There’s a good reason Schnoodles have become such popular dogs, especially for allergy sufferers. Being a schnauzer-poodle mix, they have an excellent temperament, making them a great therapy dog or service dog. They are entertaining and intelligent, like their Poodle parent, but also protective and bold like their Schnauzer mom or pop, making them excellent guard dogs. And, they are one dog breed that comes in all sizes, as their parentage can range from a Miniature Schnauzer to a Giant Schnauzer on the one side, and from a toy poodle to a standard poodle on the other.
Schnoodle Epilepsy Explained
Schnoodles are, however, prone to various health problems, including dog epilepsy. Along with a tendency for hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy, they inherit this genetic trait from their Poodle parent. Dog epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by recurrent seizures that have no known cause. We consider dogs epileptics if they experience two or more seizures with no underlying explanation. If the seizures occur within 24 hours, we know them as cluster seizures.
A seizure is an uncontrolled burst of electrical activity in your dog’s brain. This causes twitching, shaking, tremors, convulsions, and spasms. These seizures can range from mild to more severe.
There are two kinds of seizures involved in dog epilepsy: generalized seizures, also called grand mal seizures, where the abnormal electrical activity happens throughout the brain; and focal seizures, which is an abnormal electrical activity that occurs in only part of the brain, resulting in a reaction in only part of the dog’s body.
It is important not to confuse idiopathic epilepsy with seizures that result from other, identifiable causes, such as tumors, brain trauma, strokes, meningitis, or liver or kidney disorders. We know these as secondary seizures. Many toxins, including various poisons, can also trigger seizures in dogs. We know these as reactive seizures.
Causes of Epilepsy in Schnoodles
As we said, Schnoodles inherit epilepsy in. Otherwise, it has no known cause, and that’s the odd thing about dog epilepsy: your Schnoodle’s brain will seem to be normal while behaving abnormally. It’s not so much a specific disease as a tendency of a dog’s neurons to behave in unusual ways.
How Epilepsy Can Affect Your Schnoodle
The good news is, while seizures can feel traumatizing for you and your Schnoodle, they aren’t painful for your pup. However, after the seizure, your Schnoodle may feel confused and panicky. So, set aside some time, find a quiet space, and give them lots of reassuring love. All the cuddles for you and your Schnoodle!
It is possible that your Schnoodle will respond well to anti-seizure medication and resume a normal lifestyle with the help of your vet. They may, however, experience some occasional break-through seizures and require adjustments to their medication.
Life Expectancy of a Schnoodle With Epilepsy
If someone diagnosed your Schnoodle with dog epilepsy, the long-term prognosis is usually very good. A Schnoodle with epilepsy can have a long and wonderful life. Just make sure you keep up with your regular vet visits to keep their medication on track.
Signs That Your Schnoodle Might Have Epilepsy
Dog epilepsy can begin when your Schnoodle is still a puppy, as it appears between six months and three years of age. It’s a fairly straightforward condition in that there is only one symptom to watch for. Of course, we mean seizures. However, the symptoms of these seizures can differ.
First, let’s talk about signs that your Schnoodle may be about to have a seizure. Before the seizure, your Schnoodle may experience something known as an aura stage. They sense the approaching seizure and appear anxious, frightened, or dazed. They may also seem unsteady or confused. You might also find them staring off into space. If a dog could look like they’re daydreaming, this would be it.
Now, you’re probably wondering, what does a dog seizure look like exactly? Once the attack begins, there is a wide variety of symptoms. These can include unusual movements of the head or body, twitching, or uncontrollable shaking. You might also see a stiffening of the neck and uncontrollable chewing, drooling, or barking. Your Schnoodle may also experience a loss of control of their bladder and bowels. In more severe cases, there may be violent shaking, trembling, and loss of consciousness.
Often during a seizure, your Schnoodle may stumble and fall over, and then paddle their feet as if they are treading water. Your Schnoodle may also exhibit inexplicable behavior such as attacking an imaginary object, chasing their tail, running as if being chased, or hiding in the bathroom. Dog seizures usually last about 30-90 seconds, and they will usually be unaware of their surroundings during this period.
As we mentioned, there are two types of seizures: focal and general. In focal seizures, only one area of the brain is affected, and so you’ll see unusual movements in only one limb or one side of the body. During a general seizure, your Schnoodle may lose consciousness and convulse with their entire body. These can go on for a few minutes, though sometimes they last only a couple of seconds. A generalized seizure may also start as focal and then move on to affect the entire brain.
After the seizure is over, your Schnoodle may be confused, disoriented, dizzy, sleepy, shaky, or even temporarily blind. They may walk in circles and bump into things or may try to hide. Also, remember to approach your dog carefully after their seizure finishes, as their disorientation may lead to an unintentional bite or scratch.
It bears repeating that just because your Schnoodle had a seizure, that doesn’t mean they have epilepsy. There are many causes of seizures in dogs, and only a trip to the vet will determine if your dog has epilepsy. That’s right. No Google or whatever the pet version of WebMD is will give you the correct answer. See a professional, don’t rely on the armchair veterinarians sitting in their overpriced gaming chair with Dorito dust on their fingers.
How To Care for and Treat Your Schnoodle With Epilepsy
There are some things you can do to help your Schnoodle get through their seizure. Watching your dog have a seizure can be a frightening experience. So the first thing is to stay calm. If your dog is near something that could hurt them, like a piece of furniture or the stairs, gently slide them away. But be sure to stay away from their mouth and head, as they could accidentally bite you. If the seizure goes on for some time, your dog may overheat. The best thing is to turn a fan in their direction and put cold water on their paws.
After your Schnoodle has its first seizure, you want to schedule an appointment with your vet right away. The sooner the vet can make a diagnosis of epilepsy, the more likely you can reduce or eliminate the chance of another seizure.
The first thing your vet will do is try to determine if there may be some other cause of your dog’s episode. This will require a thorough look at their medical history and a physical exam. They may also do diagnostic testing such as blood and urine tests or an X-ray. An MRI isn’t out of the question and may be the only diagnostic test to provide results.
The diagnosis of epilepsy is determined only after all other causes of seizures have been ruled out. Your vet will then try to develop a treatment regimen based on the type of seizure. If your Schnoodle’s seizures start as focal, the correct medication may prevent it from progressing to the generalized kind.
Lifelong medication is usually necessary to help keep seizures under control, and you’ll have to bring your Schnoodle in for regular blood testing to monitor how well the medication is working. Of course, all this can get quite expensive, so you probably want to consider pet insurance for your Schnoodle.
Occasionally, a dog’s epilepsy displays as “refractory,” or drug-resistant. This has been the case when two appropriate epilepsy medications have failed to bring epilepsy under control. Fortunately, this is rare.
Keep Your Schnoodle Stress Free
Other than medications, there are other things you can do to lower the chance of your Schnoodle having a seizure. Stress is one of the primary triggers for seizures in epileptic dogs. Some things that can cause stress in dogs include loud noises such as fireworks (the bane of all dog owners), or changes in routine, so try to do their walks and meals at the same time every day. Epileptic dogs really give the term “hangry” a whole new meaning.
Some subtle signs that stress may affect your dog include yawning (unless they’re tired), panting, pacing back and forth, pinning their ears back, and dilated pupils. More obvious signs may include loss of appetite, backing away from someone or a situation, tucking their tail between their legs, cowering, trembling, or shivering (when they’re not cold or excited).
Schnoodles are active dogs, so one of the best things you can do to reduce their stress is to give them lots of exercise. If you live near hiking trails, this is a wonderful option for your Schnoodle. All dogs love the great outdoors, and Schnoodles are no exception, so look for some adventures in your area, as you are both sure to enjoy it. If you have bike paths where you live, you might also want to consider taking your Schnoodle with you when you cycle. It might take some training for both of you, but soon enough, your Schnoodle will run happily alongside you.
Of course, swimming is another great option, especially for older dogs or dogs with elbow dysplasia. While a purebred Schnauzer wouldn’t be enthusiastic about the water, as long as your Schnoodle has enough Poodle in them, they should jump right in. In fact, Poodles are one of the best swimmers of the canine species. Believe it or not, they were originally bred for duck hunting. Their coat is dense and water-resistant, and while most dogs have webbing between their toes, Poodles have more webbing than most, allowing them to paddle through the water easily.
Just remember, if you’re taking them into a natural body of water, this will increase the chance of an ear infection, so check their ears regularly. A pool can also be a choice for an afternoon swim. Chlorine is not harmful to your Schnoodle in small amounts, though it might dry out their skin, so keep an eye out for this and use a moisturizer when necessary (the same goes for you, too!).
If your Schnoodle experiences separation anxiety, you can consider crate training. Having their own cozy, personal space will help them relax when you’re gone, and having them crate-trained will come in handy when you want to take your buddy on a trip! It’s always a good idea to put a security blanket in the crate, as well as their favorite toy, to help them feel even more at home.
You may find that your Schnoodle responds well to certain calming noises. Classical music often does the trick, or you could consider leaving the TV on when you are away. The ambient noise of everyday life will bring a sense of calm to a dog that is used to having people around, doing “people” things, making “people” noises.
And of course, don’t feel stressed yourself! Our lives are often too busy these days, but you don’t want that to affect your pup. Always try to be calm and reassuring with your Schnoodle. You may find it’s the best therapy for you as well!
Watch That Diet
Some very encouraging studies suggest that diet may play a significant role in helping to control dog epilepsy. You’ve probably heard about the Keto diet, but you may not know that it has been used to treat people with epilepsy, and there is some sign it might work for dogs as well. Because these diets are very high in fat and contain higher levels of omega-3 and omega-6, they may prevent seizures by soothing the nervous system. However, the potential side effects of this diet we do not yet fully understand, so consult with your vet before trying this one out.
Though it’s controversial, with vets lining up on either side of the aisle, there are some indications that a raw diet may be beneficial for dog epilepsy. This diet is high in protein and comprises uncooked foods fed in their whole form, including raw meaty bones, fat, and vegetables. Plus, you’ll eliminate the additives, many of which are harmful to dogs who have seizures, that are found in ordinary dog foods. Your dog will eat better than you! The irony of that isn’t lost on us, we can assure you.
At the very least, you’ll want to avoid commercial diets that are filled with stabilizing agents, fillers, artificial colors, and other chemicals, as these chemicals can affect your dog’s brain activity. And you may want to ask your vet about a prescription diet formulated especially for dogs with epilepsy.
If you take your dog to a holistic vet, they might suggest supplementing your Schnoodle’s diet with a variety of vitamins. Holistic vets also often recommend choline and lecithin, used in the human treatment of epilepsy, as well as vitamin C and zinc. They may also suggest B vitamins, as it’s theorized that a deficiency in B vitamins can cause seizures.
Acupuncture has been a key component of traditional Chinese medicine since at least 770 BC. It involves the insertion of very thin needles through the skin at strategic points on the body. Traditional Chinese medicine looks at acupuncture as a way of balancing the flow of energy through pathways in your body. Western practitioners simply view it as a way to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. It’s this stimulation of the nervous system that probably explains its effectiveness in treating dog epilepsy.
There has long been anecdotal evidence that CBD is effective in controlling seizures in dogs. CBD, or cannabidiol, is made from a non-psychotropic (meaning your dog will not get “high”) part of the Cannabis plant. It’s believed to be effective because of its anticonvulsant properties.
A study completed by a neurologist at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital reinforced recently this theory. They found that 89% of dogs who received CBD in the clinical trial had a reduction in the frequency of seizures. The author of the study believes that CBD may become an acceptable alternative to existing anticonvulsive drugs.
The AKC Canine Health Foundation also recently announced a major clinical trial to study CBD as a treatment for epilepsy in dogs. It will be the first large-scale study to examine the effects of CBD on seizure activity in canines. So, if your Schnoodle is suffering from epilepsy, be sure to monitor these developments.
How To Help Your Schnoodle Live a Fulfilling Life With Epilepsy
Even if your Schnoodle gets diagnosed with dog epilepsy, there’s no reason they can’t have a full and wonderful life by your side. As long as you keep up with your vet visits and make sure they’re on the proper medication, chances are that the impact of this disease on their life will be minimal. Just remember to keep their diet healthy, give them lots of exercise, and make their lives as stress-free as possible. With the proper care, you and your Schnoodle will have many happy years together!