by Dr. Shawn Messonnier
People often seek out a holistic veterinarian due to concerns about conventional medications. One new client recently inquired about her 3-year-old female poodle diagnosed with epilepsy last year. The traditional veterinarian’s prescription for phenobarbital was helping to control the seizures, but the owner questioned the long-term consequences of feeding her pet the drug for the rest of its life. Surely, she thought, there must be a natural alternative.
There are many causes for canine seizures, with epilepsy being the most common. Epilepsy is the term used when the cause is unknown, so testing is needed to ensure other factors are not present. These might include toxicities, especially in younger dogs and puppies (may include vaccines); brain tumors, more common in older dogs and certain breeds such as boxers and Boston terriers; infections, as in meningitis, or immune disorders such as the neurologic disease granulomatous meningoencephalitis, or GME; parasites, including aberrant heartworms; and regional diseases such as tick-borne illnesses like Lyme or ehrlichiosis.
Common testing includes a physical examination, food hypersensitivity and blood tests, tick serology, urine, fecal and cerebrospinal fluid analyses and a brain scan, which is usually a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Not all tests are needed on all pets because the veterinarian will rule out issues during the process.
If other causes are ruled out and the problem is labeled as epilepsy, phenobarbital can be helpful, although side effects can occur as a result, including liver disease. In every case, the animal should be examined at least two to four times a year for possible complications from the drug, starting with a blood profile and urinalysis. It’s always best to supplement such treatment with natural remedies to help protect the liver, including milk thistle and choline.
Alternatively, natural therapies don’t usually lead to side effects or require the same intense regimen of regular evaluation. Patients have experienced good results with phosphatidylcholine, which works to stabilize brain cell membranes, and so reduce and prevent seizures, while also providing detoxification support for the liver. Phosphatidylcholine supplements are also used to prevent and treat another common neurological problem in pets—cognitive disorder (akin to Alzheimer’s in humans).
Dimethylglycine supplementation aids in treating seizures, as well. It both supports the nervous system and provides energy to the body’s cells.
Herbs, including valerian, passionflower, kava, gastrodia (tian ma), uncaria (gou teng), ostrea concha (mu li) and buthus martensi (quan xie), can also be helpful. Because they can be powerful natural medicines that could interact with each other and with prescription medicines, use them only under veterinary supervision.
Homeopathic remedies are also widely incorporated into natural treatments of seizures such as tinctures of stramonium and belladonna. A twice-daily homeopathic detoxification treatment for pets experiencing seizures from any cause, using berberis, nux vomica and lymphomyosot, is recommended, as well.
Due to the overwhelming success of using natural therapies for pets with epilepsy here at Paws & Claws Animal Hospital, most do not need to rely on medications for the problem. Those pets that arrive on a regimen of strong anticonvulsant drugs are slowly weaned off of them, resulting in improved health, lower vet bills and better control of recovery. Most never have another seizure as long as they stay on the natural therapy protocol prescribed.
Shawn Messonnier, a doctor of veterinary medicine practicing in Plano, TX, is the award-winning author of The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats and Unexpected Miracles: Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets. Visit PetCareNaturally.com.