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Potassium Bromide for Canine Epilepsy: It Works!
This article is being written from personal experience, and I am going to write it in the simplest terms possible, because some of the technical sites can be a headache to read. My dog has, thankfully, been seizure-free for one year and counting (knock on wood!) and I am here to sing the praises of Potassium Bromide as standalone treatment for Canine Epilepsy. I am going to give you some background info and recount some personal experience in the hope that others in a similar situation will find something useful in it.
To begin, my dog first started having seizures about 2 years ago. Every test that could be performed was performed and the results showed no apparent reason, or even a possible reason, as to the cause of my dog developing canine epilepsy at the age of 5. The seizures were absolutely horrific, as you might imagine. I have worked in medicine for years and years and have witnessed countless seizures in humans, but this was something I was just totally unprepared for from an emotional perspective. I am fortunate that I primarily work from home and was with my dog round the clock and was able to carefully observe the behaviors leading up to each seizure. I was able to know exactly when they would occur, because there was a clear pattern. This may or may not be the case with other dogs, but it was definitely the case with mine.
The Aura Phase
My dog would start to become very hyperactive about 2 days before having a seizure. It was impossible to keep her attention for more than a few minutes. She was constantly moving about and whining. All but one of the seizures occurred in the morning, just as I was waking up and getting ready to get out of bed. She would run into the next room and start to dry heave. Now, my dog has always vomited about once every couple of months following the ingestion of grass. This is not unusual. But these episodes were different, because the dry heaving didn't result in actual vomiting. She would try to vomit, and then the seizure phase would begin.
The Actual Seizure
When the attempts at vomiting failed, she would suddenly start to look around. This is not uncommon, and it looks like they are trying to focus on an imaginary fly buzzing around their heads. It's a jerky movement and is quite disconcerting to observe. A few moments later she would collapse and go right into a generalized, tonic-clonic "grand mal" seizure. The seizure would last about 30 seconds, sometimes up to a minute. Doesn't sound like a long time, but let me tell you, it feels like an eternity in hell. Some dogs might lose control of their bowels or urine during the seizures, but my dog didn't.
Post Seizure Behavior
When the seizure was over, she would be very disoriented. Her eyes would be glazed over and for a short period of time she looked as though she was blind. Mind, she wasn't actually blind, as she was able to move about the room without walking into anything, but I am just trying to explain that her eyes did not look normal for about 5 or 10 minutes following the episode. She would need to go to the bathroom at this time, and I would let her out into my fenced-in garden to do her business. Stool and urine always looked normal, there was nothing unusual about any of it. It would take some time for her to start to calm down, and she'd be back to normal approximately an hour or so later.
When to Start Treatment for Canine Epilepsy
Having a seizure doesn't necessarily mean that canine epilepsy is the cause, and I didn't want to put her on phenobarbital (for numerous reason which I will discuss in a moment) until it was clear that epilepsy was the cause. In the beginning, the first few seizures were about 2.5 months apart. During these episodes I was giving her prescribed meds rectally, but to be honest, I really have no idea if it had any effect on the actual episode. We actually moved to a new flat just in case something in the environment was triggering the seizures. Unfortunately, that seemed not to have been the cause, because at the end of that year, there were 2 seizures about 1 month apart and the vet and I decided it was best to start her on something.
One Year Later
If you recall, my dog was having seizures at monthly intervals when we started her on Potassium Bromide. It has now been more than a year and I'm very happy to report that there has not been another seizure. She is 22kg in weight and she takes 250mg of Potassium Bromide every 12 or so hours. There is a bit more flexibility with Potassium Bromide than with Phenobarbital, because there is a bit of a window during which you can administer it. Usually she gets it at precise 12 hour intervals, but sometimes it varies by an hour or 2 on either side.
Potassium Bromide as Stand Alone Treatment for Canine Epilepsy
As the last year has thankfully demonstrated, Potassium Bromide is all that is needed to control my dog's canine epilepsy. It's safer than Phenobarbital and doesn't have the potential to damage organs in the same way. It used to be the standard, and I hope that anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to what we were going through a year ago will be able to get everything under control in the same manner. Ask your vet about Potassium Bromide, and best wishes to you and your canine companions.
Phenobarbital for Canine Epilepsy
My dog started to take phenobarbital, because that is the standard in most cases. I was not happy about it, because I didn't want to risk organ function, and I didn't want her to be sluggish. To my great surprise, her reaction was the extreme opposite. She became so hyperactive that it was almost frightening. She would whine and cry so loudly and frequently that she actually started to lose her voice. She was so ravenously hungry that it was impossible to satisfy her hunger. The behavior issues that developed in the 36 hours following the start of phenobarbital were so disturbing that I began to fear she'd suffered brain damage during the last seizure.
Allergies to Phenobarbital in Dogs
It was clear that my dog was not able to function on phenobarbital. It would have been kinder to let her have the seizures, and this was a horrible position to find myself in. I called the vet and he said that even though he'd never seen this type of reaction in his 25 years of practice, it was possible for a dog to be allergic to phenobarbital, so with that we discontinued the pheno immediately. Over the next 24 hours her behavior went back to normal and I was extremely relieved.
Potassium Bromide (kBr) Treatment
The only alternative available in the country I live in was Potassium Bromide. However, it's used so rarely, that only 1 vet in the entire city had it in stock. So my vet sent me there, and I was surprised to learn that it has to be specially ordered and actually prepared by the pharmacist and then sent to that particular vet. And even though that vet keeps in it stock, he said he's only ever had to use it as complementary therapy in dogs who were not allergic to phenobarbital, but who were not able to fully control their seizures without a little extra help. He too, in 20+ years, had never seen a dog allergic to phenobarbital, but as any practitioner knows, there are always exceptions.