Your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy and is receiving anti-epileptics prescribed by your veterinarian, here is how you can adjust his diet and provide the best dog food for seizures.
How to feed a dog that is receiving antiepileptics?
Antiepileptics often cause an increase in your dog’s appetite which can cause him to gain weight. To satiate him without making him gain weight, you can give him food that is rich in protein and low in fat. For example, give your dog kibbles intended for weight loss, or add vegetables, such as green beans, as much as you want to his ration. In addition, some antiepileptics are sensitive to variations in salt content, so it is advisable to give them a stable diet, and never change the diet of an epileptic dog on treatment without a properly planned transition.
What to supplement my epileptic dog with?
Your veterinarian can advise you on the complementary nutrients and suggest what’s most suitable for your epileptic dog.
The fatty acids of the long-chain omega-3 family may be part of the balanced diet of a dog with epilepsy. DHA, from fish (or algae) is particularly beneficial for the brain. Fish oils in capsules should always be used because the oil is protected from oxidation and they should be stored in the fridge. Pump bottles which leave oil in contact with oxygen should be avoided.
Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which represent an alternative energy source to glucose for neurons. It is these MCFAs which are used in purified form in the kibble formulated especially for epileptic dogs. These kibbles, used in dogs on antiepileptic treatment, are believed to reduce the frequency of seizures in 2 out of 3 cases. However, coconut oil and purified MCFAs can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramps. They are to be used with moderation.
We currently do not have any efficacy or safety data on the use of CBD in dogs. Studies are underway but until valid conclusions are reached this type of supplement is not recommended for dogs with epilepsy.
Best dog food for seizures: Is the ketogenic diet recommended?
We hear in humans of the ketogenic diet or diet for the management of epileptic seizures. In animals, its effectiveness has never been proven and no study has shown a link between an ingredient (which could be removed or added) and a reduction or disappearance of seizures.
The ketogenic diet consists of a program that drastically reduces the intake of proteins and carbohydrates to provide energy mainly in the form of lipids and create a state of ketosis i.e. production of ketone bodies by the liver which will be used as an energy source (instead of glucose) by the main organs. This regimen is sometimes recommended in children who are resistant to any other treatment for epilepsy or for whom the side effects of chemical drugs are too severe. Strict medical monitoring is necessary.
The risks of a ketogenic diet in animals are numerous: dietary deficiencies, nutritional imbalance, pancreatitis, intestinal disorders, obesity, etc. Not to mention the fact that the phenobarbital often used to treat epilepsy already induces an increase in the level of triglycerides (a form of fat) in the blood, associated with a diet providing 80 to 90% fat, and can have serious consequences.
Best dog food for seizures: a change in diet must be properly managed
Diet plays a role in the effectiveness of antiepileptic drugs. Any change in diet can have an influence on the effectiveness of drugs given to the dog to control the seizures.
Studies have shown that the levels of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and other nutrients affect the half-life of these molecules in the body (the time that the molecule remains in the blood). The pH of the urine should also be taken into consideration as any diet that alkalizes or acidifies the urine can have consequences on the effectiveness of the treatment.
For example, if a dog is treated with potassium bromide, care must be taken not to design a diet too rich in chlorine (contained in salt among others). Indeed, the bioavailability and therefore the effectiveness of bromide is reduced by a diet rich in chlorine (renal elimination of bromide is increased). It is therefore important that the chlorine composition of the diet is reasonable and stable, in order to avoid fluctuations in the serum bromide concentration.
Thus, it is well understood that any change in diet can have an impact in the control of seizures. A faster elimination of the molecule can lead to the reappearance of seizures, a longer half-life of the molecule in the body can crate an effect of drug overdose (lethargic animal for example or gastrointestinal disturbances). This does not mean, of course, that dietary changes for your dog is not recommended, but it is better to discuss it with your veterinarian so that he can monitor the effects, possibly adjust the drug and adapt the treatment to the need to the current situation.
The weight of the epileptic dog must be closely monitored
In considering the best dog food for seizures, it is also very important that the animal with epilepsy has an ideal and stable weight. This is because being overweight or underweight can alter the effectiveness of the treatment.
Most antiepileptics often cause an increase in the animal’s appetite (usually at the start of treatment). You must therefore be careful not to assume your dog needs more food to stay healthy. If your dog really has a difficult time managing its appetite, don’t hesitate to seek advice from your veterinarian. He can recommend low-calorie, high-fiber foods to add to your dog’s daily ration to appropriately feed him.
Omega 3s for dogs with epilepsy?
Numerous studies highlight the many benefits provided by omega 3 fatty acids, especially on the human brain and its development. In epileptic rats, protective effects on neurological tissue have been shown, possibly due to their anti-inflammatory effects. As mentioned above, it may be possible (but has yet to be proven) that omega 3s provides the same type of beneficial effect in dogs and cats. In addition, fatty acids omega-3 aces are known to help lower triglyceride levels in the blood.
There is no doubt that a dog with epilepsy must have a stable and high-quality diet. In evaluating the best dog food for seizures it’s important to consider premium quality kibble, typically sold by veterinaries. Another sound approach is to prepare household food for your dog, provided you have the time. If so, please take the time to run the diet you are considering by your veterinarian to validate the nutritional balance in your dog’s daily ration.