BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS AFTER A SEIZURE
There are a lot of chemical and electrical changes in the brain when a dog has a seizure. The more severe a seizure, the more changes. Your dog could be temporally blind, not recognize you or their surroundings, be disoriented, growl at everyone, forget their commands or other strange behavior. This is just a temporary condition that will go away in time with your patience and understanding of the situation. The following are stories of dogs that had severe seizures and then behavioral problems which went away in time. Their owners wanted to share their stories with you so that you understand that these problems are only temporary...
Joanne Carson, Ph.D.
Steve and Norton
Norton just recently turned nine, and has had seizures since he was two and a half. He almost always clusters, and sometimes has 25 or more over the course of three or four days. When Norton has these really bad episodes, he forgets all his commands, and even forgets that he is house broken. I'm always besides myself with fear, and am sure that he'll never bounce back. He's proven me wrong every single time. Slowly but surely (and don't call me Shirley), he turns into his old self. It usually takes a few days, but he's always regained his old form. It's important to be patient, and you'll be amazed at their resilience.
Crystal and Woody
After Woody had a cluster of Grand Mals, I was thrilled to be picking him up to bring him home. As I saw him and started talking to him, he just sat there looking at me as if I were a total stranger. I think he would have gone home with anyone that day, because I was no more familiar to him than anyone else. He also didn't recognize my car, or the fact that we get into the car. He seemed very scared and confused.
Once we got home, he crept around the house very slowly, bumping into things and sniffing everything. Then he stuck his whole head into the garbage can with me standing right there. He never gets into my trash. And when I yelled, it had no effect on him...head still in the garbage can, like he didn't even hear me. Then he went upstairs and started drinking from the toilet...Again, this is a dog that has Never done that in his life.
My vet did tell me to expect some odd behavior until his body got used to the Pb. In a week he got better, and about two weeks he was back to himself. He still refuses to believe me when I tell him the things he did. LOL! When he clusters, and regains consciousness, he will look at me kind of alarmed, like who are you? And it isn't until I get close enough for him to smell me that he will wag his tail. And yes, after every episode, he has to go through the house and re associate himself with EVERYTHING. He sniffs the couch, the floor the lamps you, name it. And for a brief period of time he does seem to forget the rules. But so far, this only seems to last a few hours. Please don't be alarmed.
The dogs know something very weird has happened to them, but they aren't aware of what it is. They are scared, confused and sometimes blind right after a seizure. If they can't see us, no wonder they growl or do not respond. Have patience, and as long as there is no risk of being bitten, let the dog get your scent. Woody recognizes me through smell, even when the sound of my voice doesn't work.
Debbie and Leo Collie
When we brought Leo home after his clusters (more than 12 in 18 hours), he recognized us, but clearly didn't remember commands. He could barely walk. We needed to be very patient with him and go over his commands very slowly. In fact, Phenobarbital caused some behavior problems. While most folks say that a dog will gradually get used to Pb, Leo was pretty much a zombie for a little over 4 weeks - more like a sable rug than a collie. He probably slept more than 22 hours a day, he was hard to wake up, he couldn't run, he couldn't jump up on the couch or the bed (both are allowed in our house), if I tried to perk him up by going for a walk, he could barely walk to the corner without seeming exhausted. Where he'd been exuberant before, he didn't get up to greet people. Friends who knew him were horrified at what he was like. Needless to say, I was incredibly depressed - this was no life for my fuzzy boy.
At the beginning of the fifth week, we switched from Thyroxine to Soloxine (thank-you Joanne!). Within 24 hours, Leo was back! He was perky, much less ataxic, greeted people, wagged his tail - pretty much a total transformation. He became a bit feisty, demanding attention, complaining at the kids when they came home from school that they shouldn't have left him behind. While he had less stamina than before, we've been reducing his Pb bit by bit - so far with no seizures - and no one but the family would know now that he has just a bit less energy than before. And that's not necessarily a bad thing! He remembers commands he learned before the clusters, including ones we haven't done for months. Recounting this story makes me realize yet again how lucky we were to come under the wings of the Guardian Angels.
Pat and Amber
Amber has been seizing since the day we brought her home from the breeders and always clustered, sometimes for up to 4-6 days. Amber was on so much medication at an early age that she lost the knowledge of her surroundings and at three months lost what house-breaking she had learned. My vet of 29 years said Amber is the worse case he ever saw and is amazed she is still here.
We worked constantly with her and just kept the faith. For nine months I did not sleep in my bed but on the floor watching her sleep. It seemed impossible at times, especially when she went into status six times and I was told to think about arrangements, as the vets didn't think her little body had the strength to make it 24 hours. I still never gave up. Even though she was out cold, I knew she could hear me. I told her how much I loved her and what a beautiful spirit she had and how much she had taught me. We always had an unspoken connection, and I prayed and cried my eyes out. The next day the vet called me amazed at how much better she was and asked me what I had done. I told him I loved her with all my heart, beyond words. Most importantly you have to be aware of them and their needs whether they are conscious or not. Talk to them. They can hear you and don't let anyone tell you different. That's when they need most to hear your voice. And touch them as much as possible.
You have to be patient and let their system work it out within themselves. It's a lot of work, as they need a lot of support and patience. They can be brought back from the abyss.
Kathy and Pepper - Miniature Schnauzer
On March 28, 2001 Pepper had, at the age of 3.5 years, his first of many Grand Mal seizures. For about 5-6 hours prior to the actual seizure, Pepper had severe symptoms that I did not realize were pointing to the upcoming seizures. He began by becoming very agitated and nervous. From that, he started running through the house. Normal running gave way to hysterical running, which for all intents and purposes was caused by his seemingly not knowing where he was, who we were, nor being able to see whatever it was that was chasing him. (Someone has aptly described this particular trait as "all the hounds of hell" chasing, and only they can see...) By this time, Pepper was foaming at the mouth- his entire beard (he's a mini schnauzer) was dripping wet, his eyes were only what I can describe as seeming to be "wild," pupils were dilated, his whole body was tensed, breathing was rapid and labored, any attempt by myself to soothe, touch, or talk to him was answered with growls, aggressive posturing, and plain old "I don't trust you" behaviors which broke my heart.
Pepper "collapsed" (finally) from exhaustion on the rug in our living room and seemed to be "getting back to normal." About twenty minutes later, the official Grand Mal seizure struck and lasted for well over a minute. Later, when he came back to himself, he still did not know who I was- but, rather than being aggressive towards me, he was very frightened, submissive, smelling me to find out if "I was going to hurt him anymore" or so it appeared to me who once more had my heart broken...To think that my "I'll protect you from the world Mommy, Don't worry- I won't let anybody get through me to you!" precious little Pepper didn't know me was almost more than I could bear.
As a result of this seizure, and the ones
which followed during his original cluster, Pepper would have fleeting moments of knowing
me, but for the most part he did not. This cluster caused Pepper to have to stay in the
Emergency Animal Clinic for almost a week. For several days after bringing him home,
he still did not know any of us. After that, I think he remembered us merely as "the
people who brought him home." Finally, he slowly did regain his memories of us, and
commands, and favorite toys, and home; not all at once, and in no apparent order, but they
did return. It was one of the best days I've had since this horrid journey began- the day
that I knew Pepper knew us, and that we had not "done" this to him.