These are the chronicles of two Shetland Sheepdogs and their adventures in rally-o, obedience, flyball, agility, tracking and therapy dog work.
Also including information on raw feeding, canine epilepsy, positive training, and lots and lots of Sheltie hair!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Phenobarbital and Ketogenic Diet

It's been a long couple of nights. Gio went nearly 3 months seizure free (no where near our previous record of 11 months), but Thursday night and Friday night he had some more seizures. Grand mals again, but not as bad as they have been in the past. Seizures, none the less, though. It appears as if this pattern of cluster seizures (more than one seizure in a 24 hour period) is continuing, unfortunately.

After the second seizure last night, I didn't want to sit back and wait. Normally, if there is just one break-through seizure, I wouldn't worry about going to the vet. Break-through seizures are somewhat normal and to be expected now and then. But with two seizures, the start of a new cluster, I wasn't about to take the risk. So I called my new vet this morning and spoke with her on the phone. I felt that it is likely time to introduce phenobarbital to Gio's medication regime, and she agreed with me. So Gio is now on 224mg Potassium Bromide twice daily, 0.15mg Thyroxine twice daily, and 30mg Phenobarbital twice daily. In a month's time, I will take him in for some bloodwork to see where the levels of each medication are at. I will likely be able to decrease the Potassium Bromide and Phenobarbital levels, as when they are given together lower doses of each are generally sufficient.

For more information on Phenobarbital, check out the Epi-Guardian Angels website. There are numerous links there on administration and monitoring of Phenobarbital, as well as potential side effects and preventing liver damage.

Common side effects of Phenobarbital are similar to those that we saw with Potassium Bromide. Lethargy, excitability, excessive hunger, excessive thirst (and subsequent excessive urination), and ataxia. All of these side effects should deminish within the first few weeks of administration. Since the half life of Phenobarbital is shorter than that of Potassium Bromide, he should reach therapeutic levels within a month.

My vet, who is a proponent of natural and holistic medicine, in addition to being well versed in conventional medicine, also suggested that I research a Ketogenic diet (Keto diet) for Gio. The Keto diet works on the basis of forcing the body to gain its energy from fat instead of from carbohydrates. This increases levels of ketones in the bloodstream and has shown to have very beneficial effects on epilepsy in children (decreasing epileptic activity by upwards of 67% in children tested). The benefits are somewhat less solid in dogs, but the concept is promising. The diet is made up of mainly fat and protein, with minimal or no carbohydrates. As it is, that is essentially what the prey model raw diet strives for. I'm thinking that I should be able to continue on with the raw diet as I am currently feeding it, but switching to fattier cuts of meat, more pork, etc. Of course, I plan to do much more research into the diet and playing around with some numbers to ensure balance before I make any diet changes. If any readers have information on the Keto diet, I would be very appreciative if you would pass it on to me!


Casper and pals said...

Oh Gio!

No more seizures ok? It worries our people.

Momma's first dog Sandy used to have grand mal seizures too. And Sandy took Phenobarb too. It really cut down on the number of seizures that she had.

We hope you like your new keto diet!

maria pitpit said...


I saw your post regarding Clover and her fly biting and followed your blog about Gio. I told the Sheltie rescue group a few months ago when I first saw Clover's fly biting video and circling that it was pychomotor seizures that could eventually become full blown seizures.

I'm sorry to hear about Gio. I just lost my beautiful Sheltie boy, Chewie, to epilepsy on 8/2/08.
He would have been 4 yrs old on Christmas and I miss him dearly.

Chewie had seizures from the time he was six months, only back then I never witnessed them and they weren't frequent. I didn't even realize they were ocurring until I witnessed the grand mal seizures and clusters in his 3rd year when they became progressively worse.

After endless nights of research and monthly visits to the emergency hospital due to phenobarbital breakthroughs, we had to add sodium bromide to Chewie's medication because he would build a tolerance to the phenobarbitol every month to six weeks like clockwork and end up in emergency due to cluster seizures.

What I regret and found out seven months after Chewie started phenobarbitol was that a tolerance to phenobarbitol is common because it's a barbituate, thus stronger doses have to be added causing liver problems and it's almost impossible to reduce the dosage/ween them off of it because it is a barbituate that dogs become addicted to and reducing the dosage causes seizures due to withdrawal.

Once Chewie was placed on sodium bromide, he was seizure free for six months. The longest he has ever gone seizure free considering he was in emergency rooms every month due to cluster seizures from phenobarbitol tolerance breakthroughs.

Unfortunately, the high doses of phenobarbitol really took it's toll on Chewie's liver despite the expensive liver regeneration medication he was taking to try and counteract the damage.

If Gio starts to build a tolerance to the phenobarbitol, pls consider speaking to your doctor about sodium bromide. I truly believe that if his first specialist placed him solely on sodium bromide to begin with, he never would have continued to have cluster breakthroughs monthly and his liver would have been fine because sodium bromide isn't processed by the liver and it's not an addictive barbituate.

I also went grain free high protein and fat diet for Chewie and added one hard boiled egg daily to his diet because it has a good amount of taurine which is beneficial to epileptics.

As a holistic approach, I also added Enzymes Pro Plus to their meals to help cleanse, detoxify and strengthen his immune system. His liver testing results actually improved after adding it to his meals and the white hair from the stress induced by his seizures actually went away and there was a dramatic difference in his coat. I continue the grain free diet with my two corgis with the added enzymes pro plus and eggs and there is a remarkable difference in their health, energy, coat and their arthritis seems to have gone away.

I think you might find the following links interesting and helpful. I didn't purchase anything except the Enzymes Pro Plus and I got it at PetCo, not the internet. If you have the time, please read the information. It really opened my eyes to my dogs' health and longevity and I hope the information helps. Kisses to your beatiful Shelties. I can't imagine life without ever having another Sheltie to share it with. They are truly angels.

Links: (the part about grains and phytates in dog food is an eye opener0 (ingredients and their purpose is great) (why grain is bad for your dogs and the premise for high protein and high fat diet)

GeeRome said...

Thanks for the info. My guys are already on a grain free diet (prey model raw). Gio started on Potassium Bromide (same thing as Sodium Bromide except the mineral binding it is different, acts the same way as Bromide is the active anti-epileptic). He's broken through KBr and thyroxine already, so phenobarbital is the next option. I am aware of the importance of testing and monitoring already, but thanks for the concern.

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