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How to Identify Seizure Triggers for Your Dog

Owner Identifying Seizure Trigger in Dog

How to Identify Seizure Triggers for Your Dog

Caring for a dog with epilepsy can be daunting. Finding triggers offers comfort, suggesting that eliminating specific reactions could stop seizures. Although identifying triggers is crucial, it's essential to do so productively, avoiding unnecessary anxiety. This post will guide you through the process, helping you manage your dog's epilepsy with a balanced and rational approach.

Not All Seizures Have Identifiable Triggers

Not all seizures have identifiable triggers. Idiopathic epilepsy means there is no known cause. Often, no single factor causes seizures—they just happen. Care regimes, including medications and ketogenic diets, aim to change brain chemistry to build defences against seizures, but there is no cure for epilepsy.

The Importance of Rational Thinking in Managing Canine Epilepsy

While being attentive in managing your dog's epilepsy is crucial, it's important to avoid making false links. Constantly worrying and trying to pinpoint every seizure's cause can be overwhelming and counterproductive. Focus on identifying patterns rather than diagnosing single incidents of individual seizures.

Keeping a Seizure Log: Look for Patterns, Not One-Offs

One effective way to identify seizure triggers in dogs is by maintaining a seizure diary. Document each seizure, noting the time of day, activities, diet, and any changes in routine. Over time, patterns may emerge, helping pinpoint potential triggers. This methodical approach can differentiate between genuine triggers and coincidental occurrences.

Here are some questions to guide your log-keeping:

  1. Are there any triggers that consistently occur before or around the time your dog has a seizure?

  2. Do these triggers happen at other times too? If so, how often do the triggers occur without leading to a seizure?

  3. Does your dog have a 'high-risk time'? For example, are there certain times when seizures are more likely to occur, such as a specific time of day, night, or month?

  4. How often does your dog experience high-risk times without having seizures?

  5. Are there certain situations in which your dog is more likely to have a seizure? Observing this over time might clarify what your dog's seizure triggers and high-risk times are.

  6. How often does your dog have seizures only in certain situations or environments?

  7. How often does your dog experience those same situations or environments without having seizures?


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Identifying Food that Triggers Seizures:

Understand Unlikely Culprits vs. Likely Culprits

Not all food items are likely to cause seizures. High-quality meats (no matter the animal source) are very unlikely to be triggers, whereas grains, certain legumes, additives, and chemical flavoring/preservatives are potential culprits. Focus on known problematic foods first. Learn more about food from our diet section on our blog.

Check All Ingredients

Equipped with that knowledge, It's vital to check all ingredients in your dog's food and treats if you suspect a certain product is causing seizures, not just assume it is one of the main listed ingredients. Problematic ingredients might include artificial preservatives, processed fillers, or grains. You can read more about this here.

Remember, Look for Patterns, Not One-Offs

Occasional changes in diet should not immediately be assumed as the cause of a seizure unless there's a consistent pattern. For example, if your dog has eaten chicken in the past without experiencing a seizure, but has a seizure after eating it on a given day, it's unlikely the chicken triggered the seizure. Check other ingredients in the food and consider other situational changes. Jumping to conclusions based on isolated events can lead to red herrings, which can misguide you and increase your anxiety.

Test Out the Theory

If you suspect a specific food trigger, test the isolated ingredient in pure formats (such as boiled without seasoning) and see if your dog still has the same reaction. If they eat the same meat without a seizure on multiple occasions, it's unlikely to be a trigger. Alternatively, eliminate it from your dog's diet for a period and observe any changes. Note: switching to a completely different food (even of the same brand) will make it nearly impossible to establish whether a specific ingredient was the trigger, as complete recipes and ingredients will change for each flavour.

Time Frames for a Food Trigger

Understanding the digestion process helps identify food triggers. If an ingredient is the acute trigger, the seizure would typically occur within the first few hours after eating. After 12 hours, any seizures are unlikely to be related. An exception to this would be the repeated use of low-quality diets high in carbohydrates. This type of long term exposure would lower seizure thresholds, making dogs more susceptible to seizures. Switching to a high-quality keto diet can change brain chemistry, making their brain more resilient against seizures.

Identifying Situational Seizure Triggers:

Over Excitement and Stress Cause Similar Responses in the Body

Stress is a known trigger for seizures in dogs. Stressful situations like vet visits, loud noises, or changes in the household can precipitate seizures. Over-excitement can also trigger seizures. When a dog experiences stress or excitement, the body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can create an overstimulated brain. For a dog with epilepsy, these heightened states can lower the seizure threshold, making a seizure more likely to occur.

Offering comfort and reassurance during times of stress or excitement can help your dog feel safe and secure. This might include gentle petting, speaking in a soothing tone, or providing a quiet space where your dog can retreat and relax.

Tune Into Your Dog

Dogs are expressive and emotional creatures. As epi dog owners, we are highly attuned to their feelings and behaviours. Paying close attention to your dog's body language and emotional cues can provide valuable insights into their well-being and potential seizure triggers. Subtle changes in behaviour, such as increased restlessness, panting, or seeking comfort, can indicate stress or over-excitement. By noticing these signs early, you can intervene and help calm your dog before their arousal levels become too high.

Look For the Details within the Patterns

Perhaps your dog LOVES to play with other dogs; however, every so often you notice he has a seizure a few hours after play time. If your dog loves playing with other dogs but sometimes has a seizure afterward, consider other factors on those days. Is there a specific dog with whom playtime often leads to a seizure? Are the days your dog experiences a seizure after playtime hotter than normal, leaving your dog a bit dehydrated? Look for specifics in patterns to avoid depriving your dog of fun activities unnecessarily.

Identifying Environmental Seizure Triggers:

Environmental factors such as changes in weather, solar storms, sleep routines, and lunar cycles have been anecdotally identified by many owners as triggers for seizures in their dogs. While some triggers like lunar cycles are beyond our control, understanding and managing around these factors can be beneficial.

Track The Environmental Phenomena

Track occurrences such as lunar cycles and solar storms. Utilise tools like lunar calendar trackers or subscribe to NASA's solar storm reports. This proactive approach helps correlate these phenomena with your dog's seizure episodes, providing clearer insights into potential triggers.

Note Down Other Factors Around the Environmental Phenomenon

If you know your dog is sensitive to certain environmental factors, pay close attention to other factors that could compound the trigger. For instance, did your dog visit the vet (a potentially stressful experience) around a full moon when a seizure occurred? These insights can help you plan to avoid compounding triggers and establish a good routine for your epileptic dog.

Pay Close Attention to When Your Dog DOES NOT Have a Seizure

Note down when your dog does not have seizures despite environmental triggers. This might seem counterintuitive, but understanding times when you expected a seizure but one did not occur can provide valuable insights into pinpointing the exact trigger and working on preventative measures. Compare these times to when your dog did have a seizure.

Establish a Routine to Make Your Dog’s Brain More Resilient

Creating a structured routine can help make your dog's brain more resilient to environmental triggers. Consider holistic interventions such as a ketogenic diet, supplemented with MCT oil and salmon oil, known to support brain health. These dietary changes can regulate brain chemistry over time, potentially reducing the occurrence of seizures triggered by environmental factors.


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Identifying Toxin Seizure Triggers:

Understand Toxicity Time Frames: Build Up vs. Acute Ingestion

Toxin-related triggers can take effect at different points depending on how they are metabolised. The digestion, metabolism, and excretion processes vary for each toxin. If a toxin is still in the gut, symptoms might appear quickly as it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the toxin can circulate throughout the body, potentially triggering seizures within 12-72 hours. How the liver metabolizes the toxin also affects this, depending on whether the toxin is quickly excreted or continues to be metabolized.

Acute ingestion refers to a high dose of a toxin causing an immediate or rapid onset of symptoms. Changes on blood tests for most toxins won’t show up for up to 72 hours, making it challenging to give an exact figure for the onset of symptoms. For acute exposure to a toxin, within 72 hours is a reasonable time frame to consider the toxin a potential trigger. Doses of toxins also play a role in time frames for triggers. For example, chocolate ingestion can lead to seizures within 1-2 hours at high doses, 2-4 hours at medium doses, and mild doses may only show gastrointestinal symptoms up to 12 hours later.

In contrast, build-up toxicity occurs over a longer period. Toxins like heavy metals (lead or mercury) from a diet of wild game or large ocean fish can accumulate in your dog's system. Over months of exposure to low levels, these toxins can build up and eventually trigger seizures. Recognising these time frames and understanding how different toxins interact with your dog's body can significantly aid in identifying and preventing potential seizure triggers.

Note Any Changes in Your Routine and Environment

Get into the habit of noting new products you try for yourself and your household along with the date you started using them. This will help you track whether an item could be a trigger when comparing it to your dog’s seizure log. Pay special attention to cleaning products, new fertilisers, and new makeup and beauty products. Documenting these changes can identify patterns that might correlate with your dog’s seizures, allowing you to make informed decisions about what products to continue using.

Once Again Look for Patterns and Time Frames, Not One-Offs

When identifying potential triggers, focus on patterns and time frames rather than isolated incidents. For example, if you switched to a new cleaning product and your dog has only one seizure in a three-month period, it is unlikely the cleaning product is the cause. Look for consistent correlations over an extended period along with acute reactivity in the first few days a new item is introduced. This approach helps avoid unnecessary worry and allows for a more rational and effective management strategy for your dog’s epilepsy.

Test Out the Theory

If you suspect a specific product might be triggering your dog’s seizures, try removing it from your household environment and observe any changes. For instance, stop using a particular cleaning product or beauty item and see if there is any noticeable improvement in your dog’s condition. This methodical approach can help confirm whether the product was a contributing factor, enabling you to create a safer and more stable environment for your dog.

Conclusion: Knowing How To Identify Seizure Triggers for Your Dog

Being a dedicated epi dog owner involves thinking about potential triggers with moderation and rational thinking. Identifying seizure triggers for your dog involves consistent observation, documentation, and a balanced approach. This method helps manage your dog's epilepsy effectively and reduces anxiety and stress for you as a pet owner.

By focusing on patterns, keeping detailed records, and consulting with professionals, you can make informed decisions that enhance your dog's well-being. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint, and your calm, composed approach will benefit both you and your furry friend.

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