Tag Archives: Omega 3

Seizures in dogs and cats

What are Seizures?

Seizures occur when your dog’s brain causes the body to experience sudden, uncontrolled physical attacks, with or without loss of consciousness. Some seizures are a result of genetic abnormalities, while others occur for unknown reasons (idiopathic).

What are the symptoms?

Seizures manifest in different ways, however there are normally three phrases: the “pre-ictal” phase, the actual seizure, and “post-ictal” phase. In the pre-ictal phase, dogs usually start acting agitated or stressed. They may become extra clingy to their owner or they may seek solitude. This phase can last mere minutes or a few hours. Directly before the onset of the actual seizure, the dog may experience trembling, loss of vision, and unresponsiveness. During the seizure, the dog may stiffen, fall over, and convulse. Some will kick their legs in a running motion, foam at the mouth, or lose control of bladder and/or bowels. In the post-ictal phase, the dog may be lethargic, disoriented, and confused. Some dogs may experience temporary blindness.

Watching your dog experience a seizure can be a scary thing to witness, however it’s extremely important to remain calm, clear the area around your dog, and speak gently to him/her. Never place your hand near your dog’s mouth, as your dog may be unaware of your presence and may bite unknowingly. Do not try to pet or calm them because sometimes external stimuli may actually worsen the signs and prolong the seizures.

What is the cause?

There are two types of seizures: primary and secondary. Primary seizures (idiopathic) have no known source, while secondary seizures have a known source (disease process).

If the dog is less than one year, the most common cause of seizures is low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). This is more common with puppies and toy-sized breeds. However, dogs with liver disease, diabetes, or pancreatic tumors may suffer from hypoglycemia as well. Puppies with distemper or congenital issues (hydrocephalus) may also experience seizures.

Seizures in dogs aged one to five are normally considered to be idiopathic.  Idiopathic Epilepsy is considered a genetic condition in some breeds such as the Beagle, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, Collie, and Boxer. Brain tumors and head injuries may also be the cause of seizures, as the pressure on the brain tissue can result in loss of vision, loss of coordination, and seizures. Senior dogs with seizures may be experiencing a symptom of neoplasia or liver or kidney disease.

We have found that a lot of the times, it seems that seizures are induced by stress like a visit to the groomer, kennel stays, visit to the vet, etc. Sometimes if we can identify the seizure triggers, they can be avoided and this may help with their management.

What are the treatment options?

For epileptic seizures, treatment varies by the severity of the condition. For dogs that experience less than two seizures per month, traditional treatment is not often recommended. However, for dogs who experience frequent and long seizures, anticonvulsant medication may be an option. Phenobarbital is the usual prescribed drug — unfortunately, it does have some side effects, including sedation and stimulation of hunger/thirst. Phenobarbital also directly impacts the liver and if your dog is on Phenobarbital long-term, liver damage can occur. Potassium bromide, Gabapentin and Kepra (Levetiracetam) may also be used or added to phenobarbital for dogs that fail to respond to the initial therapy. In emergency situations, drugs like valium (diazepam) or propofol may also be used. There are also newer drugs available so the agent used will depend on the veterinarian in charge of the case. In some cases, one drug is needed and it other cases it may take up to three drugs to get the seizures under control. Control is considered achieved when a pet does not have a seizure more often than every 6-8 weeks. That means that some pets will still have seizures but at an acceptable frequency (no more often than  every 6-8 weeks).

There are many holistic and alternative approaches to help control seizures and epilepsy, ranging from supplements to flower essences, that have had great success in minimizing the frequency of seizures.

More information on specific holistic treatment methods below:

  • Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of inserting safe needles into specific acupuncture points to move and unblock energy. Acupuncture can offer great results for epileptic patients.

  • Diet

For humans that suffer from seizures, a Ketogenic diet is often recommended. A Ketogenic diet contains no carbohydrates, low to moderate amounts of fat, and high levels of protein. While the Ketogenic diet has no proven efficacy in dogs, it may be worthwhile to consult with a veterinary nutritionist about using diet as part of anti-convulsant therapy. In dogs, switching to low carbohydrate and higher protein diets or raw diets should be considered

Dogs suffering with Hepatic encephalopathy should NOT BE FED A HIGH PROTEIN DIET / Raw diet.

It is extremely important to consult with your veterinarian if thinking about a serious change in diet, as ‘seizure diets’ like the Ketogenic diet can have severe side effects in humans.

Some veterinarians has seen a reduction of seizure episodes when patients are switched to a hypoallergenic or ‘novel protein, novel carbohydrate’ elimination diet. In the past few years, a lot of holistic veterinarian have been discussing the fact that in some cases, allergies and seizures have gone hand in hand and that an elimination diet should be considered in every pet diagnosed with seizures.

  • Flower Essences

Bach Flower Essences makes a tincture called “Rescue Remedy”. It is a combination of five flower remedies all designed to combat stress, panic, and fear. The flower essences it includes are Star of Bethlehem (helps animals that have experienced abuse, shock, and trauma), Rock Rose (helps animals in stressful situations, such as thunderstorm, fireworks, going to the veterinarian, etc), Cherry Plum (helps animals who have lost control of their actions, exhibited by excessive barking or scratching), Impatiens (helps animals who are impatient, unable to wait), and Clematis (helps animals who seem to be sleeping excessively and have lost interest in their surroundings). The tincture provides a calming effect on the animal.  Some seizures are triggered by stress, such as new people in the house or thunderstorms. Consistent use of Rescue Remedy may reduce anxiety and prevent seizures in this manner.  Rescue Remedy can purchased at most health food stores and online. We will be writing a blog about Rescue Remedy in the near future so follow us!

  • Herbals, Supplements and TCVM

A diagnosis from a holistic veterinarian who practices Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) can be very helpful in the treatment of seizures. Some seizures are caused by patients having different Yin or Yang deficiencies, Triple Burner obstructions, Phlegm/Damp accumulation, Liver Yang rising, etc. A TCVM diagnosis can also identify and address other factors that may be contributing to seizure activity. Different tonics, herbs or even ‘cooling’ Western drugs such as phenobarbital may be used together as anti-seizure treatments.(1) There are a lot of Chinese herbal formulas that can assist the treatment of seizures like: Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, Ban Xia Zhu Tian Ma Tang, Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin, Xiao Chai Hu Tang, San Ren Tang, Bu Yang Huan Wu Tang, etc.

It is thought that the herb Skullcap may have positive benefits on epileptic animals. The plant is believed to moderate overactive synapses in the brain where seizures are triggered. Valerian, Kava, Saint John’s Wort, Corydalis, Gastrodia, Uncaria, Bacopa and many others may be beneficial as well. For dogs taking Phenobarbitol, Milk Thistle can be helpful as it is commonly used to protect and regenerate the liver. There are many western herbs that can benefit pets with seizures and a veterinarian trained in western herbal therapies can assist you in designing the appropriate formula for your pet. Each pet is different and a patient specific seizure herbal formula is always recommended vs a generic one. It is important to talk to your veterinarian before starting supplemental herbs, as some can interact with common seizure medications.

Dietary supplementation of omega-3 essential fatty acids are important in the development and maintenance of a healthy nervous system. In addition to a quality essential fatty acid supplement, you may wish to give your dog extra minerals (whole foods supplements), digestive enzymes, or probiotics to ensure the nervous system is as healthy as possible.

If seizures are related to allergies, keeping the gut healthy should in theory help with the management of seizures. We have to remember that 70% of the immune system is related to the gut ! Bowel health is an extremely important factor in seizure control and it is often forgotten by conventional veterinarians.

  • TTouch, Massage, and Reiki

These forms of energy and physical healing can help reduce anxiety in all dogs- suffering from seizures. Although your dog’s seizures may never be entirely eliminated, it is possible, with the help of alternative therapies, to reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks.

If you have any questions about seizures, feel free to email me for a consult.

If your pet suffers from seizures, please feel free to tell us about your experience in the comments section.

Written by Dr Cindy Lizotte, DVM, MBA, CVFT (CHI institute), CVA (IVAS), Grad Dip Vet Western Herb Med (CIVT) Grad Dip Vet Chinese Herb Med CVHM (IVAS/CIVT)


(1) Mitchell, Deborah. TCVM Diagnosis and Treatment of Seizures. Western Veterinary Conference Proceedings. 2012.

Omega supplements in pets

Part 4 Immunity series: Omegas in pets

In today’s society, the word “fat” has a negative connotation on multiple levels. However, contrary to popular belief, not all dietary fats are bad, nor are they the root of obesity. In fact, there are many good fats that enhance and support your dog’s immune system, even enhancing energy production and promoting weight loss. Fats are also important for maintenance and growth of tissues. Although many fats are naturally produced in the body, some fats can only be obtained by eating certain foods. For example, your dog’s body cannot naturally produce linoleum acid (omega-6) or alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3).


If your dog is not receiving adequate amounts of omega-6 essential fatty acids, your dog may experience significant skin problems, loss of hair, slow healing from wounds, liver and kidney issues, weak immune system, circulatory problems, weakness, sterility, and much more. Most dogs suffer from mild deficiencies with minimal symptoms. Common minor symptoms of an omega-6 deficiency include dull, flaky coat, loss of hair, abnormally greasy skin, and excess itching.


Omega-3 fats, or alpha-linolenic acid, are also tremendously important to your dog’s health. Dogs that do not receive enough omega-3’s may experience stunted growth, eye problems, and weakness. Omega-3’s help with the production of compounds that regulate inflammation and blood clotting, as well as arthritis and bowel conditions such as colitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Omega-3’s also have an impact on the heart and circulatory system, helping with arrhythmia, high blood pressure, strengthening then immune system and decreasing blood cholesterol levels. The absence of essential fats in dogs is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies and clearly a large issue. So what can you do to help this?
Luckily, the answer is simple. Omega-6 fats are found naturally in sunflower, safflower, corn, borage, evening primrose, and black current oilsOmega-3 fats are found in fish oils, such as salmon, halibut, herring, and mackerel. They are also found in sea buckthorn, flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans, and wheat germ. Dried beans, such as kidney, northern, and navy, are sources of both omega essential fatty acids. It seems that fish oils are  better absorbed then flax seeds in pets. Although you can supplement home-made diets with grounded flax seeds or flax seed oil, I prefer using fish based products in cases where I want to help a dog with arthritis, immunity issues, anxiety, cognitive dysfunction, cancer or a pet with skin problems.


It is extremely important to ensure that your dog is receiving enough of both essential fatty acids. Commercial dog foods may contain proportionately incorrect ratios, and can result in high levels of omega-6’s and  low levels of omega-3’s. All sources of essential fatty acids oxidize and break down quickly, becoming destroyed by light, heat, and oxygen. High processing temperatures, transport and long shelf-life of commercial dog foods can all affect the actual amount of omegas being consumed by your dog.


If you fortify your dog’s diet with omega fatty acids, you are helping to ensure that he/she is receiving enough. Essential fatty acids are a crucial necessity to your dog’s overall wellbeing. Choosing a quality product to support your dog’s need for these fats is very important and one that will benefit your dog for the rest of his/her life.There are a variety of quality products available on the market and we recommend you check with your veterinarian about which he/she recommends since not all omega 3 products are created equal. The quality of fish oils is important since they can be contaminated with heavy metals and pesticides and some can be high in vitamin A and D. If you would prefer a vegan product, there are others on the market containing flax seed or sea buckthorn oil.   When selecting an omega 3 supplement, make sure to look for the inclusion of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is necessary to insure that the omega-3s are completely metabolized.


If a pet is allergic to Linum family of plants, flax seed would be contra-indicated and if your pet is allergic to shellfish avoid krill oil. In some cases pets may also be allergic to fish and in particular instances flax seed oil may be recommended instead. Fish oils can cause diarrhea in some pets and sometimes it is best to start them at 1/4 of the recommended daily dose and slowly increase to the full dose over 1-2 weeks. This would be the same recommendation as when introducing your pet to a new food. Omega-3 fatty acids can interfere with blood thinners, beta blockers and diuretics therefore always consult your veterinarian. Because fish oil supplements can reduce blood coagulation and increase bleeding, we always recommend to discontinue omega-3 fatty acids supplements at least 7 days prior to any surgery and they can be restarted about 48 hours after.


Long term supplementation of omega 3 can lead to deficiency in omega 6 so this is why we recommend to  always consult with your veterinarian about using supplements in your pet. Omega-6 oils can be pro-inflammatory and usually Omega-3 supplements are preferred. If you are looking into using a combined product that contains both these types of omegas, make sure that a ratio 2:1 is respected (Omega-3:Omega-6). Cod liver oil contains vitamin A, so it is not the exact same product as a capsule of Fish oil. High amounts of vitamin A and in some cases low amounts of vitamin D can increase the risk of  vitamin A toxicity.  This is why some vets will suggest fish oils instead of cod liver oil.  If you do want to use cod liver oil, then make sure the ratio is 1 part vitamin A to 4-5 parts vitamin D. Fish Oil should be kept refrigerated. The dose recommend by veterinarians may vary, but the dose I recommend for arthritis, cancer and skin issues is 30 mg/kg of DHA. Usually Omega-3 supplements will show their benefits within 6-8 weeks but in some cases skin and coat can improve in as little as two weeks. I personally prefer the Ascenta Dog and Cat fish oil supplement as they contain higher amounts of DHA versus other products. This allows pet parents to give less of this supplement versus others to get the correct amount of DHA required.
Written by Dr Cindy Lizotte, DVM, MBA, CVFT (CHI institute), CVA (IVAS), Grad Dip Vet Western Herb Med (CIVT) Cert CVHM (IVAS). Elmwood Veterinary Hospital
  1. Resources
•           Dodds, Jean. Alternative Therapies for Pain Management. Holistic Veterinary Medicine Club Symposium, 2013.
•           Larsen, Jennifer. Evidence-Based Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Dogs & Cats. ACVIM Forum Proceedings, 2011.
•           Schenck, Patricia. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Dogs and Cats. ACVIM Forum Proceedings, 2011.