One of the scariest moments for a pet owner is, undoubtedly, witnessing their beloved four-legged friend experience a seizure. Seconds can feel like hours as you watch your dog convulse on the floor, feeling helpless and uncertain as to what to do next. It is something that no dog owner wants to experience, yet so many do.
Once your dog stops convulsing and you take them to the veterinarian, you will likely be presented with a conventional medication treatment plan. However, it is imperative that dog owners understand these medications prior to administering them as they can have horrific side effects and cause irreversible damage.
In this article, we'll cover everything you should know about potassium bromide for dogs. We'll discuss the risks, how the medication works, and alternatives that we fully stand behind. Additionally, we hope to shed light on the wonders of holistic remedies that can greatly reduce the severity and frequency of your canine's seizures. Let's begin.
Dog Seizures: What Exactly Are They?
Before we dive into potassium bromide for dogs, let's first discuss the reason for its existence: dog seizures. Studies show that up to 5% of all dogs experience seizures. It is the most common neurological conditions diagnosed in dogs. Often referred to as 'fits' or convulsions, seizures are temporary, involuntary disturbances of the brain's normal cognitive function.
Seizures also cause involuntary muscle reaction symptoms such as:
- Paddling of the legs
- Foaming of the mouth
- Tongue chewing
- Involuntary urination and/or defecation
As you can imagine, witnessing a seizure can be terrifying for a dog owner.
What Causes Seizures in Dogs
Dogs can experience seizures for a number of reasons, many of which your veterinarian will be able to pinpoint. Understanding why your dog is having experiences is an important part of the diagnosing process as some medications should not be given to dogs with specific pre-existing health conditions.
In other cases, the underlying cause of seizures is unknown. Many of these cases are diagnosed as canine idiopathic epilepsy.
What is Canine Idiopathic Epilepsy
Canine idiopathic epilepsy is the most common type of seizures in dogs. It is an inherited disorder and the underlying cause is typically unknown. Veterinarians often prescribe potassium bromide for dogs diagnosed with canine idiopathic epilepsy.
Health Conditions that Cause Seizures
The following ailments are often associated with seizures:
Additionally, seizures can result from the ingestion of poisonous toxins. It is imperative that you tell your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has consumed any toxins as they will need to ensure the poisonous substance is completely cleared from the dog's body.
Interestingly enough, studies show that certain breeds are at a genetic predisposition when it comes to seizures and canine epilepsy. Dog breeds at a higher risk include:
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Belgian Tervuren
- Shetland Sheepdog
It is always important to pet owners to know whether their fur baby is at an increased risk of any disease. Furthermore, if your dog is one of the breeds at a genetic predisposition to developing seizures, it is imperative to know everything you can about epilepsy. For more information regarding seizures in dogs and how you can help your four-legged friend, click here.
What is Potassium Bromide
Now, let's get back to our main topic: potassium bromide for dogs. Potassium bromide (often abbreviated as KBr) is an antiepileptic drug that veterinarians prescribe in order to control seizure activity. It is often used in conjunction with a medication called phenobarbital. Additionally, veterinarians may prescribe potassium bromide on its own in cases where the dog was resistant or had a bad reaction to phenobarbital.
What is Phenobarbital for Dogs
Phenobarbital for dogs is a commonly prescribed anticonvulsant aimed to control the frequency and severity of seizures. It can either be prescribed on its own or to be used with potassium bromide. Phenobarbital is known to have an extensive list of side effects. Therefore, in many cases, potassium bromide will be prescribed either in substitute of phenobarbital or to lessen the necessary dosage of phenobarbital.
How Does Potassium Bromide Work
Potassium bromide works by decreasing and controlling seizure activity in the central nervous system. However, pet parents should know that potassium bromide can take up to four months to start working and, in some cases, it can prove to not work at all.
Veterinarians may prescribe what is called a 'loading dose' in order to jump-start the medication's effects. A loading dose is a heightened dosage of the drug and must be closely monitored in the first several months in order to prevent irreversible damage. However, even when a loading dose is administered, it still isn't' guaranteed to work. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of the problems associated with the anticonvulsant medication.
Dangers of Potassium Bromide
Like all conventional medications, potassium bromide comes with its fair share of potential adverse reactions. Before administering the drug, it is incredibly important that pet owners understand the risks involved and recognize how the medication may affect their dog. For many pet owners, the list of possible side effects isn't worth the potential benefit.
Additionally, the possibility of irreversible damage is widely recognized and, therefore, if the dog's seizures aren't severe, conventional drugs aren't recommended at all. We don't know about you... but, to us, this is a clear red flag that the medication has the potential to be extremely dangerous.
A common side effect of potassium bromide is sedation. In some cases, the levels of drowsiness and lethargy can be quite extreme. While this adverse reaction may not seem like something that should be taken seriously, remember that medications like potassium bromide and phenobarbital are intended to be given on a daily basis for the rest of the dog's life.
For some dogs, the extreme levels of sedation and drowsiness wear off after some time. For others, it doesn't. Therefore, constant lethargy, day in and day out, maybe your dog's "new normal." For many pet owners, this drastic change in their dog's personality isn't something they are comfortable with.
Increased Hunger & Thirst
Additionally, increased hunger and thirst are also common side effects of both potassium bromide and phenobarbital. Again, while this may not seem like side effects that are "severe," excessive hunger can quickly lead to weight issues and additional health concerns.
Additionally, we likely don't have to tell you that increased thirst leads to increased urination. Increased urination is particularly common for dogs who are taking potassium bromide with phenobarbital. Again, needing to urinate more than usual isn't something 'life-threatening,' per se. However, it can greatly alter the pet owners day-to-day life as their dog will require much more attention.
Loss of Coordination & Weakness of Hind Legs
Potassium bromide can also result in ataxia (loss of coordination). It can also cause weakness of the hind limbs. In severe cases, potassium bromide can cause paralysis of the hind legs. These side effects of potassium bromide are difficult (and sometimes impossible) to predict. As you can imagine, knowing that medication may cause paralysis is a hard pill to swallow for many.
Potassium bromide may also cause behavioral changes such as irritability and depression. Again, a medication like potassium bromide is a life-long commitment. Therefore, pet owners must understand that these behavioral changes may not wear off over time. Again, this is obviously a possible side effect that many dog owners are not comfortable with.
Additionally, many dogs experience gastrointestinal-related issues when taking potassium bromide. These issues include:
- Vomiting (with or without the presence of blood)
- Diarrhea (with or without the presence of blood)
- Abdominal pain
The aforementioned stomach problems can also lead to a loss of appetite as they worsen. In some cases, the gastrointestinal side effects of potassium bromide can be severe enough for veterinarians to switch the medication entirely to Sodium Bromide.
Sodium Bromide is typically less harsh on the stomach and is another way that vets treat seizures in dogs. However, it's important to note that Sodium Bromide also comes with its share of potential adverse reactions. No conventional medication is entirely free from the possibility of unfortunate side effects.
In some dogs, skin rashes and irritations may occur with the use of potassium bromide.
Additionally, there are possibilities of bromide toxicity, even when dog owners administer the medication appropriately. Signs of toxicity include the aforementioned side effects at a much more severe level. If you notice any clinical signs of toxicity, it is imperative that you notify your vet straight away.
Furthermore, it is important for pet owners to understand whether their dog is at a higher risk for bromide toxicity. For instance, dogs with pre-existing kidney issues as well as dogs with liver damage experience bromide toxicity more often than those with fully functioning organs.
Risks of Anticonvulsant Medications
The list of possible adverse reactions of potassium bromide leaves many pet owners hoping for another option. While there are several other conventional medications for controlling seizures in dogs, none come without a scary amount of potential negative effects. Let's take a look at a couple other anticonvulsant options.
Phenobarbital Side Effects & Warnings
As we previously mentioned, phenobarbital is a commonly prescribed anticonvulsant. Veterinarians often prescribe potassium bromide alongside phenobarbital. However, using phenobarbital comes with a cost. Its side effects can be even greater than those of potassium bromide. Furthermore, dogs with certain pre-existing health conditions such as Addison's Disease, kidney disease, liver damage, and respiratory problems should stay far away from the medication as it can cause irreversible damage to the vital organs.
Even dogs that are in good health can ultimately experience irreversible damage from long-term phenobarbital use. These long-term effects include anemia and liver damage. The liver damage often involves scarring of the liver and consequent liver failure.
Levetiracetam for Dogs
Another medication that veterinarians prescribe to treat seizures is Levetiracetam (Keppra). Many dog owners prefer using Levetiracetam as it decreases the need for harsh medications such as phenobarbital and potassium bromide. With that said, Levetiracetam has its own disadvantages.
For starters, Levetiracetam typically has to be administered three times per day. This proves to be highly inconvenient for many pet owners. Levetiracetam also causes side effects such as lethargy, behavioral changes, and gastrointestinal issues.
Zonisamide for Dogs
Finally, another option for controlling seizures in dogs is a medication called zonisamide. As you may have guessed, zonisamide also comes with a slew of potential adverse reactions. Short-term effects of the drug include loss of coordination, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. Even more troubling is its long-term effects which include hyperthermia, skin reactions, and the development of blood disorders.
Phenobarbital & Potassium Bromide & Their Lack of FDA Approval
In both humans and animals, potassium bromide has been used to treat seizure disorders for over a century. Phenobarbital has also been used for years to manage seizure activity. However, neither drug is actually approved by the FDA as a treatment for seizures in people or in animals. This is troubling for more reasons that one.
First, the fact that neither potassium bromide nor phenobarbital have FDA approval means that no drug company has provided conclusive information proving that the drugs effectively and safely treat seizures.
Secondly, not being FDA approved also means that the drug companies haven't been able to provide evidence that either drug can be manufactured in a consistent way that is up to quality standards.
Finally, without FDA approval, pet owners may not fully know the risks of the medication. In other words, if the aforementioned potential side effects aren't bad enough, there may be others that you have no way of knowing... until it's too late.
An All-Natural Alternative for Potassium Bromide
It goes without saying that the aforementioned information is quite worrisome. However, understanding the possible side effects of a new medication is paramount. Only once pet owners have a full understanding of what is at stake can they make an educated decision for their dog's well-being.
Once recognizing the potential adverse reactions of potassium bromide (along with other anticonvulsants we covered), you may feel that you cannot knowingly administer the drug... and we don't blame you! Luckily, there is an alternative that proves to be not only effective, but remarkably safe. We're talking about CBD for dogs.
- Helps maintain a normal inflammatory response
- May help reduce inflammation associated with training and competition
- May help relieve inflammation associated with normal daily exercise and activity
- Supports a healthy inflammatory response
- Supports a normal inflammatory response
Additional Seizure Treatment
In addition to implementing CBD oil, there are a few other important changes that pet owners should consider.
Your dog's diet is far more important than many people may realize. In fact, your dog's food has a massive impact on their overall health and can be an imperative part of treatment. Many pet owners report drastic changes in their dog's seizure activity once switching to a ketogenic diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in fats. Experts also recommend a species-appropriate raw food diet for dogs who experience seizures. We recommend consulting with your holistic veterinarian regarding what dietary changes may best benefit your furry companion.
Additionally, studies show that Chinese medicine such as acupuncture can be highly beneficial for controlling seizures in dogs and people alike. We understand that acupuncture may not be for all pet owners, but it's comforting to know that there are alternative treatment options that are proving to have positive results.
How to Prevent Seizures in Dogs
Finally, we want to briefly cover the ways that pet owners can prevent the development of seizures. Of course, not all seizures are preventable. Canine idiopathic epilepsy can be entirely genetic and out of your hands. However, there are other situations where the development of seizures can be (and should be) avoided at all cost.
If your dog is experiencing seizures due to toxicity, it is imperative that you remove the toxic source from your home and from your dog's environment. These culprits include:
- Lead-infused paint
- Foil attached to bottle tops
- Golf balls
- Plumbing or building materials
Additionally, regular vet check-ups is an effective way to ensure your dog's liver and kidney function are up to the necessary standards. Early detection of vital organ damage can ultimately prevent the development of seizures.
Finally, as always, make sure that you are feeding your dog the very best diet possible. Overly-processed foods contain a large amount of toxins that can cause great damage to your dog's body. Toxins are sadly a huge part of our lives and many are unavoidable. Even environmental toxicity alone can present worrisome issues for your dog. Therefore, it is imperative that pet owners recognize the toxins that they have control over and do all they can to limit their dog's exposure. Trust us, it can make a world of difference for Fido.
Potassium Bromide: A Final Thought
At the end of the day, we understand how troubling canine epilepsy can be. Not knowing when the next episode may happen can be incredibly stressful for any pet owner and leave many considering whether conventional anticonvulsant medications may be a smart move. We want to stress that, more often than not, conventional seizure drugs will cause more harm than good.
An imperative part of being a responsible dog owner is understanding your options when it comes to the ways in which you treat your pet's ailments. When it comes to seizures, we urge our readers to choose an all-natural alternative such as CBD oil.
Furthermore, making sure that your canine companion is being fed a well-balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise, and is regularly seeing their vet are effective ways to lessen the severity and frequency of their seizures. Canine epilepsy doesn't have to be the end of your dog's happy, active life.