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Pet Epilepsy

  • Dear Readers,

    Welcome to the December 2017 issue of TotalHealth Magazine Online.

    Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, in "Exposing Big Fat Lies," gives readers a reality check on "Eat Fat Lose Weight, How Smart Fat Cells Reset Fat Cells To Slim." From the expert, read on.

    Dallas Clouatre's, PhD, article, "Benefits Of The "Mushroom Vitamin," discusses the Ergothioneine, an amino acid that is relatively abundant in certain mushrooms, currently is being proposed by a number of scientists as the latest new vitamin.

    This is part one of a two-part series on coenzyme Q10, "Coenzyme Q10: The Miracle Nutrient," by Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN and William V. Judy, PhD. The authors give the history of its discovery, how important the discovery for heart health, blood pressure, its relation to statins, and more. It is a must read for everyone. Next month the authors cover CoQ10 use with cancer and additional illness and as an anti-aging nutrient.

    "The (Piano) Keys To Fibromyalgia Pain Relief," Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, explains the benefit of music for fibromyalgia sufferers and has one artist's CD that he recommends.

    Elson Haas, MD, in this month's article, "The Health Continuum," emphasizes Lifestyle Medicine. "I want to teach and support people to go beyond recovering from whatever problem they came to see me about, as well as learn something relevant about not repeating their illness. I want them to progress along what I call the Health Continuum towards their own Optimal Health."

    Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG), introduction to "Blueberry Leaf & Weight Loss," states "there are many dietary supplement strategies that can be used to support and promote your weight loss efforts in the gym and while you're dieting. Rarely can you find a dietary supplement ingredient that approaches the issue of weight loss from an entirely new angle."

    Gloria Gilbère's, "Christmas & New Year's Culinary Traditions...South American Style," includes a bird's eye view of the holiday customs with four recipes which incorporate the culinary traditions of the area in Cotacachi, Ecuador, S.A.

    Shawn Messonnier, DVM, consults this month on, "Kava Kava For Epilepsy In Pets." Reminding us to always consult with our veterinarian before supplementing our pets' diet.

    In "The Ancient Wisdom of Ayurveda," Jonathan Glass, MAc, CAT, explains the history and how it is used today to support body, mind and soul, protect health, prevent disease, restore lost health, and increase awareness. These intentions are pursued within the context of fulfilling our dharma, or essential life purpose.

    Sherrill Sellman, ND, discusses the worldwide addiction to all things WIFI in "Solutions to Protect You From Our WIFI World" . Learn about the dangers to our health and things you can do to protect yourself and your family from EMFs.

    Best in health,

    TWIP The Wellness Imperative People

    Click here to read the full December issue.

    Click here to read the full December issue.

  • Kava, a member of the pepper family, is well known for its use as a sedating herb due to its kavalactone and other chemicals. One of the most active of these is dihydrokavain, which has been found to produce a sedative, painkilling, and anticonvulsant effect. Other kavalactones include kavain, methysticin, and dihydromethysticin.

    Therapeutic Uses of Lava in Pets
    Kava can be used in place of chemical tranquilizers and may be helpful for pets with epilepsy. The effects appear to occur by action on the limbic center of the brain or the amygdala, different from the actions of enzodiazepenes (such as diazepam), opioids, and nonsteroidal medications. Suggested actions include modulating of neurotransmitters including GABA, MAO, dopamine, and 5-HT. Unlike other sedatives, kava does not appear to interfere with motor function or cause a depression of mental function.

    Kava also exhibits analgesic properties in a manner unlike other traditional pain-relieving medications. Kava, unlike other sedatives, does not lose effectiveness with time (a condition called tolerance that can be seen with some sedating medications). Kava also shows muscle-relaxing properties that are superior to the benzodiazepenes. Finally, kava may prove useful during the recovery period following brain injury (similar to the proposed use in stroke patients).

    Safety Issues
    Kava kava can be toxic to the liver in excess. Do not use in pets with liver disease. Do not use in pregnant animals. Little is known about its safety in pets, although it appears to be safe when used as directed by veterinarians. It is not recommended for long-term use. Typical products are standardized to 29 to 31 percent kavalactones. Excess use can cause liver disease. Use of kava may potentiate anesthetics and other sedatives. In people, excessive use of high doses of kava beverages causes kava dermatitis. For people, the Commission E monograph recommends using kava for no more the three months.

    When used appropriately, kava appears to be safe. Animal studies have shown dosages of up to four times that of normal cause no problems at all, and 13 times the normal dosage causes only mild problems in rats. A study of 4049 people who took a low dose of kava (70 mg of kavalactones daily) for seven weeks found side effects in 1.5 percent of cases. These were mostly mild gastrointestinal complaints and allergic rashes. A four-week study of 3029 individuals given 240 mg of kavalactones daily showed a 2.3 percent incidence of basically the same side effects. However, long-term use (months to years) of kava in excess of 400 mg kavalactones per day can create a distinctive generalized dry, scaly rash. It disappears promptly when the kava use stops.

    The German Commission E monograph warns against the use of kava during pregnancy and nursing. Kava should not be taken along with prescription tranquilizers or sedatives, or other depressant drugs as there have been reports of coma caused by such combinations. Kava can also cause severe drowsiness when combined with hypnotic drugs. Kava might increase blood-clotting time. Safety in young children and those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established. Similar precautions in pets are probably warranted.

    If your pet is taking drugs in the benzodiazepine family, switching to kava will be very hard. You must seek a doctor's supervision, because in people, withdrawal symptoms can be severe and even life threatening. It's easier to make the switch from milder anti-anxiety drugs, such as BuSpar and antidepressants. Nonetheless, a doctor's supervision is still strongly advised.

  • Epilepsy is the name given to seizural disorders in dogs and cats for which there is no identifiable cause. Primary epilepsy is the result of functional cerebral disturbances without obvious causes other than a possible hereditary predisposition.

    For a diagnosis of epilepsy to be made, other causes of seizures (including poisoning, infection, tumors, and cranial trauma) must be ruled out through diagnostic testing. While true epilepsy can occur in pets of any age, most commonly dogs and cats with epilepsy begin demonstrating seizures between six months and five years of age.

    Seizures occur in epileptic pets as hyperexcitable neurons within the brain that show activity. As the development of progressive and refractory seizures correlates with the number of seizures, early diagnosis and treatment are important in preventing a worsening of future seizures. Generally, conventional anti-epileptic medicine is not prescribed unless the pet has at least one seizure per month, as the goal of treatment is to reduce, rather than to eliminate, seizure frequency, severity, and length.

    Natural diet

    A number of pets with epilepsy have been reported (through anecdotal reports) to show improvement upon dietary manipulation. Suggested dietary changes (which may decrease a food hypersensitivity that causes the pet to seizure) include: diets free of red meat, homemade diets free of common dietary allergens (beef, chicken, corn), diets free of preservatives, and diets using minimally processed foods. Some pets may also be sensitive to the flavoring in monthly or daily heartworm preventative medications; therefore, using a non-flavored product may also be helpful when dietary manipulation alone is not successful. Since seizures are a medical problem, owners should not try dietary manipulation without a proper diagnosis and veterinary supervision.

    Lecithin contains a substance called phosphatidylcholine (PC) that is presumed to be responsible for its medicinal effects. Phosphatidylcholine is a major part of the membranes surrounding our cells. However, when phosphatidylcholine is consumed, it is broken down into choline rather than being carried directly to cell membranes. Choline acts like folic acid, TMG (trimethylglycine), and SAMe (s-adenosylmethionine) to promote methylation. It is also used to make acetylcholine, a nerve chemical essential for proper brain function.

    Choline and phosphatidylcholine are effective for treating human neurological disorders with presumed choline deficiencies including tardive dyskinesia, Huntington’s chorea, and Friedreich’s ataxia. For use as a supplement or a food additive, lecithin is often manufactured from soy.

    One Choline-containing product that has been used successfully in pets is Cholodin. Cholodin contains choline, phosphatidylcholine, DL-methionine, and vitamins and minerals. Choline provides methyl groups used by the body in a number of biological reactions and acts as a precursor of acetylcholine. Phosphatidylcholine (lecithin) is part of the plasma membrane of mammalian cells and also provides additional choline for acetylcholine synthesis. Methionine and inositol also are involved in neurotransmitter metabolism.

    Due to its ability to interact with cells of the nervous system, cholodin is also recommended for pets with epilepsy. Studies have shown decreased seizure frequency in pets supplemented with products containing increased levels of choline and phosphatidylcholine. Cholodin, given at one to two pills daily for a small dog or cat, and two to four pills daily for a large dog, and other choline-containing products can be tried to determine effectiveness under your veterinarian’s supervision. Do not stop anti-epileptic drugs without your veterinarian’s permission.

    Lecithin is believed to be generally safe. However, some people taking high dosages (several grams daily) experience minor but annoying side effects, such as abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and nausea. Maximum safe dosages for young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease have not been determined; the same precautions are probably warranted in pets.

    Orthomolecular therapy
    Orthomolecular medicine (often called “megavitamin therapy”) seeks to use increased levels of vitamins and minerals (mainly antioxidants) to help treat a variety of medical disorders. While daily amounts of vitamins and minerals have been recommended as an attempt to prevent nutritional deficiencies, orthomolecular medicine uses higher doses as part of the therapy for disease.

    The pet food industry relies on recommendations by the national research council (NRC) to prevent diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies in the “average” pet, yet the NRC has not attempted to determine the optimum amount of nutrients or their effects in treating medical disorders. While a minimum amount of nutrients may be satisfactory in preventing diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies, it is important to realize there is no “average” pet, and every pet has unique nutritional needs.

    It is unlikely that our current recommendations are adequate to maintain health in every pet. Each pet has unique requirements for nutrients. Additionally, these needs will vary depending upon the pet’s health. For example, in times of stress or disease additional nutrients above and beyond those needed for health will be required. Orthomolecular medicine evaluates the needs of the pet and uses increased nutrients to fight disease.

    Note:owners should not diagnose and treat their pets without veterinary supervision. Many medical disorders present similar symptoms. Also, megavitamin therapy can be toxic if not used properly.

    As mentioned, correcting the diet is important as there is anecdotal evidence that food hypersensitivity may be the cause of seizures in some pets. A small number of cases treated concurrently with anticonvulsant medicines plus antioxidants have shown promise and allowed a reduction or elimination of seizures. While more cases must be treated before any conclusions can be reached, using antioxidant vitamins and minerals may be helpful in selected patients with epilepsy.

    Treatment uses vitamin a (10,000 IU for small dogs and cats, up to 30,000 IU for large dogs), crystalline ascorbic acid (750 mg for small dogs and cats, up to 3,000 mg for large dogs), and vitamin E (800 IU for small dogs and cats, up to 2,400 IU for large dogs). The antioxidant mineral selenium (20 mcg for small dogs and cats, up to 60 mcg for large dogs) is also added to the regimen. Once asymptomatic, a maintenance protocol using gradually lower dosages of vitamins A and E and the mineral selenium are prescribed to reduce the chance for toxicity. Promising results have been seen in many pets treated with this regimen.

    Other Natural Treatments
    Bach flower essences, DMG, taurine, thyroid supplement/glandulars, herbs, Ginkgo biloba, gotu kola, kava kava, skullcap, valerian, B vitamins and magnesium.

    Note: some doctors have reported success with tyrosine, given in combination with taurine at five to ten mg per pound (of each supplement) of body weight one to two times daily, which may also reduce seizures by increasing the seizure threshold.

    These therapies can be used in conjunction with conventional therapies as they are unlikely to be effective by themselves in most patients with severe disease. The natural treatments are widely used with variable success but have not been thoroughly investigated and proven at this time.

    As with any condition, the most healthful natural diet will improve the pet’s overall health.

    Conventional therapy involves various anticonvulsant medications, including Phenobarbital, potassium bromide or valium. Phenobarbital is commonly used to control seizures in dogs and cats with epilepsy. Side effects include increased thirst, urination, and appetite; occasionally, excessive sedation and a wobbly gait are seen, especially as the dosage increases. Increased liver enzymes, which may or may not be associated with liver damage, can be seen, as can anemia. Dogs and cats taking Phenobarbital should be reevaluated periodically and have regular blood profiles to monitor side effects and therapeutic blood levels (generally every three to six month).

    Potassium bromide is not approved for use in dogs and cats but has become a popular medication for the control of seizures in dogs. It appears to be a safer medication than Phenobarbital (fewer side effects), although Phenobarbital rarely produces any significant side effects in dogs. Potassium bromide can be used in dogs as the sole therapeutic agent, in combination with phenobarbital (if needed), or in place of Phenobarbital for those dogs whose seizures are not adequately controlled with Phenobarbital or who suffer from secondary liver disease as a result of Phenobarbital therapy. Many doctors are now using potassium bromide as the initial (and often only) medical therapy for dogs with epilepsy.

    Side effects of potassium bromide may include tremors, stupor, wobbly gait, lack of appetite, vomiting and constipation. Potassium bromide may rarely cause pancreatitis when it is used in combination with Phenobarbital or primidone (another anticonvulsant that is rarely used in dogs). Dogs placed on low-salt diets may have increased bromide toxicity as a result of decreased chloride ion levels. Extra salt in the diet, as well as use of diuretics, may decrease the blood levels of bromide and increase the frequency of seizures. Dogs taking potassium bromide should be reevaluated periodically and have regular blood profiles to monitor side effects and therapeutic blood levels (generally every three to six months).

    Valium is most commonly used as an injection for pets in status epilepticus, which is a state of active, ongoing seizures. Valium is not usually used as a sole medication for treating dogs with epilepsy, although it may be used as the sole agent in treating epileptic cats. Oral administration of diazepam has been rarely associated with severe liver disease in cats. Cats taking diazepam on a regular basis should be frequently tested for liver disease.