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Epilepsy, which is found in the Alaskan malamute, is the occurrence of repeated seizures. These seizures indicate that brain disease is present. A dog can have a classic "grand mal" seizure, or a partial seizure (also known as simple or complex focal seizures).

When a typical grand mal seizure begins, the dog stiffens and falls, then begins jerking movements. The dog cannot control its bladder or bowels during a seizure, and may urinate or defecate. The dog is not conscious during a seizure, though its eyes may remain open. A grand mal seizure usually lasts about two minutes. More serious seizures can occur in clusters, in which the dog seizes again and again in succession, sometimes culminating in a continuous seizure that doesn't stop (status epilepticus).

Simple focal seizures are characterized by twitching, most commonly in the face. The pet is alert and aware while this is happening, and often becomes confused. The seizure may stop there, or it may become a classic grand mal seizure. Complex focal seizures may cause the dog to run uncontrollably; engage in senseless, repetitive behavior; or, rarely, fly into a rage. These types of seizures often are accompanied by a grand mal seizure.

Anything that injures the brain in the right area can cause epilepsy. If the cause of the seizures can be determined, the dog has symptomatic (or secondary) epilepsy. If the cause can't be determined, the dog has idiopathic (or primary) epilepsy. Many idiopathic epileptics have inherited epilepsy, meaning that their epilepsy is caused by a genetic mutation inherited from their parents. Malamutes with idiopathic epilepsy frequently begin seizing between one and three years of age.

Seizures can have a number of causes; therefore, a single seizure does not indicate inherited epilepsy. Common causes include toxins (such as those found in some plants and pesticides), metabolic diseases and physical brain injury (for example, trauma or a tumor). Diagnosing idiopathic epilepsy is a process of elimination. If you suspect your pet is having seizures, your veterinarian can perform various tests to try to determine the cause, including physical and neurological examinations, a complete blood count (CBC), routine serum chemistry profile, urine analysis, bile acids assay and thyroid function tests. Affected animals should not be bred.


Source: Developed from information obtained from The Canine Epilepsy Network, www.canine-epilepsy.net



Researchers are looking for as many samples as they can get from all breeds of dogs to help them find the genetic basis of epilepsy.  You can contribute to this valuable research by providing DNA samples from families of dogs where one or more individuals are affected.  For details about how to participate in this study, go to www.canine-epilepsy.net and click on "research."  Although epilepsy is occurring with distressing frequency in  malamutes, they are underrepresented in this research.  Please help!

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Offsite References

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 Article about the Canine Epilepsy Project - Genome News Network
This article describes CEN's Canine Epilepsy Project.
Canine Epilepsy Network
This site is provided as a resource for all those concerned with canine epilepsy: owners and breeders of affected dogs, veterinarians, neurologists, and researchers. 
*** First Canine Epilepsy Gene Found *** - Canine Epilepsy Network
Breaking News Story, January 7, 2005 - The first gene to cause a rare form of epilepsy in dogs has been found! Although this is a rare form of epilepsy very different from the much more common forms of epilepsy that cause grand mal seizures in most breeds, it demonstrates the power of the canine genome map to unlock the mysteries of hereditary disease in dogs.  
 Epi Guardian Angels
The Guardian Angels support group offers a wealth of information and emotional support for people with seizuring dogs.  Highly recommended.
 Comments on Thyroid Disease - Epi Guardian Angels
Seizures can be caused by hypothyroidism, though the exact connection is unclear.  WB Thomas DVM, Dipl.ACVIM and W. Jean Dodds, DVM explain the possible connection.

 Please check our "Links" page for some personal web sites pertaining to this subject, and stories of affected dogs and their owners.