Diets for the Epileptic Dog
Before you read any further, all dog owners interested in improving their dog’s health should consult with their vet before making any major changes in their dog’s diet.
If your dog is suffering from a particular disease or condition, it is vital that you learn what a dog requires in its diet and environment to sustain good health and how improving the diet can help solve health problems.
As in human health care, diet is the foundation of good health for canines too. Recognizing nutritional deficiencies – that is, learning to recognize the symptoms that the deficiencies cause – is the beginning of solving many canine health problems.There are numerous theories about the benefits of various diets, along with their absolutely convinced and convincing disciples who have discovered they have helped their pets. What follows is a summary of some approaches which anecdotally have worked for epileptic dogs. A separate page summarizes information gleaned about diet for the Lafora dogs, but we recommend that you read both pages before taking any decisions. Advice is compiled from a number of sources and is sometimes directly contradictory. It is for you, in discussion with your VET to make the final decision.
PLEASE do not consider changing your dog’s diet without first understanding what a canine’s diet should and should not include. For dogs on anti-epilepsy drugs diet changes MUST be discussed with your vet. Diet, drugs, canine metabolism and the potential interactions must all be understood before changing anything in your dog’s regime.
Diet and Health in Epileptic Dogs
For dogs with seizure disorders, their pedigree, environment and other health conditions are generally the first things taken into consideration when searching for a diagnosis, but rarely is diet examined for a possible link to the frequency and severity of seizures. However, as in humans, nutritional deficiencies can cause symptoms that include seizures or that can aggravate the seizures of a dog diagnosed with epilepsy.
It is clear to many owners of epileptic dogs and some vets that diet plays a vital role in the management and control of canine epilepsy. There appears to be evidence that correcting nutritional deficiencies can help reduce or control seizures in epileptic dogs.
In addition, there can be side affects of the anti-seizure medications which can be reduced through diet: Most obviously, they can often make dogs much hungrier, which can lead to weight gain. Secondly, there is an increased risk of a dog developing specific problems. You can read more about these on the Canine Epilepsy Guardian Angels website: liver disease and pancreatitis .Following a low fat, low protein diet may help with these problems. There is also evidence that diets high in Anti Oxidants, thought to help improve brain function. ( This is why Dr Claire Rusbridge originally recommended Hills BD for the Lafora dog, although because of the high levels of grain in teh product, she no longer specifically does). This ANTIOXIDANTS PRESENTATION JUN 2010 Arden Grange presentation gives further background.
For information specific to the needs of the Lafora affected dog, go to Diet for the Lafora Dog
Outline of approaches
There are broadly three different approaches, and each with their own passionate adherents and critics. The information is published here, in one place, to help you make a decision for your dog that you are comfortable with.
(1) Using a superior grade commercial diet.
Changing from a supermarket commercial diet, to a superior grade commercial diet with premium ingredients, including superior sources of protein and free from artificial preservatives and additives ( including chemical preservatives BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin and propylene glycol which is sometimes added to keep “chewy ” foods moist) artificial colors and flavours and sweeteners ( added to make poor quality dog food more appealing to dogs).
Some people make the argument for avoiding ‘standard’ dog foods because they tend to contain a high proportion of grains in order to bulk them out. This extract from an article from the EpilK9 website (see below) explains the background: The Possible Connection between Grains and Seizures. This Epilepsy Sept 09 arden grange article from Arden Grange gives more detail about why this might be relevant.
On the other hand, another nutritionist based in Canada is against the idea of not feeding grains and recommends a good, home cooked diet!:
(2) Feeding a home cooked diet
Benefit – you know exactly what you are feeding the dog, and you can choose what vitamins, minerals and nutritional supplements you add. Conversely, you have to be confident that you know what you are doing, and without veterinarian support, you may be doing more harm than good.
Dr Jean Dodds DVM , an amazing Canadian Vet, now US based, has developed three home cooked diets for epileptic dogs, reproduced here, with thanks, from the US based Canine Epilepsy Guardian Angels website: Healthy Adult, Weight Loss and Liver Cleansing.
(3) Feeding a raw diet
This is commonly known as the BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) diet and is designed to mimic the diet that dogs were naturally evolved to eat and digest, by feeding raw bones, meat and organs to mimic the carcass and raw vegetables, fruit and even grains to emulate the contents of the prey’s stomach. Owners may also add vitamins/minerals/nutritional supplements. There is plenty of information on the web about this, including The Role of a Healthy Diet in Canine Epilepsy (see below), postings by epi dog owners who firmly believe it has helped their pets on the Epil-K9 Forum as well as a broader BARF forum here BritBarf.
That being said, there are as many contrary views out there as there are different dogs: http://www.canine-epilepsy-guardian-angels.com/Cautions_Raw_Food.htm written by Angel Julie and Aisha’ on the Guardian Angel website.
The compiling of information on this page and the sister page ‘Diet for the Lafora Dog’ would have been impossible without considerable help, support and information from various websites, individuals, vetinerary specialists and commercial animal feed companies.
With thanks to EpilK9′s US based website: Canine Epilepsy resources, in particular for my blatant plagiarism of their excellent introduction to the role of healthy diet in epilepsy, written by Chris Alderson, Kathy Herman and Marion Mitchell in 2003, and a special extra thanks to Marion for her advice.
To the canine epilepsy guardian angels website and particular thanks to Jill Carr, who truly is a guardian angel.
To Dr Jean Dodds DVM - thanks for your patience and dedication to the well being of animals, Jean. You truly are an inspiration.
To Pat Debley for contributing articles on Daisy’s Diet and Daisy’s Liver Cakes.
And to the Helpline teams at the various commercial dog food providers I have contacted for their help and support in finding answers to my questions.
Gill Key last updated 29th July 2011
Return to Diets for Lafora Dogs page