Epilepsie bei Hunden

Epilepsy in dogs - What role does food play?

Dogs can also suffer from epilepsy, which is a neurological disorder that causes unusual sensations, behaviors and seizures. It is one of the most common neurological diseases seen in dogs.

In recent years there has been an increasing number of dogs suffering from epileptic seizures. This phenomenon is not only due to careful breeding selection, but it is clear that errors in feeding, husbandry and care can also promote the occurrence of this disease.

Canine epilepsy causes irregular neurological activity in the brain; this is a brain dysfunction. Symptoms include behavioral changes, reduced consciousness and limited motor skills. There are many causes of epilepsy in dogs, but all are due to some type of dysfunction in the brain.

The disease causes problems with brain cells.

Below, in addition to basic information about the disease, I will also highlight various potential causes of epilepsy and point out negative reinforcers. The latter refer to stress factors in everyday life that can serve as a starting point to minimize the risk of developing the disease or the frequency of attacks.

Basics: What does epilepsy mean?

Epilepsy, also known as epileptiform seizures in veterinary medicine, refers to abnormal neuronal discharges in a dog's brain that cause sudden, involuntary and stereotypical behavioral or mental disorders. These seizures usually occur repeatedly and can vary in duration, from a few seconds to several minutes.

Every brain naturally shows a certain susceptibility to seizures, which is increased in dogs with epileptic syndrome by certain triggering factors. Depending on whether this neuron discharge is limited to a specific area or affects the entire brain, the seizure is called a partial or generalized form.

Generalized seizure

A generalized seizure is triggered by a neuron discharge throughout the brain, and severe seizures of this type are called "grand mal seizures."


  • Sudden fall, usually with loss of consciousness
  • Stiffening of the limbs and cramps of varying severity (tonic-clonic)
  • Running movements, chewing movements, increased salivation (salivation)
  • Involuntary urination and defecation
  • Partial respiratory arrest
  • Danger of so-called status epilepticus, a seizure that lasts for a long time (over 30 minutes) or occurs at close intervals without recovery. This can be life-threatening and requires veterinary treatment.

The physical strain and the impairment of the control of the central nervous system can lead to failures of important body functions such as breathing, blood pressure and temperature. In addition, long-lasting discharges of nerve cells can lead to massive brain damage.

After the attack, the dog is completely exhausted and needs to regenerate. It is believed that dogs cannot remember anything and do not feel pain during the attack. However, some dogs may become confused and more anxious than usual after a seizure.

Four phases of generalized seizure:

  1. Prodromal phase: Hours to sometimes days before the attack, characterized by increased restlessness, urge to move, or increased anxious behavior.
  2. Aura: Time shortly before the seizure in which dogs often show abnormal behavior, hide or increasingly seek proximity to humans.
  3. Ictus: Time of the actual seizure, which is either short (2-5 minutes), which may indicate primary or idiopathic epilepsy, or long, which is often the case with secondary epilepsy.
  4. Postictal phase: period of recovery - from a few minutes to several days - after the seizure, which may be accompanied by clouding of consciousness and behavioral disturbances.

The different types of epilepsy, what are the triggers?

In addition to the distinction based on the parts of the brain affected, another criterion is of crucial importance in practice. A distinction is made between primary (idiopathic) and secondary (symptomatic) epilepsies. The types of epilepsy differ in the way they are treated, so it is necessary to first determine which type your four-legged friend is affected by.

Primary (idiopathic) epilepsy

In primary or idiopathic epilepsy, physical signs such as changes in blood counts or cerebrospinal fluid (body fluid found in the central nervous system, i.e. in the brain and spinal cord) are absent. Diagnosis is made by excluding a secondary form of epilepsy. In other words, the causes of primary epilepsy are not yet clear. Various factors such as heredity, neurotransmitter disorders, etc. are taken into consideration.

Mild excitement of a dog's nerve cells is one of the signs of this disease; This leads to the well-known epileptic seizures. Before diagnosing this type of epilepsy, the veterinarian will rule out other possible causes. Medications are crucial in treating the disease; one attack every three months is considered ideal.

Secondary (symptomatic) epilepsy

Your dog's secondary epilepsy may be caused by another underlying condition. Common causes of these secondary attacks include metabolic disorders caused by kidney or liver disease, heart disease (which can lead to hypoxia in the brain), and encephalitis. Nutrient deficiencies, such as low sodium levels in the blood after severe diarrhea, are also possible causes. Between seizures, a dog's brain may show signs of neurological deficiency. This is due to changes in the brain caused by the epileptic condition. These changes can be clearly seen with an MRI diagnosis.

Causes of secondary epilepsy and ways to cope with it

In secondary epilepsy, other disorders are primarily present, which subsequently lead to epileptic seizures. Treating these primary disorders is crucial while opening opportunities for effective prevention.

It is important to emphasize that not all organic brain damage, such as those caused by trauma or infectious diseases, can be cured. But in the area of ​​metabolic epilepsy, the owner can intervene positively in two ways.

If symptoms of the disease are already present, appropriate management of feeding, care and husbandry offers the chance of alleviating or stabilizing the symptoms. At the same time, the possibility of promising prevention opens up for healthy dogs.

The causes of secondary epileptiform seizures can be divided into different groups:

Group 1: Organic brain damage This includes seizures as a result of brain trauma, thrombosis or tumor formation. Unfortunately, prophylaxis or relief is often hardly possible in this group because the organic damage cannot be repaired. Nevertheless, general metabolic relief can provide relief.

This group also includes congenital brain damage such as hydrocephalus or permanent organic damage following infectious diseases such as distemper, toxoplasmosis or encephalitis.

Group 2: Poisoning Poisoning, whether from chemical substances such as snail poison or rat poison or from unsuitable foods such as chocolate, can lead to secondary epilepsy. Prevention consists primarily of removing all potentially toxic substances from the dog's reach and avoiding unsuitable foods.

Group 3: Drug side effects Chemical drugs, including antiparasitic drugs such as Bravecto®, can cause undesirable side effects such as tremors, ataxia, seizures and epilepsy. As a prophylactic measure, a moderate use of chemical medications is recommended. Natural defense sprays and supportive nursing measures can often be sufficient.

Group 4: Disorders or diseases of metabolic organs Diseases of the metabolic organs such as liver and kidney damage or diabetes can also result in epileptic seizures. Feeding should be tailored specifically to the disorder in question, and avoiding chemical additives in the diet offers advantages. An adequate supply of protein is also important, although oversupply should be avoided.


In secondary epilepsy, seizures occur secondary to certain other organ or functional disorders. These include, among others:

  • Trauma
  • thrombosis
  • Tumors
  • Organic brain disorders
  • Infections such as distemper, toxoplasmosis, etc.
  • Encephalitis
  • Metabolic disorders such as diabetes, liver and kidney diseases
  • As a result of poisoning or as a side effect of medication

Particularly in the area of ​​secondary epilepsy, there are numerous starting points to have a positive influence on the occurrence and extent of the disease.

Other possible triggers of epilepsy include:

  • If your dog is prone to seizures, he is sensitive to stress. Stress can manifest itself through a variety of impulses and activities. These include physical and mental stress, excessive exercise, loud noises (e.g. squeaky toys or New Year's Eve crackers), and certain situations that can cause emotional distress to your four-legged friend (e.g. loneliness or fear).
  • Infectious diseases or hormonal imbalances (e.g. due to diabetes) can be a cause of seizures.
  • This can promote injuries.

Theoretically, there is no cure for primary epilepsy, but a high-quality diet can help your dog reduce the frequency of his seizures. The focus is on relieving the burden on the metabolism, which can be viewed as a holistic and metabolism-friendly lifestyle and thus significantly reduces the potential for metabolic epilepsy. Take care of your furry friends and give them only the best.

Avoid negative reinforcers

Dogs with epileptic tendencies often have a lower stress tolerance. A well-structured, calm daily routine is therefore crucial to avoid excessive stress.

The dog's individual "nightmare situations", such as New Year's Eve bangers or driving, should be avoided if possible or addressed through psychological training.

The chances of avoiding epileptic seizures and having a positive influence on the disease are given through clever management of feeding, husbandry and care. It is the responsibility of dog owners to take advantage of these opportunities and enable their four-legged friends to live a healthy and happy life.

Examples of negative influencing factors:

  1. Physical, nervous and mental overload: Excessive romping around with playmates, especially with puppies, excessive ball playing or excessive bicycle training are clearly negative influencing factors for sensitive dogs. Although play is important and fun for the dog, many dogs, especially the easily stressed characters, tend to overstep their own boundaries. Dogs need clear boundaries, similar to children. It is important to set responsible standards and to pull the emergency brake if you are threatened with physical or nervous strain.

  2. "Squeaky" toys: Research has shown that regular squeaky toys actually reach a sound pressure level of 113 dB, which is equivalent to the volume of a circular saw. This can be stressful for sensitive dog ears and, in practice, often leads to overreactions, aggression and even epileptic seizures in dogs with epilepsy. Toys should be fun without making noise. Smart and rewarding toys are a good alternative here.

  3. Excessive training and/or training: Regular and appropriately long training is good for the dog's body and mind. However, excessive perfectionism and too much ambition on the part of the owner can easily overwhelm dogs and ultimately fail to produce the desired results. If you have difficulties, it is important to take some rest and possibly start the exercise again at a later date.

  4. Pack stress: Life in a dog pack is often associated with stress. It therefore makes sense to allow regular rest periods even in a pack and to intervene if necessary. Ranking problems should be monitored and safe retreats should be created for each pack member.

  5. "Everyday madness": "Everyday madness" refers to hectic living conditions in which the dog cannot relax all day. The constant overstimulation of the nervous system and the lack of rest and regeneration phases can promote or trigger seizures. It therefore makes sense to bring structure to the dog's everyday life and create a regulated, calm daily routine with sufficient rest periods. If there are children in the household, they should also be informed of the need.

  6. Individual “nightmare situations” of the dog: Apart from other negative influencing factors not listed, there are individual “nightmare situations” of the dog. These are situations that, depending on the dog's disposition or character, represent a strong overstimulation, such as New Year's Eve bangers, being left alone, driving a car, etc. Such situations should be avoided if possible or a change in behavior should be sought through psychological training.

There is a risk that any dog ​​can, without intending to, develop secondary epilepsy due to metabolic disorders. Therefore, proper feeding, husbandry, care and medication is crucial. Dog owners who have or have had a dog with epileptic seizures know how powerless one can feel during a seizure. In such moments, the only thing left to do to prevent the dog from getting injured is often to put things away. The dog's exhaustion and confusion after a seizure can cause enormous emotional distress for everyone involved. Thoughtful management can reduce the risk of epilepsy and provide a positive influence when the disease is present. It is important to take advantage of these opportunities.

How do I recognize epilepsy in my four-legged friend?

When it comes to seizures, not all symptoms are always clearly recognizable. In addition, there are not only several types of epilepsy, but a distinction is also made between partial seizures and generalized seizures . Below we will describe which possible signs can indicate this.

Focal/partial seizure

Some people speak of partial or focal epilepsy when only individual areas of the brain are affected. Attacks are manifested in certain parts of the body only by twitching of the skin, lips, eyes or paws. Inappropriate barking, snapping, or chewing are also possible signs.

During a partial seizure, a neuron discharge occurs in a specific part of the brain.


  • The seizure usually occurs without loss of consciousness.
  • The symptoms can be very different.
  • Spasmodic contractions of individual muscle groups or limbs may occur.
  • Bending of the back is possible.
  • Behavioral changes may be accompanied by hallucinations such as fly snapping, tail biting, frenzy, or anxiety.
  • Mild confusion may occur after the seizure, but there is no marked recovery period.

Generalized seizure

This type of seizure occurs when both hemispheres of the brain are affected. It is noticeable through cramps that affect the entire body. These seizures are usually divided into three stages.

The first stage is considered a precursor to an actual seizure. Here your dog may seem restless or show behavior that is untypical for him. Increased vomiting and urination are other signs of impending cramps.

If the seizure goes into the second phase, the muscles can spasm and the dog falls to the ground with its legs outstretched. During a seizure, he becomes unresponsive to his surroundings, he may whimper or his breathing may become rapid - urine and feces may also be passed. It's especially important to keep your furry friend company during this phase, stay calm, and speak to your dog in a soothing voice.

By the time a seizure ends, the dog's body is typically exhausted due to the physical stress. As a result, your furry friend often sleeps for a long time and a lot during this phase. Increased appetite and additional desire for water are common in the final stage. The effects of a seizure can last from minutes to days, or even weeks in some cases.

There are various treatment options available to make the course of an epileptic seizure as mild and tolerable as possible for your loved one. Treatment depends on the underlying disease, the severity or frequency of the seizures and is supplemented with antiepileptic drugs. In addition to rest and plenty of sleep, dog food also affects epilepsy. What role does your dog's diet play in this?

Genetic predisposition – race dependency?

In practice, it has been shown that certain dog breeds such as Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, etc. have an increased susceptibility to epilepsy. Heredity certainly plays a crucial role and falls within the scope of responsible breeding selection. However, a genetic predisposition does not necessarily lead to an outbreak of the disease. Nowadays it is assumed that there is a so-called multifactorial genesis. This means that it is not a single cause, but various factors that lead to the occurrence of the disease at the same time.

NOTE: It is not only idiopathic epilepsy that is assumed to have a multifactorial genesis. In secondary epilepsy, various factors are also considered to be responsible for the onset of the disease. It is important to eliminate the identified causes – as far as possible. The management of feeding, care and husbandry plays a crucial role here.

What my dog ​​with epilepsy should eat

Dog nutrition has become a subject of scientific research because of its potential benefits for epileptic dogs. How can dog nutrition help with the disease and its treatment?

Dogs with epilepsy are particularly sensitive to stressful situations and frequently changing eating places can have a negative impact on your dog and trigger seizures.

The right food can help cope with medications that cause stomach and intestinal strain and counteract the irritation.

Epilepsy in dogs - what role does dog food play?

Many dogs suffer from allergies to meat protein or wheat intolerance. Make sure your furry friend eats grain-free, hypoallergenic, and easily digestible food to help with these issues. An adequate supply of protein is crucial for a smooth metabolism. It is particularly important to avoid overfeeding, which usually occurs rarely and is mainly associated with a BARF (biologically appropriate raw feeding) diet. The risk of oversupply arises from too high a protein content in the basic feed, often caused by too large amounts of protein-rich delicacies such as dried meat products. If protein-containing treats are fed, it is advisable to balance these with an appropriate proportion of carbohydrate carriers to ensure a balanced ratio of protein to energy.

However, it is also advisable to pay close attention to the ingredients in the food. Calcium, magnesium and potassium are important nutrients for dog health.

Finally, the raw ash content in the feed should also be taken into account. The raw ash content indicates the proportion of minerals and indigestible substances in the feed and should be kept in moderate amounts - around up to 8% in dry food and 2.5% in wet food. Too high a proportion of raw ash can ultimately overload the kidneys and liver in particular.

Hence BugBell

By selecting ingredients with the right nutritional composition and quality, BugBell dog food influences your dog's health. The food is hypoallergenic because it does not contain gluten and uses the proteins of insects . This makes it a good option for dogs with allergies or intolerances, which in turn trigger seizures.

Using insect protein in dog food provides a more sustainable alternative to meat proteins. Compared to conventional animal husbandry, insect farming requires much less time and resources to produce the same amount of feed.

We have piqued your interest and you want to find out more about dog food made from insects? Then click on the following article:
Dog food made from insects? Crazy? Or horny? – BugBell GmbH

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