Patient of the Week 20 May - National Epilepsy Week
This week’s Patient of the Week is Ziggy, an Italian Spinone with idiopathic epilepsy, epilepsy of no known cause or a genetic component. Here is Ziggy’s three-year journey, written by his owner, Faye, for National Epilepsy Week.
Ziggy is our five-year-old Italian Spinone who had his first seizure when he was a year and nine months old. It was the morning after we had moved house and we put it down to the stress of that. But eight months later he had another seizure. That was when we realised our journey with epilepsy had begun.
Ziggy then started having seizures every four weeks which is considered “good control” in epilepsy and is not usually medicated. We did however put him on some herbal remedies to help with seizures and we were able to keep the monster at bay for another six months.
Gradually the frequency increased and our local vet and I decided it was time to medicate. There was a “new” drug out called Pexion, but I had heard of problems with it making dogs worse. I weighed up the pros and cons and decided to try it, as it isn’t processed through the liver like a lot of the other antiepileptic drugs.
Unfortunately, Pexion was a disaster and Ziggy went from single seizures every two weeks to gradually increasing clusters and one Sunday night, after four seizures in 12 hours, with the last one lasting five minutes, I decided to stop it there and then (something you can do with Pexion) and contacted my vet the following morning and started him on Phenobarbitone.
However Ziggy continued to seize very regularly and the seizures started to get more frequent. We consulted a neurologist locally and we spent several months increasing meds, adding in new meds, stopping meds (that we didn't feel were working) but nothing was making a difference. We were fast running out of options.
By this time Ziggy was seizing every seven – nine days and he was still having clusters every time he seized, the most dangerous type of seizures, which could only be stopped with rectal and oral Diazepam.
I had been aware of the AHT for some time and their excellent reputation but it is a four hour drive from Wiltshire to Newmarket. In the end I decided that if I didn’t get a second opinion Ziggy might not be with me much longer, so I asked my neurologist about a second opinion at the AHT which he welcomed, as he, like me, was at a loss.
In September 2014 I took Ziggy to see Luisa De Risio at the AHT for a two and a half hour consultation. Luisa had just completed some research on epilepsy in Spinone and knew that Spinone need their phenobarb blood levels to be at the very top end of the therapeutic range.
Luisa continues to manage Ziggy’s epilepsy by email with myself and our local vet. The good news is that we have gone from seizures every seven – nine days to currently just over 15 weeks without a seizure and counting! Something I thought we’d never get. I would have been happy to have just gone four weeks without a seizure, so this is really amazing for Ziggy.
Lots of dogs with epilepsy respond well to a single antiepileptic drug. But others like Ziggy have refractory (drug resistant) epilepsy and need to be managed by a good neurologist with a lot of experience treating epileptic dogs who will work out which particular combination of medication works for that particular dog.
Living with a dog with epilepsy is like being on a continual roller coaster of emotions as epilepsy will lull you into a false sense of security and as soon as you start to relax it will throw you a curved ball.
I have fought for Ziggy throughout this illness and will continue to do so, unless I think his quality of life is permanently compromised. (Faye, Ziggy and family pictured right).
Thank you to Faye for sharing her story with us.
Epilepsy affects several popular dog breeds, as well as cross breeds, and can be a very difficult condition for dog owners to live with. Especially in cases such as Ziggy where the epilepsy appears unresponsive to treatment with antiepileptic drugs.
However, in some cases, after a lot of perseverance and treatment modulation under the guidance of a specialist in veterinary neurology with expertise in epilepsy, it can be possible to significantly improve seizure control and consequently the quality of life of the epileptic dog and its owner.
Patient of the Week 13 May
Millie is our four-year-old English Cocker Spaniel. She came to us as a re-home two years ago after we lost our last dog Jess. About three weeks ago, we noticed that Millie had difficulty in jumping up and walking. As her condition worsened she became immobile and was clearly in severe pain. We contacted our local vet immediately who referred us to the AHT to see a neurologist.
Upon initial consultation with her neurologist Fabio, and an MRI scan, Millie was diagnosed with a slipped disc. The results from the MRI showed that her spinal cord was severely compressed and spinal surgery to decompress the spinal cord was the only way forward.
Now, three weeks later, after strict crate rest, she is pain free and she is back to her normal exuberant self!
She still has another month to go of cage rest with gradual extended walks, but even so, the difference in such a short amount of time since her operation is amazing, and we cannot thank Fabio and the Neurology Team at the AHT enough for the fantastic care that Millie received up to, and after, her surgery.
Speaking about Millie’s case, Fabio, pictured, said: "When I first met Millie and her owners I faced a very sad little cocker spaniel, in a lot of pain, with an extremely worried and emotional mum and dad.
"However, there is no better feeling in the world than discharging a happy, bouncy little dog to two smiley, happy owners - only three days after a complicated and risky spinal surgery!
“Words are never going to be enough to explain the happiness we all felt when the operation was a success and Millie could go home. I’m so pleased to have been able to help this lovely family and that Millie is back to her normal self.”