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THURSDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDayNews) -- Researchers have discovered a gene that may be responsible for a rare form of epilepsy in dogs.

While numerous genes associated with human epilepsy have already been found, this is the first gene associated with canine epilepsy to be discovered. 
"Five to 10 percent of dogs have epilepsy compared to about 1 percent of humans," said one of the study's authors, Dr. Berge Minassian, a neurologist and scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. 
"We've found the first dog epilepsy gene and may have explained part of the reason for the high numbers of epilepsy in dogs," he said. 
Results of the study appear in the Jan. 7 issue of the journal Science.
Minassian said he was originally studying the human form of this type of epilepsy, known as Lafora disease. Children appear normal until their teenage years when they begin to have very serious seizures. Minassian said the seizures progress and current medications are ineffective against this form of epilepsy. Eventually, Lafora disease kills those affected by it. 
An important step in developing effective treatments for human disease is finding an effective animal model of the disease to test potential therapies. One possibility was dogs, because Minassian said he knew they suffered from an almost identical form of epilepsy called autosomal recessive progressive myoclonic epilepsy (PME). 
The dogs most commonly affected by this form are purebred dogs, such as Basset Hounds, Miniature and Standard Poodles, Pointers, Corgis, Beagles and Dachshunds, according to the study. 
People and dogs with this form of epilepsy can have seizures provoked by light. Something as simple as a hand passing over your eyes can cause enough change in lighting to provoke a seizure, said Minassian. 
In collaboration with veterinary neurologists in England, researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children compared the genes known to be associated with Lafora to the same genes in affected dogs. They found that one of the canine genes was, in fact, associated with epilepsy. 
However, in humans, the genes associated with epilepsy spontaneously mutate, whereas in dogs, the gene repeats itself over and over again until it stops working, and epilepsy results. 
Now that the gene has been isolated, Minassian and his colleagues are working on developing a commercially available test to identify the gene so dog breeders can test their dogs to see if they carry the gene. With controlled breeding practices, it could be possible to eliminate this form of canine epilepsy from purebred dogs, said Minassian. 
Dennis O'Brien, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri, said, "This study will go a long way to making dogs lives better. It will give dog breeders the tools necessary to breed better dogs." 
And, that will improve the lives of pet owners, because having a dog that has seizures can be very stressful since the disease is so unpredictable and seizures often occur at night, said O'Brien. 
O'Brien said that while there is no effective treatment for this type of epilepsy in dogs, there are other treatable forms of the disease. "We can control about 70 percent of epilepsy in dogs," he said. 
Veterinarians use the same medicines that control epilepsy in humans to control the disorder in dogs, though some of the newer medications are too expensive for most pet owners, said O'Brien. 

More information
To learn more about canine epilepsy, visit the Australian Shepherd Club of America.

EPILEPSY DIET - low protein

2/3 cup poultry or lamb meat (raw weight), cooked (lamb may be lightly cooked and raw on the inside)
2 cups organic brown rice, long-grained, cooked (cook with meat broth for flavor)
1 cup lightly cooked mashed vegetables (carrots, peas, beans, summer squash, broccoli) Suggestion: Grate carrot and peas into rice when cooking 
1 teaspoon Flax Oil
1 teaspoon Herbal Multivitamin
1 teaspoon Pure Bone meal
Optional - ½ cup grated apple, raw carrot or ¼ cup thawed frozen blueberries - add into rice during last 10 minutes of cooking.
Supports the caloric needs of a 50 pound dog.

From The Natural Canine Web Site

Seizure Disorders


Seizures (convulsions, fits) are abnormal nervous system behaviors that occur sporadically for a brief period of time. While alarming to watch, they are seldom painful or life threatening. These abnormal behaviors are caused by electrical discharges involving diffuse or focal areas of the brain. During a seizure, there is partial or complete loss of consciousness. Depending on which part of the brain is involved, other abnormal behaviors seen may range from mild twitching (focal seizures) to fulminating convulsions (generalized seizures).
Seizures can occur in any species but occur more commonly in dogs. Extracranial (outside the brain) causes of seizures include poisons or toxins. Cardiac or respiratory abnormalities which cause hypoxia (lack of oxygen) can result in seizures. Metabolically induced seizures (i.e. from liver disease, kidney disease, or diabetes mellitus) are generally reversible once diagnosed and treated. Intracranial (within the brain) etiologies represent the most common cause of seizure disorders. Epilepsy is the most frequently diagnosed intracranial cause of seizures. Individuals from almost every breed of dog have been diagnosed with congenital (present at birth) epilepsy, but inherited epilepsy has only been diagnosed in a few breeds. Canine distemper can cause seizures and is seen in both young and old dogs. Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and feline leukemia virus (FELV) can also cause seizures. 
Bacterial encephalitis can result from an infection in the blood stream or from infections extending from the eyes, ears, or nose. Clinical signs vary from depression, rigidity, and fever to seizures. Tumors (neoplasia) that occur in the brain can be benign or malignant and frequently elicit seizure activity. Acquired or inherited hydrocephalus (abnormal accumulation of fluid in the brain causing enlargement of the skull and pressure on the brain) can also cause seizures. Intracranial trauma with anoxia (loss of oxygen) or subsequent scar tissue formation can result in seizure disorders. These seizures may not arise for weeks or even years after the initiating event occurs, making the diagnostic workup far more important than the recent history.
Epilepsy originates from a cluster of physically normal, but electrically malfunctioning, nerve cells. The abnormal electrical discharges cause no problem as long as they do not reach a specific level. However, at the threshold level the electrical discharges recruit adjacent neurons (nerve cells), the activity spreads, and either mild (petit mal) or severe (grand mal) seizures develop. Treatment is aimed at making the seizure threshold harder to reach or at limiting the spread of the abnormal electrical activity. In certain toy breeds (Poodle and Pekingese) the seizures are often responsive to common anticonvulsant therapies. Seizures resulting from epilepsy in larger breeds (German Shepherd, St. Bernard, Irish Setter, Retriever, Husky, Malamute, and Old English Sheepdog) are among the most challenging to treat. They may be difficult to control with single anticonvulsants and often require a combination of anticonvulsants.
Due to the many possible causes of seizures, a full seizure workup is recommended. Seizures must be treated on the basis of their origin. For example, metabolic and toxin based seizures are often treated as emergencies with depressants or anticonvulsants but must ultimately be managed by correcting the specific abnormality. A full seizure workup will include blood tests to evaluate internal organ function. In addition, skull x-rays, a spinal tap to obtain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples and pressure levels, or a CT scan or MRI may be indicated. 

Once the cause of an animal's seizures has been determined, a course of treatment can be selected. Treatment often involves the administration of medications, but occasionally surgery may be required. In all cases, the determination of the cause of the seizures is the first and foremost consideration when selecting a treatment plan.
If your pet is diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy, we will advise you on a long term treatment plan. Medication will need to be given on a daily basis. Periodically, your pet’s blood level of anticonvulsant will be checked along with blood tests to monitor and minimize potential side effects.
Because we can treat epilepsy but not cure it, an occasional seizure is not unexpected while on anticonvulsant medication. We target our treatment plan to reduce the severity and frequency of seizure activity, not to necessarily eliminate seizure occurrence. Rarely, status epilepticus may occur. This is when many seizures occur in rapid succession without intervals of consciousness. Status epilepticus is an emergency situation and, if it occurs, your pet must be seen immediately by your veterinarian so that medications can be given to stop the seizures. 
It is recommended that you keep a log of all seizure activity. Many times seizures occur at specific intervals or accompany specific stressful situations, hormonal cycles, or other unusual events. These seizure logs may allow us to alter specific doses of medications or to augment medications at peak times to better control seizure activity.

Southern California Veterinary Group


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