Seizures in Dogs and Cats

     A seizure is involuntary behavior that is caused by abnormal brain activity. Seizures may involve loss of consciousness, involuntary muscle activity affecting one part of the body, such as the face or whole body, sustained muscle contractions, alternating limpness, stiffness, inappropriate behavior – gum chewing, fly biting or attacking other pets or family members. Some seizures are one time events or may occur repeatedly over the course of weeks or months. The most important clue in determining if your pet has had a seizure or not is if they appear disoriented after the episode. This is otherwise known as the post-ictal phase.

     The causes for seizures differ based upon age and history – young animals causes include low blood sugar, liver shunts or improper brain development. In older pets we become concerned about brain tumors, infections, and/or autoimmune diseases. In both age groups we are concerned about toxin exposure such as chocolate ingestion, recreational drugs, pesticides, flea or tick medications or other infectious causes. Some breeds of dogs develop idiopathic epilepsy (or cause is unknown) – breeds include Labradors, Goldens, Bernese mountain dogs and poodles. Cats however require more advanced diagnostics which include spinal fluid analysis to determine infectious causes (toxoplasmosis) along with imaging.

     Diagnosis starts with a medical history, it is very important to note when your pet had a seizure, the duration, intensity and frequency of the seizure. Laboratory tests are necessary to help diagnose the cause of seizures if there is a cause outside of the brain. Additionally some dogs may require more advanced testing if the problem is located inside the brain. Tests include obtaining a sample of spinal fluid, performing an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography).

     Some dogs may have a single seizure and may not require further medications. Dogs that require medication have seizures more than once a month, or have had multiple seizures in one day. Medications may cause the pet to be sleepy at the beginning but they will acclimate or become used to the drug over time. Many pets remain on antiseizure medications for life and require regular serum drug levels to ensure proper drug dosaging to prevent seizures from “breaking through.” If your dog has a seizure longer than 5 – 10 minutes or is in a state of continuous seizures these dogs need to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Caroline Li, DVM

Bernie: A Golden Story of Triumph

Below you will find a blog piece written by one of our former Doctor Assistants, Ashley. While with us, Ashley had the privilege of meeting and working with “Bernie,” a patient of ours who continues to amaze us each and every time we see him. Through out all of his ailments in 2011, Bernie continued to be a burst of positivity for us and we’re grateful he’s doing so much better, thanks to his doting father, Forrest.

    I originally met Bernie the golden retriever a few years ago during an annual exam. I was immediately taken by two things, 1) Bernie’s exuberant personality (he was all wags and barks) and 2) how much his parents cared for him. My coworkers and I became steadfast fans of Bernie’s infectious outgoing energy, so you can imagine our dismay when our lovable golden friend’s health began to fail two winters ago. It began with a diagnosis of diabetes in early December of 2010. Bernie mysteriously stopped eating, a sure sign in most retrievers that something has gone awry. Dr. Peter Nurre started Bernie on Humulin insulin. Soon after his change in medication, Bernie came in feeling crummy, and Dr. Roger Johnson performed an abdominal ultrasound on Bernie to find that he had an infection in his abdomen. Surgery was necessary to search for the source of infection, which is typically a perforation (hole) somewhere within the bowel, but in Bernie’s case the source of infection was not a perforated bowel, and remained a mystery. Dr. Johnson cleaned the infection out of the abdomen as best he could and stitched Bernie back up.

    After surgery Bernie’s troubles were not over, as he had several mysterious post-operative infections in spite of being treated with a battery of antibiotics. Soon after surgery Bernie went blind from cataracts, a common problem for diabetics, but had lost so much weight that the corrective surgery could not be performed as a result of the fact that his eyes were sunken into his skull so much. When I caught up with Bernie in February of 2011 I was shocked to see that he had dropped from a robust 80 pounds down to a paltry 55 pounds. His tail still wagged, but he was so thin he was nearly unrecognizable. It is hard to admit, but I was starting to lose hope for my furry friend. However, Bernie’s dad Forrest was vigilant during the whole process. Utilizing the latest in iPad applications and spreadsheets to track Bernie’s blood glucose and insulin doses, Forrest communicated regularly with Dr. Johnson via e-mail in hopes of controlling the diabetes.

    Bernie’s health seemed to decline even further when his jaw seemed to stop working in March of 2011, as he was diagnosed with a condition known as trigeminal neuritis by Dr. Filippo Adamo, our neurologist. This rare condition effects the nerves that wrap around the face, which control the ability of the jaw to open and close normally as well as the blinking reflex of the eyes. The symptom Bernie experienced was that of a “dropped jaw,” in which the jaw cannot close properly. Forrest had to hand feed and water Bernie for six weeks until the condition spontaneously resolved. During Bernie’s bout with trigeminal neuritis he would often bleed profusely from his mouth because when he would drink water, he would take in such large amounts that he would rupture blood vessels near the back of his tongue.

    After the trigeminal neuritis resolved Bernie began to gain weight again, and he was able to have cataract surgery in June of 2011. Bernie’s parents were thrilled when he regained his sight the same day as the surgery, and according to Forrest, the golden retriever’s happiness returned with his vision. Forrest noted the intense eye medication regimen that followed surgery, but Bernie’s renewed sense of self made the process worthwhile. Bernie’s eating stabilized, and in July of 2011 Dr. Johnson wrote the phrase, “getting fat! :)” in his chart.

    I caught Bernie and Forrest in the clinic a few months ago during a recheck visit to see Dr. Johnson, and I was thrilled when Bernie barked at me for attention as Forrest was showing me the latest blood glucose monitoring applications on his iPad. He looked like his normal Bernie self, and his wagging tail never stopped moving the whole time I was in the room. Dr. Johnson found some discrepancies within Bernie’s blood work recently (high tryglycerides and evidence of blood proteins), and he has since began a medication regimen to treat those conditions. Clinically, Bernie looked fabulous! I am happy to report that this past December the ten year old golden is once again at his fighting weight of 77.5 pounds. Dr. Johnson and the staff at Encina would like to commend Forrest for his vigilance in monitoring and caring for Bernie.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @BernieLitke

A special thanks to Bernie’s dedicated father, Forrest Litke, for his contribution of information and pictures to this blog, and for allowing us to share Bernie’s story with everyone!

Update: Dr. Adamo's TV Premiere!

This year has been very exciting for Dr. Adamo with his revolutionary artificial disc implant surgery, and the local media has tapped into his momentum. Thanks to efforts put forth by members and friends of the White Kitty Foundation, Dr. Adamo was featured on KGO7 last week, in a short feature that highlights his revolutionary procedure. Dr. Johnson began our practice with the vision that we would always be looking to the future for new and better ways to treat our patients, and Dr. Adamo’s ingenuity is in line with that tenet of our practice. I was lucky enough to observe Dr. Adamo performing his procedure on a dog that came all the way from Texas last week, to be treated for Disc Associated Wobbler’s Syndrome. Please see the news videos below, and join us in our applause for Dr. Adamo’s success!

Neurologist Dr. Filippo Adamo DVM on ABC7 News

KGO 7 Article on Dr. Adamo\’s Artificial Disc Implant

 

Thank you again to Cris and Denise for their efforts in making this interview happen!

The 2011 ACVIM Conference

Dr. Adamo, during his presentation in Denver

Earlier this month, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine hosted its annual conference in Denver, which brought specialty veterinarians from around the globe together in one place for a meeting of the veterinary minds. We would like to congratulate our very own neurologist Dr. Filippo Adamo for his contribution to the conference, as he presented on “Recent Developments in the Surgical Treatment of Caudal Cervical Spondylomelopathy in Dogs.” What does that mean in plain English, you may wonder? Basically, Dr. Adamo has developed a surgical technique in which he uses an artifical disc of his own design to treat various neurological conditions of the spine, most notably Wobbler’s Syndrome. Dr. Adamo is originally from Italy, and has been with EVH for nearly two years, seeing neurological cases every Monday and Thursday.

Part of Dr. Adamo's Presentation

Other veterinarians from Encina also attended the conference, including Dr. Jenifer Wang and Dr. Stephen Atwater. Continuing education is a requirement for the job of veterinarian, but at Encina we pride ourselves as being on top of current trends in veterinary medicine. Thus, we often take advantage of conferences such as ACVIM to provide our docs with new perspectives.

For more information regarding the ACVIM Conference, please visit their website by clicking here

An interesting article regarding the conference is found here

For more information about Dr. Adamo’s work, and access to his published research, please visit his website BayAreaVNN.com

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Adamo, please call us at (925)937-5000, he is available to see appointments between 10a and 5p Mondays and Thursdays.