Side Effects of Keppra for Dogs

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It’s never easy to imagine your beloved pup could be affected by a convulsion or fit. Seizures are a frequently reported neurological condition in dogs. Keppra, also referred to by the generic name Levetiracetam, is a prescription medication used to treat seizures in dogs.

Read on for the side effects of Keppra for dogs, as well as more information on this medication.

What are the Side Effects of Keppra for Dogs?

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Like your furry, four-legged friend, humans use Keppra to help treat seizures. Based on experience in human medicine, Keppra is generally well tolerated.

Similarly, most dogs appear to tolerate Keppra quite well, with side effects similar to those of their human counterparts:

Exercise caution with pregnant dogs. Laboratory tests show that Keppra can cause an increase in embryonal and fetal losses. If your dog is pregnant, talk to your vet about possible alternatives. Your vet may still prescribe it should the benefits outweigh the possible risks.

Additionally, Keppra is not recommended for dogs with decreased kidney function. Your vet can work with you to adjust dosage should this be the case.

As with any anticonvulsant medication, Keppra should never be cut off suddenly. Doing so may lead to a life-threatening seizure. When discontinuing this medicine, a gradual withdrawal is always suggested to prevent possible withdrawal seizures.

When is Keppra Prescribed to Dogs?

Keppra is a prescription medication used to treat seizures and epilepsy in dogs. It can be used alone, or in conjunction with other anticonvulsants such as phenobarbital or potassium bromide.

Keppra is relatively safe for dogs, but studies are still looking into other possible side effects. Unlike phenobarbital or potassium bromide, it does not seem to affect the liver or liver enzymes. It does, however, require a higher dosage than other medicines.

Keppra is a popular choice for veterinarians because it is not metabolized by the kidneys, which makes it a safer option for dogs with pre-existing liver or kidney diseases.

What Causes Seizures and Epilepsy in Dogs?

A seizure, also known as a convulsion or fit, is a temporary involuntary interruption of regular brain activity. Dog seizures are often accompanied by a lack of control over the muscles.

Epilepsy is a term used to describe repeated episodes of seizures. With epilepsy, seizures can occur as singular incidents or in groups. They can be infrequent and unpredictable or occur at regular intervals.

Seizures often happen with changes of brain activity, such as during a spike of excitement or feeding, or when the dog is going to sleep or waking up. Despite their lack of control during each episode, dogs can appear normal between seizures.

There are many causes of seizures in dogs. Idiopathic epilepsy, a common cause of seizures in dogs, is an inherited disorder. Its exact cause, however, is unknown. Other causes include liver disease, kidney failure, brain tumors or trauma, and environmental toxins.

How Common Are Seizures in Dogs?

Based on veterinary care, the incidence rate of both idiopathic (genetically based) and symptomatic cases of epilepsy is estimated to be 18 per 10,000 dog years at risk.

Some breeds are more prone to epilepsy than others, including the:

Male dogs have been shown to have higher incidence and mortality rates of epilepsy than females. The average survival time in dogs diagnosed with epilepsy is 1.5 years.

How Do I Know if My Dog is Having a Seizure?

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Symptoms of seizures in dogs include:

  • Collapsing—sometimes accompanied by moving the legs in paddling motions
  • Muscle twitching or stiffening
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Drooling
  • Chomping
  • Tongue chewing
  • Foaming at the mouth

What Should I Do if My Dog Has a Seizure?

If your dog is having a seizure, remain calm. Keep your hand out of your dog’s mouth; you may be bitten. Contrary to popular belief, a dog will not swallow his tongue.

Remove nearby sharp or hard objects like tables or chairs which could hurt your dog. If your dog is on raised furniture such as a couch or human bed, carefully move your dog to the floor—if it can be done safely—to prevent a fall. It’s also recommended to remove children and any other pets from the area so as not to overcrowd your dog.

If the seizure lasts more than 3 minutes, or if your dog has repeated seizures, call your veterinarian immediately. Long seizures can be fatal.

A single, mild seizure rarely requires long-term treatment. Note it, though, and report the episode to your veterinarian, being sure to record the date, time, and duration.

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