If you have read our article explaining what seizures and epilepsy are and carefully monitoring your dog’s condition alongside the vet, you may also be thinking about natural ways to support your dog.
Top tips for seizures in dogs
Good dental health is a must
If your dog has bad oral health, this will fuel inflammation throughout the body, putting extra pressure on organs and causing a constant immune response. This will most certainly not be helping a dog suffering from seizures.
Bad oral hygiene, gingivitis and periodontitis are significantly related to increased seizure severity in (human) patients with epilepsy.
It is vital to get on top of dental hygiene more than ever.
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Foods to avoid for dogs who suffer from seizures
Something to consider when feeding a dog suffering from seizures is Glutamate. Not only is glutamate an amino acid found in many foods, it is also a neurotransmitter that can have excitatory effects on nerve cells, it was discovered that it can actually excite nerves to death in a process called “excitotoxicity”. So, when it comes to seizures and misfiring neurons, and there is no known cause for why your dog is experiencing this, glutamate needs to be kept under control. But which foods should you avoid –
Dairy is not something we would advocate feeding anyway, but as Casein in milk is 20% glutamate, you definitely want to avoid cheese or cow milk yoghurts in dogs with seizures.
Oats, wheat and barley contain very high levels of glutamate, and as these are the top ingredients in many ultra-processed pet foods, it would be best to avoid all kinds of kibble diets. When feeding a raw diet, ensure it is from grass-fed animals and not grain-fed animals.
Grains are found in most kibble brands – avoid them at all costs!
Lentils and beans
Lentils, beans and soy are also very high in glutamate – more ingredients in commercial, ultra-processed foods.
As peanuts are actually a legume, these too are high in glutamate, so it would be best to avoid peanut butter as a treat if your dog suffers from seizures.
Some meats are high in glutamate
We, of course, advocate a raw meat diet, but you will want to avoid feeding too much turkey, rabbit or oily fish if your dog has seizures, as these are high in glutamate.
Chemicals and preservatives in ultra-processed food
The last thing any dog, but especially one suffering from seizures, needs is chemicals and preservatives that are in ultra-processed food and treats; as studies show, these foods are pro-inflammatory.
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Feed real, fresh food
Switch to a fresh/raw diet of wholesome, biologically appropriate pasture/grass-fed meat (organic, where possible) as soon as possible. Your dog needs fresh food full of unadulterated protein, bioactive compounds, low sugar and salt, free of chemicals and preservatives and what their gut is designed to digest.
Stop all chemical parasite preventatives & treatments
If your dog is experiencing seizures, you will most definitely need to stop giving them conventional, toxic flea/tick and worm preventatives. Many of these preventatives are known to cause tremors, seizures and allergic reactions, so we advise extreme caution for any dog, but a dog already having seizures should not be anywhere near these drugs, as they are neurotoxic; this also extends to other pets in the home, some dogs can be so sensitive to the active ingredients that even if a spot on or collar are on another pet, this could be enough to cause a seizure.
If you have a breed that could carry the MDR1 (Multi Drug Resistance) gene (Collies, Australian Sheepdogs, Shetland sheepdogs, long-haired whippets, etc), then you really want to steer clear of these chemical preventatives.
Reconsider those yearly boosters
Considering that the vaccination inserts actually state that they should not be administered to dogs with inflammatory conditions, you may want to learn more about titer tests for dogs and avoiding those unnecessary yearly boosters
Look at the chemicals in your home
Using anti-bacterial chemicals in your home will have a huge impact on your dog, walking on that bleached floor and lying in his bed near those scented plug-ins or candles. It’s all chemicals that are accumulating in our and our dog’s systems to a very worrying degree. Move from “anti” life to probiotic surface and floor cleaners.
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Natural additions for dogs with seizures
Now that we have covered what you should think about removing from your dog’s life and, of course, moving to a fresh food diet. What other additions are there that could help your dog suffering from seizures?
CBD is one of the most prevalent chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. Unlike the more famous molecule, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is completely nonpsychoactive, so your dog is not going to get stoned! CBD oils are thus legal to import as long as the THC content is below 0.3%.
Cannabinoids are called agonists (think of them like keys). They bind to special receptors (they’re the locks) called cannabinoid receptors.
These receptors are found all throughout your body, largely the central nervous system as well as the skin, digestive tract and even the reproductive organs.
All these cell receptors make up your Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Proponents of CBD often describe the ECS as one of the greatest neurotransmitter systems in the body, functioning in mood, memory, immune function, motor control, pain perception, appetite and sleep. CBD appears to tap into this system, helping to restore a more balanced ‘tone’ within the ECS.
CBD oil is repeatedly found to be effective in treating a great range of neurological conditions, simply helping those neurons and signaling systems in the brain to fire better, in the simplest of terms. There are a number of studies showing how effective it is at reducing seizures.
CBD can be highly beneficial for dogs having seizures
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are medium-chain fatty acids that can be highly beneficial for canine brain health in a number of ways:
- It can help DHA omega-3 fatty acids cross the blood-brain barrier, and DHA is vital for good brain health.
- MCT oil can break through the gut wall much more efficiently into the bloodstream, where it converts into ketones in the liver – Ketones are a great source of alternative energy (to glucose) in the brain. High sugar levels/diabetes can impact the brain due to a decrease of the inhibitory neurotransmitter Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), so giving your dog with seizures an alternative energy source to glucose may benefit the brain.
- The brain needs fats called Phospholipids to protect them, and MCT increases these
- MCTs have been shown to reduce seizure activity in dogs and can even have a positive effect on the behaviour of epileptic dogs, showing that dogs fed the MCT oil compared to the dogs who were not given the MCT oil, had better memory, were easier to train and they could problem solve better.
Make sure you buy a decent and sustainably sourced brand of MCT oil and look for an oil that does not contain lauric acid (a more pro-inflammatory long-chain fatty acid (LCT) but contains caprylic fatty acid (usually C8 & C10). Go for cold-pressed oils with no artificial colours or additives.
Introduce MCT oil slowly into your dog’s diet to avoid upset tummies. You’ll need to be mindful of current fats in your dog’s diet, but a good starting point is ¼ of a teaspoon per 10lb of body weight daily.
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Homoeopathic belladonna for seizures in dogs
Atropa belladonna, commonly known as belladonna or deadly nightshade, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the nightshade family Solanaceae, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, and aubergine.
Normally, it’s a poison, but homoeopathic belladonna was evaluated in 10 dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. The homoeopathic belladonna was administered orally at 15-minute intervals until a considerable reduction in seizure activity was viewed, which at the time was occurring four times daily.
The number of fits reduced to 2-3 during the first two weeks post-therapy and then became occasional in the next two weeks. With the continuation of homoeopathic Belladonna therapy, no fits were observed during 2-7 months follow-up.
In two cases, epileptic fits reappeared within 15-25 days of cessation of therapy. Homoeopathic Belladonna therapy was resumed, and seizure control was again achieved.
Owners were advised to continue the therapy at least twice daily until there were no fits for 2-3 months. Liver-specific enzymes were monitored, and no abnormalities were observed.
PLEASE NOTE – We are referring to HOMOEOPATHIC Belladonna and not extracts or herbal tinctures – if you want to try homoeopathic belladonna for your dog, we urge you to do so under the guidance of a homoeopathic vet – it is deadly nightshade after all!
Zoopharmacognosy for dogs with seizures
Zoopharmacognosy is a process where an animal will naturally forage and select certain plants or herbs to self medicate. With our domesticated dogs, living in our modern world, they don’t often get as much opportunity to fulfil this innate behaviour. However, we can offer them different herbs and plant extracts in the form of essential oils etc.
This practice is all about letting the dog select what they innately know that their body needs, there are certain cues and body language that can be learnt, to enable you to know what your dog is selecting and what they do not want. This is not about forcing plant extracts or herbs on your dog, it is letting them self select.
Dogs with who suffer with seizures, depending on the reason for the seizures, will often select
- Valerian – Can reduce anxiety, over stimulation. Can be an effective oil to help prevent the onset of a seizure. Valerenic acid increases the activity of the enzyme GAD which also increases GABA (an inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter) and decreases Glutamate activity.
- St John’s Wort
- Ylang Ylang
It is vital to practice self selection methods with all essential oils and herbs – do force any of these on your dog – Caroline Ingraham Applied Zoopharmacognosy would be the best place to find out more about this and even contact a practitioner.
As we discussed previously, while you must consult your vet if your dog is having seizures, we also feel that there is a place for a natural approach, including moving to a fresh, biologically appropriate, fresh/raw, whole-food diet, good dental health, and with the help of a holistic or homoeopathic vet, trying out the natural additions mentioned here, we hope that your dog can live a happy, content life with less or no seizures at all.