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Newsletter - August 2007

The dog next door is about ten years old and heavy coated. He’s not happy being outside in this heat much less having Tori demand that he play with her. Since he’s not a very social guy, his reaction is to bare teeth and stare menacingly when Tori gets on his nerves.

Being a Cavalier, our girl hasn’t a clue about being anything other than friendly, especially since her experiences with Cassie were always positive, but she understands that her approach may need refining. Her answer is to back away from the fence and play bow from a distance, inching back more and more until she’s at least ten feet away from the fence. At that point, the neighbor’s dog has no interest, Tori comes bouncing towards the fence, and the scenario repeats. It’s a good thing she’s so cute because an IQ test may not be her best event but as a friend of mine once said, canine intelligence can be highly over-rated. Tori may not be Einstein but she’s a loving, friendly girl who’s determined to melt the heart of a not-so-friendly older dog.

Dietary changes can help epileptic dogs

The causes of epilepsy can be many and are beyond the scope of this article. However, diet can play a role and this is my sole focus. To show you how important diet can be, I’m going to share a story about Boomer, a dog I worked with recently. To start, read this article, and look at the videos. Many people aren’t sure if their dog is experiencing some sort of seizure or if the dog is weaker or off balance for a few seconds. In most cases, these dog owners are witnessing petit mal seizures because it’s impossible to wonder what’s happening when a dog has a grand mal seizure.

If you’ve read the information provided in the link above, you know that food allergy can be an underlying cause. I haven’t come across this as often as a reaction to glutamine (an amino acid, very abundant in grains). Human studies show that some people who experience seizures have an abnormally high concentration of glutamate in the brain. This is one of the considerations when dealing with dogs as well, so the first course of action is to eliminate grains from the diet. Oddly, I’ve seen cases where the addition of grain helped, but more often than not, removing grains works extremely well.

Sodium and potassium are critical to the body. Too many of the diets I’ve analyzed are low in potassium. The dog I’m going to tell you about was consuming a diet that failed to provide even 50% of his potassium requirement. Further, B vitamins are crucial to proper brain function. Other than B3, this dog’s diet was low in all B vitamins. That said, too much B6 has been reported to cause neurological issues. How much is too much? NRC does not show a safe upper limit, and I have not seen any problem when supplying even ten times the recommended allowance, but looking at the amount of B6 in your dog’s home-prepared diet may be worthwhile if seizures are occurring.

Boomer’s diet was changed to eliminate grains. I used a small amount of sweet potatoes in his diet because they provide potassium, and beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A. I could have used a potassium supplement such as NoSalt instead, but Boomer needed added calories and he has a gastrointestinal problem that translates to needing a fairly low fat diet. If not for that, I could have used other foods with less vegetable matter and added NoSalt as necessary. In addition to the health issues above, this dog had elevated liver enzymes, likely being caused by the anti-seizure medication.

The original diet included cottage cheese. While perfectly fine to feed a dog with liver trouble, it happens to be high in glutamine, so we opted out of this food and used fish instead. Fish contains less glutamine, the branch chain amino acids seem to help dogs with liver trouble, and omega 3 fatty acids are taken up preferentially by the brain. In addition, the diet was supplemented with taurine. Read this abstract from pubmed to better understand why.

"Parenteral injection of kainic acid (KA), a glutamate receptor agonist, causes severe and stereotyped behavioral convulsions in mice and is used as a rodent model for human temporal lobe epilepsy. The goal of this study is to examine the potential anti-convulsive effects of the neuro-active amino acid taurine, in the mouse model of KA-induced limbic seizures. We found that taurine (43 mg/Kg, s.c.) had a significant antiepileptic effect when injected 10 min prior to KA. Acute injection of taurine increased the onset latency and reduced the occurrence of tonic seizures. Taurine also reduced the duration of tonic-clonic convulsions and mortality rate following KA-induced seizures. Furthermore, taurine significantly reduced neuronal cell death in the CA3 region of the hippocampus, the most susceptible region to KA in the limbic system. On the other hand, supplementation of taurine in drinking water (0.05%) for 4 continuous weeks failed to decrease the number or latency of partial or tonic-clonic seizures. To the contrary, we found that taurine-fed mice showed increased susceptibility to KA-induced seizures, as demonstrated by a decreased latency for clonic seizures, an increased incidence and duration of tonic-clonic seizures, increased neuronal death in the CA3 region of the hippocampus and a higher post-seizure mortality of the animals. We suggest that the reduced susceptibility to KA-induced seizures in taurine-injected mice is due to an increase in GABA receptor function in the brain which increases the inhibitory drive within the limbic system. This is supported by our in vitro data obtained in primary neuronal cultures showing that taurine acts as a low affinity agonist for GABA(A) receptors, protects neurons against kainate excitotoxic insults and modulates calcium homeostasis. Therefore, taurine is potentially capable of treating seizure-associated brain damage."

The end result is that after 2 months on his new diet, Boomer’s medication was reduced. After three months, it was reduced again and his liver enzymes were at the high end of normal range. Today, Boomer’s enzymes are perfectly normal and he has been weaned away from the medication once again. If things continue as they have been, he is expected to be off medication soon.


“Most dogs don't think that they are human; they know they are.’ -- Jane Swan



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