Living with our epileptic dog Sammy for over five years taught me a lot. She taught me about love—and the value of waterproof pee pads! Most of all, being Sammy’s human taught me that your dog doesn’t have to be perfect to be the perfect dog for you.
Of course, Sammy also taught me a lot about epilepsy.
Epilepsy in dogs is a frightening but fairly common occurrence, especially in certain breeds like beagles, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and Shetland sheepdogs.
It’s caused by something abnormal in the brain, so though it cannot be cured, it can be managed in a variety of ways. Speaking with a trusted vet is the best way to learn about treatment options, so make sure to visit yours right away if your dog experiences any seizures.
If you’re currently living with an epileptic dog, here are some tips that helped make life a little smoother for my family. I hope they can do the same for yours.
1. Don’t let epilepsy hold you and your pup back!
Yes, epilepsy is a scary thing, but it’s not a death sentence. Your dog can live a happy, healthy and wonderful life despite their diagnosis.
You can still camp, swim, hike and cuddle with your epileptic pup! This shouldn’t change any of the fun things you do together. It’ll just make you appreciate the good times that much more.
2. Be prepared.
You never know where or when a seizure is going to hit, so you should always be prepared. This means having medication with you and making sure your dog is always wearing their ID tags in case they run off.
It’s also a good idea to have a plan in place for the moment a seizure hits. My husband and I had it down to a science, with one of us yelling “seizure” when we were woken up by her familiar thrashing.
We’d move her into a safe area, grab towels and try to calm her. Develop your own plan based on your pup’s specific needs.
3. Make your home a seizure-friendly oasis.
Think of your dog a little like you would a toddler. Sharp edges? Cover them! Fragile things on the edges of shelves? Move them somewhere else!
Your dog just might run into those edges and knock over those shelves when they’re having a seizure, so better to be safe. And though seizures are unexpected, you might find your dog does have a pattern.
Sammy used to have seizures in the early morning hours. This is why we eventually made her stop sleeping on our tall bed (we didn’t want her to roll off), and made her a comfy, safe area in the room with a soft, waterproof blanket for padding (because you know, the peeing).
4. Learn all about the medicines that are prescribed for your dog.
Many of them are super-effective, but they often come with specific side effects or can cause issues for some dogs.
Be aware, be informed, and always talk to your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s treatment. And don’t forget to ask questions—lots and lots of questions!
Remember, you are your dog’s advocate and their best friend. It’s up to you to stand up for them and figure out the best way to treat their epilepsy.
5. Make sure everyone around you is well-informed.
This means your dog sitter, your family and friends coming over for a BBQ, your buddies at the dog park, etc. The more support the better, and this way you won’t have to worry about people freaking out if they see your dog having a seizure.
6. Write everything down!
This goes along with the previous tip, but it’s essential to take notes and have easily accessibly information about your dog’s condition, as well as tips on how to deal with it.
This is especially important when it comes to dog sitters, walkers, and anyone else who is ever alone with your dog. When a seizure hits it’s much easier to avoid panic and fear when there are clear instructions to help.
7. Don’t forget to breathe and cut yourself some slack.
I’m not going to lie. Living with an epileptic dog is no picnic, but it doesn’t have to be a terrible situation. Sure, it’s going to be frustrating when your dog pees all over your new rug while they’re having a seizure, or when the medication makes them jumpy, but they’re still going to be your furry best friend.
So give them a treat, a cuddle, and your unconditional love, because it’s all worth it.