DEAR DR. FOX: Our golden retriever has a history of seizures. She was on phenobarbital for two years, which controlled them, but after a recent surgery, it has gotten worse. After five seizures in one day, she is now on Keppra and phenobarbital, both twice a day, which seems to be working.
The problem is that she thinks she's starving, and wants to eat constantly. We feed her grain-free dry food supplemented with vegetables. She eats everything in the house she can get ahold of (bread, chips, marshmallows, etc.) by tearing open bags. She even tore open a new bag of dog food.
This is no way for her to live. What can we do? -- K.K., Edinboro, Pennsylvania
DEAR K.K.: As you have probably surmised, the increased phenobarbital is causing the increased appetite. You must watch your dog's weight and feed her four small meals a day, no treats, since obesity could become an issue. Long-term use of this medication can also increase thirst, bring on diabetes, and harm the liver, thyroid and adrenal glands.
What caused the seizures in your dog will remain a mystery, although I suspect vaccinosis: an adverse reaction to a vaccine. Certain breeds are more prone to this than others: For example, up to 30% of German pinschers develop post-distemper encephalomyelitis, according to Swedish and Finnish veterinary reports. Some food additives, as I noted in a recent column, can also cause seizures in dogs. Most cases are resolved with corticosteroids and anti-seizure medication.
I would explore alternatives for your dog, under veterinary supervision. She can't go "cold turkey" and suddenly stop the phenobarbital, so wean her off slowly with your vet's care. Also, transition her to a good-quality dog food like The Honest Kitchen freeze-dried turkey, Halo kibble or Organix kibble, and give her 2 tablespoons of organic coconut oil with each small meal. The latter has been shown to prevent seizures in dogs like yours. I would also give her 6 milligrams of melatonin at night and 400 to 500 milligrams of L-theanine in the morning, with food.
The coconut oil will make your dog's stools very loose, so add 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal or shredded, unsweetened coconut to each meal. These are also very beneficial sources of fiber, which converts into nutritious short-chain fatty acids.
If all goes well, I would then wean her off the Keppra (levetiracetam). Your veterinarian may want to also consider CBD treatment, but there should be no THC in the product, because that can over-excite dogs. (For more on this, your veterinarian should consult with Dr. Robert J. Silver, DVM, who is one of the pioneers in the veterinary use of CBD.) Keep me posted on your progress.
MICROBIOME MODIFICATIONS FOR DIABETIC ANIMALS
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Veterinarians at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine are conducting a study of fecal microbiota transplantation in dogs and cats with diabetes mellitus. Certain gut microbes produce short-chain fatty acids, which in turn produce a substance that makes the pancreas more responsive to blood glucose levels. FMT has been shown improve insulin sensitivity in people with obesity and diabetes, says veterinarian Arnon Gal, who is leading the study. (Full story: The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, Illinois)
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)
STUDY SUPPORTS STORIES OF DOG JEALOUSY
New research supports anecdotal evidence that dogs can act jealously around their owners in the presence of a perceived rival. Dogs in an experiment exhibited jealous behavior only when their owner interacted with a perceived social rival -- even if the interaction between the owner and perceived rival was out of the dog's sight, researchers reported in Psychological Science. (Full story: ScienceAlert Australia, April 10)
It is good to have this objective affirmation of jealousy in our canine companions. Such behavior has been too long dismissed by skeptics on the grounds of anthropomorphizing animals' emotions, while in reality, our pets are more similar to us, emotionally, than they are different.