Change of Dog Food Stops Seizures

A switch to a different dog food stops distressing symptoms.

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On April Fool’s Day 1996, my soon-to-be-husband took me to get a puppy. We already had one dog, Ladybird, but she was getting older and we felt a young friend would encourage her to be more playful. We also hoped Ladybird would pass on some of her fine qualities to the puppy.

We drove out of town to a place where people play paintball. There were more than a dozen young dogs running around, and the owner told us to take our pick. One young female seemed to want my attention more than any of the others, and I fell in love with her pretty face. We took her home and named her Cheyenne.

We knew very little about Cheyenne’s lineage, but she appeared to be part Lab, with a little hound and quite a but of “who knows” thrown in. She was sweet, afraid of anything new, and very anxious to please. I took her to the veterinarian’s office for a complete checkup the next day and started her on vaccinations, flea pills, and heartworm pills.

Cheyenne seemed happy and healthy. Having been little better than a stray she had fleas and worms, but both conditions were quickly taken care of. The vet guessed she was about three to four months old. She quickly settled into our home and became part of the family.

Initial Problems

About three months after we adopted Cheyenne she had her first seizure. We had hardwood floors, and I heard her skittering across them. I went to see what she was up to and found her laying on the floor, absolutely rigid. Her toes were curled in, she was drooling uncontrollably, and only her eyes were moving.

Those eyes followed me as I approached and watched me in confusion and fear as I examined her and realized I couldn’t move any part of her. I immediately grasped what was happening, but was helpless to do anything except sit with her and stroke her head.

The incident lasted more than 15 minutes. Finally, she started to come out of it. Her tail started to wag, and she could move her head. It took a few more minutes for her to completely regain motor control over her legs, but once it was all over she seemed to be fine. She got up, drank some water, and went outside to play. It was as though nothing had happened.

I called the vet, of course. He advised me to keep an eye on her and see if it happened again before we took any corrective action.

Over the next year Cheyenne had a seizure every three to four months. She came to recognize the signs of an impending seizure and would do her best to get to a place she felt safe (either next to me or in her bed) while she could still move. Since I work at home, I was usually there and would sit with her, often putting her head in my lap, stroking her until it was over. That seemed to help her get through it with less fear, but each incident was terrifying to me.

The seizures continued to last 15 to 20 minutes, with total rigidity. Our vet examined her and we discussed possible causes and treatments. Labradors are often prone to seizures, and he suggested that we might put her on anti-seizure medication if they became more frequent. Their length concerned him, since most neurological reactions last just a few minutes, at most.

From Bad to Worse

In the early summer of 1998 Cheyenne had three seizure episodes just 10 days apart. She also started to convulse during the episodes, whereas before she had been completely rigid. My vet and I decided to do some very extensive and expensive blood work to try to diagnose her problem.

When the blood work results came back I was told she had a liver shunt. This meant that one of the veins that carry blood to her liver was “incomplete” or not properly connected. Depending on where the shunt was it might or might not be operable.

The next step would be to take her to Texas A&M where they have an excellent veterinary college and hospital. One of my friends was about to enter her second year of vet school there, and my husband and I decided to wait until the school year began so that Sue could keep an eye on Cheyenne during the week when we left her for testing. We also needed to save some money since the tests and surgery would cost a minimum of $1,500, if there were no complications. In the meantime, we watched Cheyenne carefully, hoping she’d hold her own until we could get her help.

Seizures + Hot Spots

As though the seizures weren’t bad enough, Cheyenne had also developed some bad “hot spots.” These were places she would lick continuously until they became red and raw. Ladybird was also licking herself, especially her paws, for hours at a time.

Our vet asked what we were feeding the dogs. I had started Cheyenne on Science Diet as a puppy, but Ladybird would eat all the puppy food while Cheyenne would eat the generic brand food my husband bought for Ladybird. By this time I had them both on Pedigree Lamb and Rice, which I thought was a good dry dog food.

The vet suggested we try giving them a Eukaneuba prescription formula for allergies. The food was expensive – $42 for a 35-pound bag – and they were going through two bags a month. It did help the “hot spots” clear up, however, and made their coats smoother and softer.

About a week after starting on the new food, Cheyenne had a seizure; happily, it seems to have been her last. Months went by, summer became fall, and still no seizure. We were definitely on to something with the food. I postponed the trip to A&M.

When I started them on the new food, I had also stopped giving the dogs commercial dog treats, like Milk Bones and Beggin’ Strips. After several months with no hot spots, the vet suggested I could reintroduce these treats, so I did.

Ladybird was thrilled to have her treats back. So was Cheyenne, but 24 hours after her first treats, she was licking brand-new “hot spots.” The treats went into the trash.

Following this last incident, I put all the pieces together; finally it was obvious to me that Cheyenne had a serious food allergy!

Food Switching

Toward the end of 1998, I subscribed to this publication. One of my first issues carried a review of better quality dry dog foods. One, California Natural, sounded like it was tailor made for my sensitive dog. With just four ingredients – all whole, real foods – it would be nutritious and digestible, with much less risk of setting off Cheyenne’s allergies.

I called the manufacturer and tracked down a distributor in my area. Now for the acid test – would my fussy dogs eat it?

They loved it. There was never a problem at meal time, yet I noticed that I filled their bowls less often (my dogs just eat when they’re hungry; if they’re not hungry they leave the food until they’re ready for it).

A 36-pound bag was about $35, slightly less expensive that the prescription food, but it lasted longer since my dogs ate less of it. Best of all, Cheyenne continued to be seizure-free, her coat had never felt better, and she had loads of energy.

Quality Food Benefits All Dogs

Meanwhile, Ladybird seems to be benefiting from the improved diet as well. She even slimmed down a bit, going from 81 pounds to 76 pounds, while showing more energy.

Ladybird is now 12 years old, and, prior to our food switch, was starting to have trouble getting up steps or even out of bed. She had been my husband’s dog for most of her life, during which time he gave her the most inexpensive dog foods because he thought all dog food was the same. I started giving her vitamin C, which definitely helped her feel better. With the introduction of the California Natural food, she is running and chasing rabbits with Cheyenne, and you’d never know that just two years ago she needed steroid shots to get around.

There is no doubt in my mind that changing Cheyenne’s diet put an end to her seizures and her hot spots. It save her from a surgery she didn’t need, and saved me a lot of angst and money.

California Natural also makes treats from the same ingredients as the dry food, and both my dogs love them. I still have to be very careful about giving Cheyenne anything else, however. Recently I started Ladybird on a supplement with glucosamine, yeast, biotin, bee pollen, and bovine cartilage to help her aging joints. I gave them to Cheyenne, too, and within a week she had “hot spots” again. It was probably the yeast that did it. So even “good” things may be bad for her. But now that I know how sensitive she is to what she eats, I can quickly alter her diet to keep her healthy.

Rona Distenfeld is a freelance writer from Florence, Texas. 

24 COMMENTS

  1. thank you for all the advice on seizures its helped me stop crying and waking up every 2 hours and having sleepless nites cause of my dog i know its his diet and ive also been readying up on healing stones and natural remedys thank you

  2. Been through the every 2 hr. Waking up to check my chihuahua. She died 6 mos after her seizures started. Had 10 the day we put her to sleep. Had the incessient licking of her paws too. She ate a lot of tablenfood and pedigree puppy food- even tho she was 8 years old. I am convi ced it was the pedigree. Now a few days after her death my other chihuahua is starting to twitch.

      • Wow? MJ. You really know how to kick someone when they’re down. No offense, but you also came off as callous and rude.

        Thank goodness you’re not a judge mental person.

        Oh. Wait.

      • That comment was totally unnecessary. I’m sure this person already feels horrible but to have to read such an ignorant comment on top of it. Who do you think you are? I’m sure you’ve made mistakes and if that’s the way you treat a stranger well I really feel sorry for any animal that is under your care if they happen to make a mistake by going to the washroom in your house, I can only imagine how mean you probably are to the poor dog/cat whichever it may be. Could you try to have some EMPATHY before judging another.

  3. I just wanted to say thank you for posting this it helped me a great deal I’ve had problems with my dog and it seems to me you hit it on the nose I am so grateful that you posted this thank you so much Dennis music effective immediately I will be changing her diet she’s part Pitbull and part Greyhound her name is Maggie

  4. I just wanted to say thank you for posting this it helped me a great deal I’ve had problems with my dog and it seems to me you hit it on the nose I am so grateful that you posted this thank you so much Dennis music effective immediately I will be changing her diet she’s part Pitbull and part Greyhound her name is Maggie Mae music my bundle of joy

  5. I have a Great Pyrenees and she’s 2 years old and we are feeding her pedigree lamb and rice and she started having seizures and she is on seizure medication. Not doing any good. Could it be the food.

    • Pefigree is not good food to feed your dog. Check out Dog Food Advisor and choose the best brand you can afford.Also, feed human foods, like plain steamed broccoli, blueberries,green beans, boiled chicken. D
      iet makes a difference.

  6. YOU NEED TO WEIGH YOUR DOGS DRY DOG FOOD, NOT USE A STANDARD MEASURING CUP. The Vet put my 20 month English Springer Spaniel on a reduced calorie diet and said to give him 1-1/2 cups of Iams dry dog food twice a day. So, 3 cups of dry dog food total per day, and he gave me a one cup measuring cup. About 1 week later, my dog for the first time started having horrible foaming at the mouth, legs kicking, full body twitching and peeing and pooping on the floor seizures, no energy and whining all the time. 3 – 4 seizures at a time, about every other day. IT WAS H#LL. My dog went through all of the tests, blood work, urinalysis, chest xray and $400 later, it was all normal. So the Vet said he has Idiopathic Epilepsy, a genetic problem, and put him on Phenobarbital twice a day. HE CONTINUED TO HAVE SEIZURES. After tons of research I found that he was actually having low blood sugar hypoglycemia seizures from not enough food, protein, calories and nutrition!!! Dogs can have seizures FROM NOT ENOUGH PROTEIN ALONE! I found that 1 cup of dry dog food is equivalent to 244 grams. So, my dog should have been given, at 3 cups per day, about 732 grams of dog food a day. I weighed the dog food from the 1 cup measuring cup from the Vet, and one cup weighed 136 grams. So my dog, with 3 cups from this measuring cup, was only getting about 400 grams of food a day. MY DOG WAS STARVING. He could have went into a coma and died. I changed his food to a higher quality, higher protein weight mgmt dog food and give him about 730 grams every day, and added non fat Greek yogurt and meats…chicken, turkey and beef for protein. I also feed him 3 times a day to reduce the time between his meals to keep his blood sugar consistent.
    My dog is back to himself and NO MORE SEIZURES. Get a kitchen scale and make sure you are feeding your dog enough food. I’m not saying that all dogs seizures are from low blood sugar from not enough nutrition, but it was the case for my dog. He STOPPED having seizures and he is a happy puppy.

  7. Correction: Typo.. One cup of dry dog food is equivalent to 224 grams, not 244.

    “Remember that one cup actually equals 8 ounces. Since an ounce also equals 28 grams, then one cup of dry dog food is most likely around 224 grams (28 grams in an ounce x 8 ounces in a cup).”

  8. My dog Brooklyn is a pitbull terrier mix. Born December 24,2013. She May have some lab in her idk. She was a rescue But she started having seizures after she was diagnosed with pancreatitis in march of 2017. Then we had to switch food and for the next year she peobably had 12 grand mal seziures. Then in april of 2018 she had 4 grand mal seizures back to back within a 2 hour window. She was not on any medications at this point. We went to the emergency room they gave her an IV and medication to prevent her from having more seizures. After this our vet, who is amazing, suggested we put her on medication becuase it was likely she was epileptic and needed help to control them. Started hher on 500mg of keppra every 8 hours and then uped it to 750mg of keppra. In December 2018 i was fed up with it still thinking it was something else. But we switched her to zonisamide 100mg twice a day
    And using keppra 500mg as an emergency drug to give when she does have a seizure. Her seizures have gotten worse. So in Januaryy husband decided to add CBD oil to her diet. Since ththeththen she has had 14 seziures to date. In 2 and 1/2 months. Most of them are clusters and all grand mals. Now our vet wants to put her on phenobarbital and i just frustrated. I have tried changing food and not giving her certain food. But now after reading this i think i need to completey detox her and get her on all natural food. She was fine before we had to put her on gastrointestinal perscription food and since then everything has been off. She is 6 years old now. She is a picky eater and hates going to the dog park and running and playing. Any suggestions on food i would appreciate. She has had 4 grand mal seizures since tuesday 3/10/20 at 11pm. This is my baby my best friend. I cant loose her.

    • Hello feed your dog home made food , ground beef and few veggies and rice mixed !!! That definitely will help get rid of the crazy amount preservatives and bad stuff like Synthetic coloring , flavoring what’s in the dry dog food !!!!
      Kibbles are the worse what you can feed your dog with !!!

    • I was told to feed Lamb. Has less of something beef and pork have. I was also told no rice, carrots, pease, flour etc. I bought quality lamb yesterday and gently cooked it. She ate like there was no tomorrow. She’s not been eating much lately and I buy quality home cooked dog food. Will ask what extra she needs for good health and feed her lamb as long as she likes and hope no more seizures. She’s on Keppra

  9. I have a mix boxer-lab and he is 11 y/o. I always switched his dry food thinking he may get bored with same. 2 weeks ago got a bag of Pedigree food he had before. My husband told me that Thor started to vomit and when I examined the vomit realized that was the dry food expanded and not digested. Thought was not a big deal as I know he eats grass sometimes and vomit. This is my first dog so asking around got it that is ok. But after a week I realized that he is vomiting too much which can result in other problems plus he was out of breath trying to get that poison out of his stomach and a huge amount of white foam with it. So I decided to read about how this dry food is made/ processed and I was shocked and disgusted. To me at this point no matter what company makes these dry food it is still same process. And so I decided to buy a bag of rice, tuna, turkey plus with veggies i have in the house and cook for him daily. Is not restaurant cooking but fresh cooked meal is amazing for him. Another interesting point and I hope I caught it on time, after 2 days from stopping that dry food he had a tonic-clonic seizure for about 1 min, pee himself . When I put him on his bed and finally came back he was like didn’t know what happened to him. I am watching him closely , however I think Thor had that seizure because of that food. On top of that some hot spots he had previously from other brand and we stopped it and now I think from the pedigree. I am now 4 days into cooking and his coat looks better already. I am not ready to get my dog through blood tests and vets to get him on any meds just for the sake of it. It was an eye opening to understand that diet is for any animal as important as it is for us.

    • Well done taking care of him. I’m now feeding Lamb as I read it has less of something beef and chicken have. Apologies I can’t remember. I was also told to eliminate rice etc. She LOVED the lamb. I only softly cook it so it’s this side of raw. I was feeding high quality foods I purchase from Just Food For Dogs and My Perfect Pet. My other pup is fine but this one was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy. I’m leaning towards nutrition fixes though she is on Keppra. I’m trying to not have her dose increased nor changing meds. Worried about side effects. Good luck for your pup. She’s lucky she has you!

  10. My dog had seizers for two years and since I gave him hypoallergenic food he has never had a seizer since,never new changing his food wood have stopped them.

    • I changed vets. We switched to RX Hill’s pea based dog food for skin health and it stopped the hot spots and seizures. I add a spoonful of high quality canned tuna, and our homegrown organic carrots. Our picky yorkie eats it well. Healthy, happy and chasing his ball again.

  11. Our French Bulldog started having seizures about 3 months ago. He has cluster seizures maybe twice a month. The Vet at the ER suggested putting him on anti seizure medication but after reading the side effects we decided against it. We are not sure if the food is the cause but at this point we are willing to try a food change before putting him on medication. Today, May 3, 2020 he had has about 15 seizures and brought him to the ER once more. Hoping for the best for him, he is going to be three in September.

    • Good pet parents. He may need some meds while figuring out nutrition and if it helps, only to keep him safe. 15 is a lot so he runs risks. Best wishes. What good pet parents he has.

    • I’m so sorry to hear this. I also have a 3 year old frenchie he started having seizures just around 2 years old. He was having cluster seizures he was on phenobarbital for a year he didn’t have one seizure now they are starting up again. He is now also on keppra he has maybe 1 seizure a month now. Thinking of adding cbd oil and changing food. Thinking of you, if I find changing food and cbd oil works I’ll let you know.

  12. My dachshund also was having cluster seizures from 6 weeks of age. I was going crazy trying to determine causes. He had his first seizure after his first vaccination and after his second and third vaccination. He was having seizures 3 to 4 times a day. We had a myriad of tests performed and was told it was idiopathic.
    I changed his diet several times a month trying to determine if it was the food and it was not working, I stopped using house cleaning chemicals, I stopped burning candles, all the common possible causes I tried. All this was to vain…I started thinking it was sensory his seizures as he would have them when he was startled out of sleep.
    Im sure you have been through this all before…I was going crazy!!!
    Then I thought with diet change lets try a raw meat diet and stop all dog food….after 2 days he was seizure free. I thought wow, is it his food. A few days later the husband fed him and without thinking gave him dog food…within hours he was seizing… the penny dropped!
    We reverted him back to the raw food diet and no seizures, a week later we trialled dog food again…he seized! We now have him on a raw diet of various meats, offal, fat, bones and eggs. No seizures for 7 months.
    The commonality between his seizure cause we think are preservatives, there are preservatives in vaccinations and dog food. We have a happy, healthy boy and maybe the problem with my boy can be shared and may help someone with there baby.

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