View Full Version : 6 Month Old Cavalier with Seizures

3rd September 2012, 01:33 PM
Hi Everyone -

I'm new to this board as I now have a 6 month old Cav, her name is Reese and she is a part of our family. We got her from a reputable show dog breeder, have all her parents paperwork and testing results and feel we did everything we could for a healthy puppy. At 5 months old, she had 3 seizures in a 12 hour period completely out of the blue. We were at the ER twice, and had some blood work done but opted out of the dozen other tests they were recommending at the time to get more information. Since then, she's been on phenobarbital (now 16mg) and has had about a seizure a week. We sent her back down to our breeder two weeks ago and she had acid bile test done and further blood work, everything looks normal. We picked her back up yesterday and she hasn't had a seizure in 8 days now.

Our breeder gave us a full refund and we debated the MRI but at this point are unsure as it's quite expensive. Though she hasn't had a seizure in 8 days, she has very regular head wobbling that lasts a few seconds and then goes away. The vet thinks it's part of the what they are calling epilepsy but I'm not sure if that's it or the meds or something else.

We are playing the waiting game a little to see if she reacts to the meds, a week ago they took blood work to see that the phenobarbital wasn't enough in her blood stream so they up'd the dose to where she is now at 16mg.

Does anyone have any experience with this? She's not showing any other signs of SM or other disease.

I'm also thinking about a home made diet but I've done some reading and bought a book at it seems so complicated with the vitamins and nutrients. I have the time, just not sure I have the patience to weed through the complexities. Anyone make a homemade diet and have any recommendations for me on where to start.

I'm in the hunt for a new vet in the area as I'm not too fond of mine, for now her vet is down by her breeder (1hr 30min away) and that vet doesn't really recommend anything for diet.


3rd September 2012, 04:29 PM
What a frightening experience. It sounds like you are working with a good breeder and they will no doubt also be anxious to know what is going on.

There is a fairly high rate of epilepsy in the breed, but it can often be managed. It does sometimes also seem to improve as the dog gets older.

If the phenobarb is maintaining her without seizures, then I would guess this is epilepsy and not SM (which would need other meds to be managed). SM can cause seizures but usually you would see other symptoms too. Have they considered hydrocephalus?

Without the other tests you probably will have to work by guessing your way through this. In your place I think I'd do what you have done -- try the phenobarbital and see if that addresses things. If not, then I'd start to work through other possibilities.

It does help to have a vet you feel comfortable with if you will be working through a health issue like this.

We have quite a few people here managing cavaliers with epilepsy so I am sure others will have suggestions.

You have probably come across this site; it has tons of information on canine epilepsy: http://www.canine-epilepsy-guardian-angels.com/site_map.htm

This is also recommended by people who know the conditionL http://www.canine-epilepsy.com/Resources.html

Head bobbing does seem to be a common feature of epilepsy.

If you want to try a raw diet there are many excellent premade raws that take the guesswork out of getting the nutrition right (which can be difficult to do properly). All you need is some freezer space!

3rd September 2012, 07:17 PM
Thanks Karlin for your kind thoughts and recommended reading, I have read a ton but nothing that gives me any answers :(. Just out of curiosity, I keep coming across a post from you about low cost MRI's (petsdx.com) but the post was back from 2005. It caught my eye because I live very close to the Cleveland office. You said something in your post about group rates that may 1/4 of the price of an MRI. Is that information still accurate? I guess it's been 7 years anything could have changed. We are debating the MRI and will see in the next few weeks/month ish how she is doing and make a decision. Thanks much, A

3rd September 2012, 07:24 PM
Because of the age of onset and the severity, it is highly unlikely that this is idiopathic epilepsy. This is the reason that the ER suggested further testing - they are not simply trying to get you to spend more money. The bile acids test was to look for a liver shunt, which is a common cause of puppy seizures.

I would find a board certified internist or a neurologist and schedule a consult. A specialist can give you an outline of the possible causes and explain why this likely is not idiopathic epilepsy, and then you can decide if you want to go ahead with further testing. I think it is important that you understand the options and possibilities and then you can better make a decision about how to move forward. A simple consult with a specialist should not be very expensive and will give you much more information than you have. Get copies of all tests that have been done to take with you.


The two most important factors in the diagnosis of idiopathic epilepsy are the age at onset and the seizure pattern (type and frequency). If your dog has more than two seizures within the first week of onset, your veterinarian will probably consider a diagnosis other than idiopathic epilepsy. If the seizures occur when the dog is younger than six months or older than five years, it may be metabolic or intracrainal (within the skull) in origin; this will rule out hypoglycemia in older dogs. Focal seizures or the presence of neurologic deficits, meanwhile, indicate structural intracranial disease.



The cause can be anything that disrupts normal brain circuitry:
~ Idiopathic Epilepsy, meaning "no known cause" and possibly inherited. This is also referred to as Primary Epilepsy. Check history or pedigree and make sure your veterinarian has looked for possible underlying factors. Seizures caused by underlying factors are referred to as Secondary Epilepsy.

~ Congenital hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
~ Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function)
~ Infections causing brain damage (such as canine distemper, cryptococcosis)
~ Ingestion of toxins (such as lead paint chips, insecticides)
~ Brain tumors
~ Portosystemic shunts (improperly routed intestinal blood vessels bypass the liver - one of the body's important waste-product detoxifiers)
~ Vaccinations

This is a great site, and it covers diet among many other things.

I've checked the ACVIM site, and you have access to the finest board certified internists and board certified neurologists. You can make the two hour drive to OSU vet school, or you've got a specialty clinic right in Akron. Todd Axlund is in Akron, and he is one of the top neurologists in the country. I'd schedule a simple consult with him, which would include a history and physical exam. It will be well worth the couple of hundred it will cost.



3rd September 2012, 07:42 PM
Thank you Pat for all that information. The breeder's vet had a consult with the OSU vet school and the conclusion came out not to recommend an MRI at this point. I'll be honest, not quite sure if that was just the breeders conclusion with the information she had but the breeder has not offered to take care of the MRI, so we are on our own. This whole thing is quite confusing as the information I get from everywhere is conflicting. Three separate vets have now thrown the word "epilepsy" out yet everything I have researched has told me exactly what you said, epilepsy isn't a likely diagnosis at this young of an age. They all also say, they just don't know. She could grow out of it, she could get worse. Since the breeder refunded us fully, I think we might get the MRI on our own - assuming no miraculous recovery that I keep hoping for.. The breeder also offered to let us walk away (with our full refund) and she would raise her but we just couldn't do that, we are so very attached to her. My breeder has been amazing through all of this.

3rd September 2012, 07:59 PM
A simple consult with a specialist should not be very expensive and will give you much more information than you have. Get copies of all tests that have been done to take with you.

Just to emphasise this point:

I went to visit my parents in May. My mother's cat had been put on a diet by the vet (he was huge). The cat had been losing weight, and was not his usual loving self. My mother kept bringing him to the vet, and the vet would weigh him, see that the numbers were going down and declare everything "good", blood checks were being done every 6 weeks and nothing was abnormal. As soon as I pulled the cat from under the bed it was obvious he wasn't "good". We went to the vet again with me there. Vet said the cat was losing weight, but was still over ideal, so the weight loss was nothing to worry about. After talking to the vet they agreed to do an X-ray the next day (so the cat could be fasted) to check for foreign objects. X-ray showed nothing, and I pressed for a referral to a specialist. It took some arguing, but the vet did it.

As soon as the internist (specialist vet) went through his history and results she recommended an ultrasound to check for fatty liver disease. My mom didn't want to spend the money, but I convinced her the cat has dying and without a diagnosis he was just going to die (which was true). The internist was right, it was fatty liver disease. No more vet visits. After 2 months of force feeding he is 100% back to normal. He's massively overweight again, but he's happy and snuggly. And at 15 years old, he's just going to stay that way.

The point is, even though the specialist vet has high consult fees, and may recommend an expensive test immediately after seeing the animal, you may actually save money in the long run by getting an answer, and it could be the difference between life and death for a pet.

That's my 2 cents.

3rd September 2012, 08:00 PM
I was hoping Pat would see your post -- always great on medical issues. :)

I didn't know about the age issue -- but true that all the dogs I have known seized first an an older age.

I hope you can identify the cause.