Some dogs with epilepsy exhibit changes in physical behaviour or mental ability. Despite this, it is encouraged to provide your dog with mental stimulation (e.g., try intelligent or smart dog toys), physical exercise and a calm environment.

Behavioural changes

Behaviour changes can be seen in the pre-ictal and post-ictal phases (before and after a seizure). For some pets, they may display behaviour changes between seizures in the interictal period.

Epileptic dogs may exhibit greater signs of fear/anxiety, defensive aggression (likely secondary to anxiety) and abnormal perceptions of their environment (such as chasing shadows, barking for no reason, walking aimlessly). This can happen in dogs that are treated and untreated and is therefore not considered to be a side effect of the medication.

You may also notice some behavioural changes during the first few weeks of treatment such as lethargy, increased thirst and appetite. These are likely to be related to the treatment but should subside after the first few weeks.

Cognitive changes

Scientists have very recently discovered that canine epilepsy can affect cognitive ability, with a syndrome similar to Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (similar to Alzheimer’s Disease in humans). Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is more commonly diagnosed in older dogs but epileptic dogs are at greater risk of developing a cognitive disorder when young. If you have any concerns regarding this then consult your vet.

How to help your dog

Fortunately, there are lots of behavioural support options available for your dog. These include; veterinary advice, qualified behaviourists (see the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors), nutraceuticals, behavioural aids, pheromone products and prescription medications.

For further information and advice specific to your pet, please speak to your vet who can either provide direct advice or refer you to a qualified behaviourist.