Diet and epilepsy

So far 2015 has been a rough start for Reggie. He had been on a hunger strike for about two weeks, which culminated in a seizure on New Year’s Day. Off to the vet we go where I learned that Reggie actually had a staph infection!

Before everyone thinks I’m a bad pet parent, Reggie’s IBD will cause him gastric distress and diarrhea. Couple that with food and environmental allergies, and he frequently suffers from a lack of appetite and can easily get secondary infections.

This time around his skin was off the charts. I had noticed that he was shedding like it was summer- I mean he should be bald- despite the frigid temps. Then the hunger strike. Then the seizure. Then the vet.

We were at the vet the day after the seizure, and he another (small) seizure at the vet’s office. Bottom line? It was good that I brought him in when I did. He had a staph infection and had to get an antibiotic shot that stays in his system for 2 weeks. He also had to go on a hypoallergenic prescription diet, with no treats, to eliminate inflammation and heal his stomach.

This brings me to healing diets and epilepsy. Allergies and IBD are linked to epilepsy in the sense that chronic inflammation and infection can lower the seizure threshold. Does a diet that reduces inflammation and has anti-convulsant benefits really exist? Turns out, it can.

Vitamins, Minerals, and Amino Acids
Vitamins help release nutrients in food into the body. When food is cooked, vitamins are destroyed by heat. Commercial dog food is generally vitamin deficient because of this- just like human food. It’s a fact of the manufacturing process. Vitamins B, C, and E have been implicated in seizure activity. Vitamin E protects cell membranes from damage. In humans it has been shown that anti-convulsant drugs can reduce Vitamin E levels, and adding Vitamin E to the diet of epileptics can reduce seizure frequency.

Minerals are not made in the body, but only obtained through food. Again, the manufacturing process results in a loss of minerals. There are several mineral deficiencies that can be problematic for seizures, number one being magnesium. Magnesium is critical for nerve function and works with other vitamins.

Amino acids also can only be obtained through food. High quality animal protein in the least processed form will give the best amino acid profile. Taurine is an amino acid that is critical to the nervous system and deficiencies have been shown to be a cause of seizures. It is possible to have a diet deficient in amino acids due to the manufacturing process which is why it is critical (if you buy commercial dog food) to read labels and choose a high quality food.

Protein and Grains
A dog needs protein to survive. Proteins are then broken down into the amino acids mentioned above. The source and quality of the protein is important. Most dog foods provide their protein from meat, by-products, fish, and dairy. By now, we know that by-products are a low quality source. Choose whole food (human grade) meat sources for the best profile. Something I just learned: if your dog has a beef allergy, they likely have a mild allergy to dairy as well (still a cow). We never never did a food trial for dairy products but now have to remove all cheese and milk products from Reggie’s diet.

The grains are corn, wheat, soy, and rice. While dogs are dogs and not wolves, dogs do not have the ability to digest a high-grain diet. Wolves in the wild did not eat grain. Grains have a high phytate content which impairs mineral absorption which is important for magnesium. Dogs that have corn, wheat, or soy allergies can have lower seizure thresholds. When the formula of Reggie’s food changed from duck and rice to duck and oatmeal he had a hard time. I knew he would have a hard time anyway because of his issues, but through this learning process I now know that oats are much harder for his stomach to digest than rice is.

Reggie is still on his hypoallergenic diet, but it has been two weeks now and he is infection free. He loves the prescription food that costs about the same as my mortgage. I don’t know if he will go back to the duck and oatmeal- it is a delicate balance for his stomach, allergies, and seizure control. For detailed and GREAT information, check out this article about diet. It also addresses the benefits of a raw diet for dogs with epilepsy. Until next time!