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Neurology Service Participates in National Canine Epilepsy Study

Neurologists at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine are seeking dogs that suffer from seizures to participate in a national canine epilepsy study investigating a new medication to treat certain seizures.

Epilepsy is the single most common neurological disorder in dogs it is estimated that each year up to 780,000 dogs are diagnosed with the disease.

Dr. Karen ManunaDr. Karen Muñana, a board-certified veterinary neurologist with NC State’s Veterinary Health Complex, is assessing canine patients in the trial that is sponsored by a major animal health pharmaceutical company and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Idiopathic epilepsy is defined as recurring seizures with no known cause and little is known about this disease,” says Dr. Muñana. “This national study will provide important evidence-based research, which may lead to new insights and improvements in patient health and ultimately may advance treatment of certain seizures in dogs.”

(Listen to podcast of Dr. Muñana’s interview concerning canine seizures and epilepsy on national Pet Life Radio program, The Pet Doctor.)

According to Dr. Muñana, most epileptic dogs suffer their first seizure between the ages of one and five years but epilepsy may be seen in dogs of any age. Most seizures occur in early morning or late at night while the dog is resting.

A hereditary basis for idiopathic epilepsy may be a factor in some breeds of dogs, including Australian shepherds, beagles, Belgian Tervurens, Bernese mountain dogs, border collies, English Springer Spaniels, German shepherds, Golden retrievers, Irish Wolfhounds, Keeshonds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Standard Poodles, vizslas, and Labrador retrievers.

The experience of a seven-year-old Lab named Moose is typical. Owner Lydia Boesch, a retired attorney living in Lydia and MoosePinehurst, NC, noticed Moose began to exhibit one of the specific signs of epilepsy—paddling. Boesch learned about the canine epilepsy study at her veterinarian’s office and was referred to Dr. Muñana and the NC State Neurology Service.

“I was happy to have Moose be evaluated as a study participant,” says Boesch. “The folks at NC State’s Veterinary College are so competent. We are so fortunate.  I told my husband that if we ever move, we have to be within driving distance of a veterinary teaching hospital.”

[Photo: Lydia Boesch and Moose, one of the participants in the national canine epilepsy study underway at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Photo by Hannah Sharpe/The Pilot.]

Boesch recommends that owners of dogs with epilepsy discuss the national trial with their veterinarians.  “I would tell people, ‘Do not pass go. Ask your veterinarian about a referral to the trial.’”

All study-related services are provided at no cost to dog owners for qualifying patients enrolled in the study.  Dogs qualifying for entry into the trial receive medical care that may include physical and neurological exams, blood and urine testing, and MRI, as well as medication—all free of charge.  In addition, owners of enrolled dogs are eligible to receive up to $150 to help with travel-related expenses.

Patient Qualifications

The study is open to dogs of all breeds. To qualify, dogs must:

  • Be at least 4 months of age
  • Have received no more than seven days of prior treatment with an anti-seizure medication
  • Weigh at least 3.3 pounds
  • Have no previous history of seizure clusters or status epilepticus
  • Not be lactating, pregnant, or suspected to be pregnant
  • Meet all other study requirements (which will be explained by the investigator when the dog is evaluated)

Enrollment of patients is expected to run into 2014. In addition to NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, study sites include locations in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  The medication given to dogs in this trial may or may not help their seizures.  As with all medications, there are risks and benefits, all of which will be discussed with dog owners by the clinical investigator prior to enrollment.

For more information:

Visit the Help for Dogs with Seizures website, call the toll-free number at 888-598-7125, ext. 207, or ask your veterinarian.