be used.
A possible side effect of medication is an increase of thirst and appetite, so food measures should be controlled to prevent the dog becoming overweight.
Some research shows a link between diet and seizures, although this is not proven and much work remains to be done.
In people, a diet very high in certain fats and low in carbohydrates will produce a condition called ketosis and is called a ketogenic diet (similar to the Atkins diet). Whilst this may help some people, there is no research yet available to demonstrate a definite benefit to epileptic dogs.
Any diet must be controlled, of high quality and balanced.
Any top quality commercial dog food will supply the basic needs of your dog, but are they nutrigenomic (a balance between nutrition and the dog’s genes)?
Essential fatty acids may potentially decrease brain inflammation, and diet changes can be effective in treating epilepsy alongside your vet’s prescription.
A diet high in fat may help to decrease the excitatability of the neurons in the brain, and if this is the case then a diet high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 (both of which oils are found in wild Atlantic salmon) could help to decrease the seizure frequency and intensity in dogs.
The food should also be high in neutraceuticals (i.e. vitamins and nutritional supplements) many of which may help in decreasing the likelihood or severity of seizures.
There may be a correlation between food allergies and epilepsy.
Always discuss your dog’s diet with your vet, but the food we recommend is high in fat yet low in carbohydrates – a salmon food would seem to be ideal.
Perhaps start on a Hypo-allergenic Salmon food for about six weeks which should help to sort out any allergy issues and then move on to the Holistic Salmon and Oatmeal.