Seizures and Epilepsy in Bulldogs

By: Dr. Roy Kraemer |
DVM, Bulldog Specialist Veterinarian

Subject: Concerns About Bulldog’s Epileptic Episode ūüź∂‚̧ԳŹ

Dr. K.raemer¬† I’m reaching out with some urgent concerns about my 2y old beloved bulldog Romeo, who had a scary epileptic event.¬†

The seizure was quite distressing to observe, and I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the situation. I’m writing to seek your guidance on how best to manage Romeo’s condition moving forward. ūüíČ ūü©ļ¬†

Thanks #BulldogHealth #EpilepsyAwareness #PetCare ūüźĺ

Bulldog and French bulldog seizures are neither a disease nor a single cause. Seizures are episodes of disturbed brain activity that manifest in various forms, such as convulsions, sensory disturbances, or loss of consciousness.

Epilepsy (idiopathic Seizures) in Bulldogs

Epilepsy, on the other hand, is a disorder characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures. While all epileptic conditions involve seizures, not all seizures indicate epilepsy.

Many Bulldog owners assume that epilepsy and seizures are the same thing, but while epilepsies are indeed seizures, not every seizure is epilepsy.

The most frequent reason for repeated seizures in bulldogs and French bulldog puppies less than five years old is idiopathic epilepsy. Although the precise cause is unknown, a genetic origin is strongly suspected.

This is why breeding bulldogs with epilepsy is discouraged.

Bulldogs experiencing seizures after the age of five are less likely to have the idiopathic form and should undergo testing for other prevalent causes.

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  1. Epilepsy is a type of seizure, but not all seizures in bulldogs are due to epilepsy.
  2. The causes of epilepsy are often unknown, and it is the most prevalent form of seizure among young bulldogs.
  3. In contrast, seizures in older bulldogs are generally linked to diseases or pathologies, such as brain tumors.
  4. Bulldog idiopathic head tremors are seldom a result of seizure activity.
  5. Epilepsy is typically managed with medication, while treatment for other types of seizures depends on the underlying cause.

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BULLDOG HEAD TREMORS

The “bulldog head shake”¬† is often misinterpreted by owners. These head bobbings in bulldogs can be alarming, but they’re frequently benign and rarely, if ever, associated with seizures.

Seizure Types in Bulldogs and Fr. Bulldogs

Usually, seizures are classified according to how they manifest, how long they last, and how frequently they appear.

Focal vs. Generalized Seizures

Focal seizures, often more subtle and less traumatic, typically affect just one region of the bulldog’s body and can be more difficult to detect. In contrast, generalized seizures usually involve the entire body and are much more dramatic in presentation.

Status vs. Cluster Seizures

Cluster seizures are defined as several seizures that happen quickly and do not fully recover in between. On the other hand, a prolonged, continuous seizure is characterized as status epilepticus.

Seizures in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs / CAUSE:

  1. Idiopathic Epilepsy (unknown origin):  This is likely the most common cause of seizures in young bulldogs and is most often associated with generalized seizures. The cause remains unknown, though there may be a genetic component.
  2. Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) Hypoglycemia is a more common cause of seizures in infants and young puppies, typically due to inadequate food intake or fasting. In mature bulldogs, seizures caused by hypoglycemia are rare and are usually linked to a rare pancreatic tumor that excessively secretes insulin.
  3. Toxins & Poison Exposure to various toxins and poisons can also lead to seizures:
    • Metaldehyde (snail bait)
    • Lead
    • Organophosphates ( weed killers)
    • Pyrethrines ¬†(used in insecticides)
  4. Brain tumors are more common in aging bulldogs and rare in younger dogs.
  5. Head Trauma A physical injury to the head can lead to acute seizures.
  6. Heat Stroke Overheating in Bulldogs, especially during hot weather or excessive exercise, can trigger seizures.
  7. Liver Disease Liver conditions such as a liver shunt (portosystemic shunt, PSS) can be congenital or acquired, like portal hypertension.
  8. Viral, Infectious, and Inflammatory Diseases Certain diseases, like canine distemper and rabies

Seizures in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs / SYMPTOMS:

There is a significant difference in seizure manifestation when comparing focal to generalized ones

BULLDOG FOCAL SEIZURES:

Focal seizures, also known as partial seizures, affect only one part of the brain and can result in more localized symptoms. Common behaviors associated with focal seizures include:

  • Fly-biting behavior: A movement that looks like the dog is snapping at flies when no flies are present.
  • Focal twitching: Twitches that occur in one area or side of the body, without affecting the whole body.

BULLDOG GENERALIZED SEIZURES

Generalized seizures involve multiple regions of the brain and cause symptoms that affect the entire body. These seizures are typically more severe and include:

  • Grand mal (clonic-tonic) seizures: Characterized by stiffening of the body (tonic phase) followed by rhythmic jerking (clonic phase).
  • Incontinence: Loss of control over bladder and bowels during the seizure.
  • Teeth chattering: Rapid clattering of teeth which can be accompanied by other facial muscle spasms.
  • Recumbency with leg peddling: The dog may lie down and move its legs as if running or cycling.
  • Loss of consciousness: The dog may appear unresponsive or dazed.
  • Stiffness: Generalized muscle rigidity across the body.
  • Vocalization: making noises, which may include barking or crying out, usually due to disorientation or distress.

Seizure and Epilepsy in Bulldogs / STAGES:

Understanding the stages of a seizure can help bulldog owners better manage and respond to these episodes. Seizures generally have three distinct phases:

1. Before (Aura)

The aura is the initial stage where your bulldog might sense an impending seizure. This phase serves as a warning that a seizure is about to begin. Signs to watch for include

  • seeking extra attention
  • appearing restless
  • exhibiting unusual behavior.

2. During (Ictus)

The ictus is the seizure event itself. This phase can last from a few seconds to several minutes.

3. After (Post-Ictal)

Following the seizure, during the post-ictal phase, your bulldog may seem

  • confused
  • disoriented
  • do not recognize familiar surroundings or people
  • impaired coordination

This phase duration can vary from a few minutes to several hours.

SEEKING VETERINARY HELP

It is crucial to seek veterinary care for seizures that last a long time (more than a few minutes), for repeated cluster seizures within the same day, or if the dog experiences a prolonged post-ictal recovery.

Bulldog Seizure / ACTION TO TAKE:

How to Care for Your Bulldog During a Seizure

Caring for a bulldog during a seizure involves ensuring safety and closely monitoring the situation. Here are some practical steps to follow:

  1. Create a Safe Environment:
    • Move your bulldog away from sharp objects, furniture, and stairs that could cause injury during a seizure.
    • Use pillows, carpets, and blankets to cushion any potential blows to the head and body.
  2. Positioning:
    • Check the head position to ensure it is safe and clear from any objects.
    • Trying to touch the mouth could result in bites.
  3. Monitoring:
    • Note the duration and frequency of the seizure. This information is crucial for your vet to understand the severity and pattern of the seizures.
    • Have an adult stay close to or sleep near your bulldog
  4. Use of Accessories:
    • Attach a bell to your bulldog‚Äôs harness or collar. This can help alert you to any movements that might indicate the start of a seizure, especially during the night.
  5. Watch for Accidents:
    • Observe for any unusual urine or fecal accidents, which might indicate a seizure occurred when you were not present.
  6. Documentation:
    • If possible, take a video of the seizure event. This can provide your veterinarian with valuable information for diagnosis and treatment.
    • Note any specific symptoms or behaviors you observe during the seizure.
  7. Check Body Temperature:
    • If possible, take your bulldog’s temperature. A temperature over 105‚Äď106¬įF warrants immediate veterinary attention.
    • To help reduce high body temperatures, you can spray cool water on your dog and place a fan nearby, while continually monitoring the temperature.

Seizures and Epilepsy in Bulldogs / DIAGNOSIS:

  • Medical exam:
    • pet’s age
    • video of the event when possible
    • timesheet duration of the event
    • history of past events
    • toxins or poisons in and around the house
  • Blood test: including blood sugar, ¬†liver enzymes, and a bile acid test
  • Radiograph and ultrasound: abdominal for liver size
  • MRI, CAT Scans for suspected brain injuries and tumors
  • Spinal Fluid for suspected central nervous system disease
  • Nuclear scintigraphy for liver shunt

Seizures and Epilepsy in Bulldogs / PREVENTION:

  • Annual Blood screenings
  • Vaccination, including distemper and rabies
  • Protect your house and environment from toxic material and poison

Seizures and Epilepsy in Bulldogs / TREATMENT:

The treatment approach for bulldog seizures depends on the underlying cause. Here are some common treatment options:

Treating Seizures Due to Liver Disease :

  • Liver shunts can often be surgically repaired.
  • When surgery is not an option, medical management may involve dietary changes and medications to support liver function.

Treating Seizures Due to Hypoglycemia:

  • Bulldog puppies with hypoglycemia may require short-term intravenous treatment with glucose and proper feeding
  • For adults with insulinoma, surgery might be necessary to remove the tumor.

Seizure and Epilepsy Anticonvulsant Medications:

Various anticonvulsant medications can be used to manage seizures in bulldogs.

These include:

  • Phenobarbital: is often the first-line treatment due to its effectiveness, low cost, and limited side effects. It can not be used in bulldogs with liver disease and requires regular blood test monitoring for elevated liver enzymes and blood levels of the drug.
  • Potassium Bromide: in combination with phenobarbital or liver disease cases, it will be used alone as a sole treatment

Other treatment options that were previously costly but are now marketed at more affordable prices include

  • Zonisamide
  • Keppra (Levetiracetam)

These medications have become more accessible for managing seizures in conditions like epilepsy, making them a viable option for a broader range of patients.

  • Valium (Diazepam) is not typically used for long-term seizure control but can be administered intravenously in emergencies for short-term seizure control.

Seizure Monitoring in Bulldogs and French Bulldogs

Some medications, like phenobarbital, require regular monitoring of blood levels and liver enzymes to ensure efficacy and safety. Dosing adjustments may be necessary based on these results.

Bulldog Seizure and Epilepsy Supportive Care:

Alongside medication, providing supportive care is essential. This includes maintaining a safe environment, proper nutrition, supplementation, and regular veterinary check-ups.

Seizures and Epilepsy in Bulldogs / PRAGNOSIS:

Watching your bulldog puppy experience an epileptic event can be frightening and may seem painful or even life-threatening. However, death is unlikely when the condition is managed promptly. With proper treatment and care, most bulldogs with epilepsy can live relatively normal lives with a good life expectancy.

On the other hand, the prognosis for other types of seizures varies depending on the underlying cause and is determined on a case-by-case basis.

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The information provided on this platform is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian regarding any medical condition. It's important to always consider professional medical advice promptly and not to delay seeking it based on information you've read on this platform. Any reliance on the information provided here is entirely at your discretion.

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