Coping with Symptoms
Coping with the symptoms
If your dog has Lafora Disease, you’ll quickly recognize what triggers off seizure episodes, and learn to avoid them. Common triggers of full blown seizures include rapidly changing images on TV, dappled sunlight through woodland and of course medication imbalances, but sometimes we just have to accept that what ever we do, the dog is simply due to have a seizure and there is nothing we can do about it. The consolation is that many owners report that the dog actually appears to have a temporary period of being much better after a seizure – it is as if the fitting actually gets rid of the substances causing the symptoms.
The myoclonus (jerking) which is so much a sign of Lafora, and graphically illustrated on the video embedded in Dr Rusbridge’s webpage here: http://www.veterinary-neurologist.co.uk/lafora.htm is induced by sudden movement or sound near the head. Very often this happens when a dog is attempting to look at an object close by. The dog’s sight can be compromised by Lafora and when the dog attempts to focus, for example on a tit bit of food, a thrown ball, a stroking hand etc, they jerk as they struggle to concentrate. Offering food on a slowly outstretched hand may help, as does talking calmly to the dog whilst stroking from behind the head – very different advice from the standard of allowing your dog to sniff your hand first! As for ball games, try rolling them past them, don’t throw them as far, learn to throw them in a set pattern/direction and your dog will still be able to have their fun.
Another common difficulty is that the dog has a problem walking on rough ground or through long grass. The difficulty with focusing, combined with ataxia (lack of balance), a common symptom and one that can be exaggerated by the medication prescribed, can cause the dog to really struggle. Again, learn to find flatter, less challenging areas to walk, do more pavement walking and your dog can still enjoy their walks.
Some owners find that dogs will accept Doggles, sunglasses especially adapted for dogs, which reduce the flashing and changing light levels, particularly in bright sunlight. You can buy Doggles from various UK websites. Some dogs really do not take to them, but the main Doggles website (inevitably it is a US product!) has suggestions on how to introduce your dog to them which might help. http://doggles.com/eyewear.html.
Do bear in mind that as and when the sight of the dog begins to deteriorate severely, they may compound the problem and you may have to abandon the doggles.
Many owners also find that it is important to keep their dog ‘balanced’ in terms of regular medication times, keeping to a pattern of moderate exercise, stimulation and meal times, etc. Some owners report that dogs become almost obsessed with food, although it is unclear whether this is a side effect of phenobarbitones which is one of the most common forms of medical intervention. The subject of diet is dealt with elsewhere eon this website, but it is important to monitor the dogs weight and come up with alternatives to the sugary or starchy snacks they may have enjoyed before – raw carrot is a great thing to occupy them and doesn’t pile on the calories or add carbohydrate or starch into their systems.
On the subject of balance, one Lafora Dogs Support Group member recently took her dog to a Holistic vet, who has recommended various homeopathic treatments. We’ll let you know the outcome of this…….
Finally, it is comforting to know that your dog may continue to enjoy excellent quality of life for many years with Lafora. In itself the disease is NOT fatal. On the other hand, it is also important to realise that the disease progresses at different rates in different dogs. Sometimes, the symptoms are so severe that you may have to understand that what is right for the dog isnt what is right for you. For the dog’s sake, you may have to take the ultimate decision. If you do, know you’ve done the right thing, and remember the all happy times you’ve had together.
If you have a Lafora dog and would like to comment on your own experiences, please feel free to do so below.