Was That a Seizure?

Pets can have seizures. They come in all varieties and it Is impossible to know how frequent or how long their duration may be. Years ago it was thought that all seizures were hereditary, poison related, or idiopathic. With the advancement of technology, machines that can measure brain activity and scan brain tissues have raised awareness to a large number of other causes. The challenges of diagnosing a cause are many. Difficult to determine when a seizure may occur so that brain activity can be monitored. The expense of brain scans are cost prohibitive for many clients. Most practices do not have the equipement to diagnose a cause. The results often indicate that surgery is not possible based on the location of the problem. The cost of surgery is not within a clients budget. These are only a few of the reasons seizures are a challenge.

Seizures are more likely to be seen in a dog than a cat. Seizures can begin at any age.  If seen early in life we assume it is congenital, poison, infection, or trauma related.  If beginning later in life, we consider recent trauma, poisons, or brain disease. If seizures develop after 6 months of age but before 5-6 years of age they may be classified as epilepsy. Epilepsy is a form of seizure activity where no underlying cause can be found.

When poisons are a factor we rely on owners to tell us what they were exposed to. Often a diagnosis will not be made in this category without an owners knowledge of the toxin. Simply put our patients cannot tell us what they ate or were exposed to. There are tests that can be done in a laboratory setting but we must tell them what to look for. If we did not see them consume the toxin it will be difficult to ask them to look for it. Occasionally the symptoms will give us a high suspicion of a toxic exposure and we will discover the offending product. If we do not have a clear idea of what the poison is we will treat the clinical symptoms and hope the body can clear the poison. Medications to control the seizures along with fluid therapy and activated charcoal are standard treatments for many suspected poisons that cause seizures. The need to start treatment immediately to reduce clinical symptoms is crucial. Yet if we did not see the pet consume the poison we do not know about its negative effects until the clinical symptoms begin to occur. Recently I discovered a common product used in humans called 5-fluorouracil is extremely toxic to dogs and cats if accidentally consumed. Within 30 minutes of chewing on the tube the dogs start to have seizures and die. If you know of anyone on this product please share this article with them to raise awareness of the risk this has to pets. Even licking this cream can cause toxicity in pets:

5-fluorouracil: Lifesaving for one species, deadly for othersveterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/5-fluorouracil-lifesaving-one-species-deadly-others

Congenital seizures can stem from Portosystemic shunts(PSS) in pets. These liver shunts direct the blood away from the liver. Surgeries are available to correct the shunt and stop the seizures caused by it. These seizures can be caused by hydrocephalus or more commonly called “water on the brain” in young pets. This condition has varying degrees of clinical symptoms but seizures can be seen in severe cases. Certain breeds are more prone to these conditions.

Traumatic injuries at anytime in a pets life can lead to seizure activity. Pets fall down stairs, then get hit in the head by large objects, they are hit by cars, they run into objects with their heads, etc. Any of these situations can potentially lead to seizures. Some will have their first seizure at the time of the injury. Others do not start them until later in life. I was hit in the forehead with a baseball and most likely had a concussion. That could lead to issues for me in the future. There is no way to know what may develop in the future when the brain has been injured.

Medical conditions of the of the brain and even some within the body can have seizures as possible side effects.  The list is endless but I feel as a whole the human and veterinary medical teams are learning more every day about the brain and how to treat some of these medical conditions.

After all of this information you may be asking yourself, “What can we do if a pet has a seizure?” First and most important, stay calm and move the pet carefully to a safe area. Do not stick your hand in the pets mouth or attempt to hold their tongue. They will not choke or swallow their tongue. The actual seizure is often short. The seizure can be mild and just be a pet staring off into the air and not responding to your voice. Maybe an ear will be twitching or an eyelid. They are still and unresponsive. The seizure could be a full blown grand mal like seizure where the animal is on its side rigid and paddling, having irregular breathing, drooling, unresponsive, it may pee or poop or both during the episode. After the seizure is over the pet has a stage called the postictal period where they are confused, uncoordinated in their movements, hungry, thirsty, exhausted, etc. This may last longer than the actual seizure but your pet will recover 100% if given time.

Please notify your veterinarian if you suspect your pet had a seizure. Treatment is not always begun at the first sign of a seizure. If the seizure was mild and they are infrequent then you may be encouraged to wait to start medications. It is important to let your veterinarian know if there are any concerns about poisons or infections that may have caused the seizure. If you have had a history of trauma with your pet you should share that information with your veterinarian. The recommendation on when to begin medication is varied between practices. It is best to speak with your veterinarian so you can discuss options available. Blood work is required to begin seizure medication and also annual exams.

Pets can live normal lives with seizures being controlled by medications for a number of years. Some activities seem to lead to seizures for some pets. Good record keeping can be helpful in determining the proper way to treat your pet. There are new diets and medications available to help maintain a good quality of life. If you have concerns about whether your pet is needing medication for seizures contact your veterinarian for more information.

Hype About CBD Oil Use in Pets

In recent months more questions are being asked about using Cannabidiol (CBD) oil in pets for different aliments. I want to start by defining these substances to avoid confusion for pet owners. The two plants that are being grown are called cannabis(marijuana) and hemp. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the hallucinogenic property that differentiates between these two plants. If the plant has more than 0.3% THC in it, that plant is considered cannabis(marijuana) and is illegal in Iowa. If that plant has less than 0.3% THC it is considered hemp. Hemp oil comes from the seeds of the hemp plant. The hemp oil has been called a superfood and has a nutty flavor. It has been used in cooking, soaps, and lotions. CBD oil comes from the flowers, leaves, and stem of the hemp plant. CBD oil is used for its medicinal properties. The current Iowa law allows for medical use of CBD oil for certain aliments in humans but not in animals.

These oils are considered supplements not prescriptions. CBD oils made from hemp and containing less than .3% THC will not have any mind altering effects. The source you get your supplement from must be researched since some products contain “whole hemp extract” not CBD oil. Those products may not contain any CBD oil at all and be completely legal to sell to consumers. We all have heard how unregulated the human supplement market is and these hemp products are no different. BUYER BE AWARE.

In 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law that legalized cultivating and producing industrial hemp containing less than 0.3% THC at institutions of higher learning and State Departments of Agriculture. Since it is legal at the federal level each state must now decide what its regulations will be and how and when to enforce those laws. With this bill in place more research can be done on the health and wellness benefits of these hemp plants. As veterinarians we look forward to the day when we are given clear details on our right and responsibility of prescribing and dispensing these products. Until that day we can discuss the potential benefits being seen within the pet industry, but in Iowa we are not allowed to sell or prescribe the CBD oils.

All mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) with receptors built in to interact with cannabinoids naturally produced by the brain but also those derived from plants. When the CBD oils are supplemented to dogs and cats one can see benefits such as:

DOGS

  • Pain Killer
  • Anti-cancer Effects
  • Antiemetic

CATS

  • Appetite Stimulation
  • GI Tract Issues
  • Asthma

BOTH

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Anxiety/stress reliever

Looking at this list one would get the impression that this plant may fix all our pets health issues. This is far from the truth but it certainly indicates that once regulations are removed we may be seeing a steady increase in the use of CBD oil supplements by pet owners. Some veterinarians within the USA are already using these products in a large number of health conditions and I know CBD oils will eventually be encouraged in daily practice. Since there are still legal hurdles in all states around the use of these products you must stay tuned as we continue to learn more about these products in the human and animal markets.

I spoke with a representative at the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association (IVMA) about prescribing CBD oils. He indicated that the use of CBD oils in all 50 states is illegal in animals at this time. Whether a seller or prescriber of CBD oils is prosecuted is currently a gray zone. At Winterset Veterinary Center we have chosen to wait until more direction is given on the use of the CBD oils in private practice. For each of the above named benefits there are numerous other traditional treatments available to cure or relieve pain and suffering in our patients. We will continue to monitor developments on this hot topic and will keep you informed. Our main concern is the health of our patients and safety of all products that are recommended or prescribed. If you would like more information about this topic feel free to contact me for the information that I received from the IVMA. We welcome your thoughts and comments about this blog or any others that you may have an interest in.

Technology and Veterinary Medicine

In 1988 when I graduated from ISU College of Veterinary Medicine, I never knew how much change would occur in the area of technology. Computers were not a household item. We had just started to see VCR’s in most homes. Cell phones were nonexistent and not even a figment of our imagination. Most classes were taught with a projector and class notes printed out and placed in a binder to study. We still purchased text books and carried them with us to classes. Post offices and home rotary phones were the primary way to communicate with family and friends. It seems like this was only yesterday but also amazing what advances we have seen in the last 30 years.

When considering technology, I feel we are far better off with many of the modern advances but also feel we have lost some of the common courtesies of the past. I would hate to write out all of my notes on a typewriter or place them on hand written cards. Invoices that calculate sales tax are quick and easy with our software. Ordering products online to restock our shelves allows us to see immediately if a product is unavailable. Having clients receive text messages or emails has been a great addition to our reminder system for our patients and their preventative health needs. To even consider returning to the ways of the past gets my head spinning knowing how difficult tasks would be without computers.

In the past few years, our continuing education sessions have started including discussions on how to get the most out of social media sites for a veterinary practice. These sessions are insightful and offer lots of ideas on how to attract more clients to Winterset Veterinary Center. This monthly blog was one of the ideas that was shared about 3 years ago. Having a presence on the web was important and necessary to continue to attract new business and retain the current business. Phone books were no longer a good place to advertise since everyone seems to be looking up phone numbers on the web or they have the number stored in their phone. Whoever would have thought that phone books would no longer be needed.

Here is where I start to have a little concern when it comes to technology and information. The number of times I see or talk with people that have already sought out information from “DR GOOGLE” raises my eyebrows. It leaves me wondering at what point a practice like Winterset Veterinary Center will no longer be standing because we have already seen Doctors of human medicine and veterinary medicine diagnosing cases through computer portals. This seems like a great way to reduce cost and allow anyone and everyone access to affordable care. Yet removing the opportunity to place hands on a patient to assess the physical findings removes a large part of our diagnostics. The physical exam is the most important part of our evaluation. It gives us the direction needed to start our diagnostics and come to a diagnosis. Without that exam we are just guessing at what might be the cause.

We are seeing more and more clients choosing to order products online. The difficulty with this is that dogs and cats change weight classes and environments so what products are needed to prevent diseases constantly changes. Just because a product was used last year does not make it the best product to use this year. Lifestyles of the pets are constantly evolving and so without the help of your veterinarian you may be missing some key elements in prevention and thereby cause exposure to diseases and parasites that you were not even aware existed. The number of products that are available to chose from can be confusing and misunderstood for many clients. These are all important things to consider prior to ordering online. We as veterinarians are wanting to keep your pets safe and protected from internal and external parasites with the best products available to date. These products are changing constantly so do yourself a favor and ask your veterinarian what would be best for your fur baby. Buy local and keep your pets protected with the newest and most effective products.

Social media sites have shown to be helpful when finding business that offer services you are in need of. We have a website and a Facebook page currently. It is always nice to see when someone likes our page, a picture, or a blog that has been posted. We can track the activity and see the demographics of who is visiting our sites. The challenge with these sites is when an unhappy client wants to trash a business by telling only their side of the story. In the past if someone had a concern, they took their issues right to the source and together found a way to resolve the conflict. Now it seems people want to air their differences on these sites and it becomes a place where everyone shares their grievances as well. The negatives of social media on the lives of individuals and businesses can be detrimental. Numerous times lives are destroyed or worse ended because of words on social media.

Maybe we need to think carefully about what we write on these sites. If we would not be willing to say these words directly to the business or person, then maybe we should not write them online. Maybe we should consider speaking directly about the problem to the business or person and as in the “good old” days come to a conclusion together on how to resolve the issue. We need to remember to be kind when dealing with people. Everyone has a story and things happening in their lives unknown to us. We need to treat others as we want to be treated. If we all could use more gentleness and kindness in our daily lives what a better world this would be.

We love to see the positive reviews that are left on our Facebook page. We hope that our posts offer some important information. We appreciate all the times people share the found dogs or dogs up for adoption so we can help find their Forever Families. We are grateful we can now text or email clients with reminders and results. All in all, technology has been a positive addition to Veterinary Medicine. Let’s try to remember that relationships are important and we want to continue to serve our clients and their furry friends for years to come. We cannot do that without seeing you come through our doors. The relationships we make with our clients and their pets is what makes our days at Winterset Veterinary Center worthwhile.

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