Some Superheroes Fight Crime, Mine Fights Epilepsy
My Epilepsy Warrior is a 3 year old English Pointer named Porter. Approximately 2.5 weeks after Porter joined us as a Pointer Rescue, Org foster dog in December of 2018, he had a Grand Mal seizure in the middle of the night. Since then, he has stumped doctors as his epilepsy continues to progress and evolve with no significant response to the usual medications. Porter has been a trooper to say the least. Despite all the ups and downs of his battle, Porter remains a happy and loving pup.
Aim for Zero
Brian and I have – and will continue to – put forth our best efforts in trying to help Porter. For the past year and a half we have unsuccessfully been able to make considerable progress with Porter’s seizures. Although we have researched on our own as well as received ample medical advice and other suggestions, we can’t make too many changes all at once. Everything becomes a waiting game as we sit tight to see if a newly implemented change will make a difference. It is heartbreaking and frustrating to helplessly watch your fur-kid suffer through Epilepsy…but ultimately what we feel as PAWrents is minuscule compared to what Porter is dealing with. Our goal is to reduce both the severity and frequency of Porter’s episodes – with our ultimate objective being ZERO seizures. As we strive to lessen the severity of Porter’s Epilepsy, we are doing our best to balance his medical treatment with maintaining a high quality of life for him. Some people have suggested we stop trying to figure out Porter’s epilepsy. Anyone who knows me well knows that the suggestion for me to “stop” only fuels my determination. In my opinion, to cease trying is the equivalent to giving up on Porter. Giving up is not an option. We will never stop. We have one mission: AIM FOR ZERO.
“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.”
Having a dog with Epilepsy and experiencing canine seizures for the first time can be traumatic and definitely may alter your lifestyle. However, that doesn’t mean these modifications have to be distressful. Embrace the changes, make the necessary adjustments, and turn them all into positive actions. Educate yourself, and pay it forward to others as you share your knowledge that may help fellow PAWrents who are not familiar or experienced with Canine Epilepsy.
Porter is the first fur-kid we’ve had with Epilepsy. To be honest, it has been upsetting, frustrating, heartbreaking and has left me feeling helpless to say the least. My intent for this section of the blog is to share information that has helped me both understand the disease and better prepare myself to assist and support Porter. Within the “Porter’s Epilepsy Episodes” entries, you will find the following:
- About Canine Epilepsy
- Types of seizures and their descriptions
- Explanation of the different seizure phases
- Seizure “Do’s” and “Don’ts”
- Porter’s seizure log
- Porter’s testing
- Porter’s medications and supplements
- Nutrition consultation links for VSH of the Carolinas
- Porter’s seizure protocol
- Epilepsy Awareness Month
Seize the Day
Do NOT let epilepsy hold your dog back. Yes, I will fully admit: Epilepsy is a scary thing… However, it is not a death sentence. Despite your dog’s diagnosis, they can live a healthy and happy life. Porter still enjoys many activities such as camping, hiking, and playing with our other dogs just to name a few. Mindset matters and your pup can sense your mental attitude before you even realize your own mood. Keep your head up, stay positive, and allow your dog to live their best life!
“Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” ~Richard Cardinal Cushing
Porter’s seizures used to have a pretty predictable pattern. His seizures were always in the middle of the night while we were with him. However, that is not the case any more. Regardless of when you think your dog will have a seizure, it is best to be prepared. Just when you believe you may have it all figured out, Epilepsy likes to throw a curve ball. The last thing you want is to be in a panic and without a plan when your dog is in the middle of a seizure.
With epilepsy, you never know where or when a seizure episode will occur. We have a mini backpack – much like a baby bag – that we carry with us any time we leave the house with Porter so that we have Porter’s medication and essential supplies on-hand no matter where we are. At home this bag hangs on a hook close to Porter’s crate for easy access, and so that we always know where it is in an emergency.
Porter also always wears a collar when he is outside or traveling . Attached to his collar is his regular ID tag as well as an extra tag that says “I have seizures and need medication.”
We also have a plan in place for the moment a seizure begins. The first one who notices seizure activity simply says “seizure” and we both begin our routine. One of us stays with Porter, talking calmly to him and making sure he is safe while timing the seizures. The other grabs Porter’s backpack in case he needs his emergency injection. Once Porter is conscious, one of us takes him outside to allow him to safely move about during his Post-ictal Phase and potty if necessary while the other changes-out bedding if Porter vomited or lost control of his bladder or bowels. We then work together to compose notes on the seizure.
Seizures may occur while your dog is home alone. Look for dangers – and mitigate them. If your dog is not crated while you are gone, use baby gates at the top/bottom of stairs to keep your dog safe. Your dog can be seriously injured if they are at the top of the stairs when a seizure begins, or if they try and navigate the stairs while they are disoriented during the Pos-tictal Phase following a seizure. Porter is crated while we are gone, and we use cameras to monitor him. We chose the Google Nest cameras, which allow us to set zones and alerts for both movement and noises. The cameras also offer a constant-record option, which is helpful in tracking the time, length, and severity of the seizures. Clips can be saved from the video and shared via text or email as well.
Traveling with your pup? Seizures don’t take a vacation and can occur in transit, or at your destination. Before you hit the road with your 4-legged road tripper, research emergency veterinary hospitals along your route, and in the surrounding areas of any stop-overs as well as your final destination. Having this information already saved in your phone will lessen your stress in the event your dog has a seizure and needs medical assistance while you are beyond the drivable distance to your dog’s medical team. Be sure to take enough seizure medication (and special diet) to last for longer than you plan to be away in case your stay is prolonged for any reason.
If you attend dog sporting events, leaving a note with instructions on top of your dog’s crate could be a life saver. Any time we are at a dock diving competition with our dogs, we have a sign that hangs on Porter’s crate explaining that he has seizures and what to do/NOT do for his safety. We do our best to be sure one of us is always at our team canopy. We also recruit friends to be “on-watch” in the event we have to walk away from the dogs. We also include both of our cell phone numbers on the crate sign so that we can be reached immediately in the rare event we are both away from our team canopy, friends are unable to watch the pups, and someone observes what they think to be a seizure.
Help others be prepared as well. This includes your dog sitter, your family and friends coming over to your house, other PAWrents at the dog park, etc. Keep in mind that you may be used to observing your dog seizing, but seizures that include convulsions like Porter has are extremely upsetting for some people to see. Prepping others for what your dog’s seizures look like will lessen their anxiety if they witness your dog having an episode.
Don’t Worry, I’m All Write
It’s essential to take notes and have easily accessible information about your dog’s condition, as well as tips on how to deal with it. I choose to keep my notes in Evernote . Evernote offers easy access from both my computer as well as an app on my phone and allows me to easily share information when needed. Within Evernote, I keep a journal of Porter’s seizure activity, a list of his current medications / supplements and their dosages, and his seizure protocol. It is very helpful during a doctor’s visit to have all the information needed without having to try and remember it all on-the-spot and while you may be stressed. You think it all would become routine, but if you are like me, having information in front of you to refer to during a traumatic time is a must. Sharing the information about your dog’s Epilepsy as well as the seizure protocol is especially important when it comes to dog sitters and anyone else who is ever alone with your dog. When a seizure occurs, it’s much easier to avoid panic and fear when there are clear instructions on how to help.
“Connecting with others is rewarding; it makes us feel like we’re not alone in the world.” ~ Jonah Berger
Seizures are a very upsetting thing to experience with your dog regardless of how knowledgeable you are about the disease. Knowing that more seizures are coming but not knowing when can be both overwhelming and extremely unsettling. Not being able to control the seizures and watching helplessly as your fur-kid suffers is excruciating and leaves you feeling alone, weak, and powerless. I am tremendously grateful and fortunate to have an outstanding and brilliant medical team for Porter. I am also blessed to have a wealth of knowledge, support, and information from others who are also dealing with Canine Epilepsy through connections with rescue and dock diving friends. Please keep in mind that you and your pup are not on this difficult journey alone. Talking to your veterinarian can surely help ease concerns you may have regarding seizures. However, forming connections with others whose fur-kids are also battling Epilepsy is priceless. We are all in this battle together…your fight is our fight. Please do not ever hesitate to reach out to me!
**To contact me, there is an email option on the home page of the blog, also found in the upper right corner of any page of the blog. Feel free to also send me a private message on Facebook , Instagram, or Twitter .