Alternatieve therapieën voor epileptische aandoeningen bij hondenmei 27, 2020
Sadly, seizure disorders are common in dogs, many of whom don’t do well on traditional epilepsy drugs like phenobarbital and potassium bromide. Oftentimes, a dog’s seizures aren’t well controlled with medication, and virtually all these drugs produce adverse side effects and long-term consequences.
Researchers continue to study alternative therapies and remedies for canine seizure disorder, one of whom is Dr. Fiona James of the University of Guelph in Canada. James and her team are evaluating the potential of a wearable wireless collar device to reduce seizure frequency and severity in dogs:
“Epilepsy is a common disorder in dogs,” Dr. James told the Morris Animal Foundation. “And while treatments are available, for up to 30% of epileptic dogs these treatments simply don’t work. These dogs have what is called drug-resistant epilepsy. My team is working on identifying a noninvasive and nonpharmaceutical therapy that we hope will increase treatment options for these patients.”1
The project is a pilot study funded by Morris Animal Foundation. Pilot studies are typically smaller in scope, and their purpose is to determine if a specific scientific hypothesis merits further research.
The Device Being Tested Involves Vagus Nerve Stimulation
The wireless device, mounted on a dog’s collar, is designed to send mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve. According to the Morris Animal Foundation:
“Just like in humans, dogs have two vagus nerves, one on each side of the body, running from the brainstem through the neck to the heart and other organs. The electrical device works somewhat like a pacemaker that uses electricity to regulate the heartbeat. With vagus nerve stimulation, sending an electrical signal to the brain may help prevent or limit electrical bursts that cause seizures.”2
In technical terms, a seizure is an event during which there is unanticipated, abnormal electrical activity in the brain. There are two types of electrical impulses in the brain: excitatory and inhibitory. In a normal animal, there’s a constant and proper ratio of excitatory to inhibitory impulses.
However, in a seizing pet, the excitatory impulses temporarily overwhelm the inhibitory impulses. Whether your dog has a minor twitch or a grand mal seizure depends on what part of the brain is involved and how many excitatory impulses are generated. The point at which excitatory impulses overtake inhibitory impulses is called the seizure threshold. In a healthy dog the seizure threshold is high, meaning the potential for a seizure is low.
The FDA has approved similar devices for humans that are either implanted under the skin in the chest or directly into the skull. James is concerned that the same kind of invasive surgeries in dogs don’t always work, aren’t affordable for many pet parents, and come with complications. That’s why she’s interested in finding an easier, noninvasive and more affordable option for dogs with epilepsy.
Device Might Also Address Moodiness in Epileptic Dogs
One of the primary goals of James’ pilot study is to determine optimum levels of stimulation and frequency of electrical pulses to the brains of affected dogs. Toward that end, she and her team are using noninvasive electrodes to gather baseline data on brain activity and heart rate.
“We will be measuring any changes before and after vagus nerve stimulation in a few healthy dogs,” James explains. “If we notice any positive changes, the next step will be to try the device in epileptic dogs and monitor the response. If our first attempts don’t work, it may mean we need to try higher settings to achieve our desired results.
It’s all about finding the right frequency to stimulate the dog’s brain which might be a very different frequency from the one that works in humans with epilepsy.”
In human medicine, vagus nerve stimulation is used not only to treat seizure disorders, but also behavior abnormalities, tremors and migraines. Interestingly, according to James, some dogs with epilepsy tend to be moody.
“But right now, it’s hard to know if this mood disorder is just piggybacking on epilepsy because the dog isn’t feeling well or if it is directly associated with the disease,” she says. “It will be interesting in future studies to see if vagus nerve stimulation can help us answer these questions, too.”
Beneficial Natural Therapies for Seizure Disorders
It will be interesting to follow the progress of research into the wireless wearable anti-seizure device James is evaluating. Thankfully, there are several other natural therapies already available that can help increase a dog’s seizure threshold and decrease the potential for these events, including:
- Chiropractic and acupuncture
- Homeopathic remedies
- Traditional Chinese medicinals
- Nutraceutical therapies
- Herbal formulas (including cannabis extracts)
In a successful pilot study published last year in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association,3 a CBD (cannabidiol) product derived from a hemp plant significantly reduced seizure frequency in 89% of epileptic dogs. (Hemp-based CBD typically contains 0.3% or less of the psychoactive component of cannabis, THC.)
The study involved 16 family dogs who received either the treatment (CBD-infused oil) or a placebo for 12 weeks. All the dogs remained on standard anticonvulsant drugs throughout the study.
The researchers found that 89% of dogs who received CBD experienced a significant reduction (median change of 33%) in the frequency of seizures. The research team also noticed an important correlation between the degree of seizure reduction and the amount of CBD concentration in the dogs’ blood.
In mild cases of canine seizure disorder, natural treatments plus a dietary change (more about this shortly) are often all that is needed to successfully manage the condition. For animals with frequent grand mal seizures, I typically create an integrative protocol of natural therapies and drug therapy.
I always ask pet parents to keep a log of the dates, times and intensity of seizures. Often there are links between seizures and a particular time of month or year. If we identify a cycle, we can develop a plan to control the episodes using the safest effective treatment options available. Animals with seizures should be titered, not automatically re-vaccinated.
The Role of Diet in Seizure Disorders
A very important consideration if your dog has a seizure disorder is that nutritionally related health issues can cause or exacerbate the situation. One problem is food allergies, which can cause a systemic inflammatory response that can decrease your dog’s seizure threshold.
Another issue is that most commercially available ultra-processed pet food contains synthetic chemicals, chemical dyes, preservatives, emulsifiers and other ingredients that can also cause systemic inflammation and decrease seizure thresholds. In some cases, the potentially seizure-inducing contaminants in pet food are many times higher than the legal human limits but are still allowed in pet foods.4
If done correctly, achieving the metabolic state of nutritional ketosis with a ketogenic diet has proven very successful in managing epilepsy in pets, and in fact, it’s the standard of care for human pediatric epilepsy.5
This way of feeding respects your dog’s evolutionary biology, and in addition, other symptoms may also improve on this diet, including a reduction in inflammatory disease. By keeping net carbs low, the body’s level of insulin is reset to a much healthier, lower level, which reduces metabolic stress on every cell in the body.
In my 2017 documentary with Rodney Habib we discussed the benefits of a ketogenic diet as a means of controlling cancer, but this diet has also been used to control epilepsy in many dogs. You can read about Sasha, a little dog with seizures who was put on a ketogenic diet in 2014.
While seizures can be a very serious and truly frightening condition in pets, the best way to care for your dog is to arm yourself with knowledge about what to expect and how to react, along with designing a proactive preventive protocol with the help of an integrative veterinarian.