What is Epiphen?
Epiphen for Dogs is the trade name for a drug called Phenobarbital. This drug is categorised in the UK as a scheduled drug (schedule 3). This means that there are special regulations concerning the supply of this medication. For this reason, we must receive the original, written Epiphen prescription from your vet (no faxes or scans permitted). The prescription must be received within 28 days of it being written and vets are obliged to only supply the minimum quantity of Epiphen required. No repeats are authorised on these prescriptions.
How does Epiphen work?
There are two main ways in which Epiphen is though to work to control Epilepsy in Dogs. The first is due to a reduction in the transmission of nerve impulses through the brain (known as monosynaptic transmission). The second mechanism is thought to be through an increase in the tolerance of the brain to electrical stimulation (known as an increased seizure threshold). Epiphen is rapidly absorbed by the body following oral dosing and reaches the maximal level between 4-8 hours after medicating. Each individual animal will have different requirements in terms of the epiphen dosage and often small, incremental adjustments in dose will need to be made. It takes some time for the level of phenobarbital to reach a steady state in the blood stream and it is for this reason that your vet will usually need to take several blood samples from your dog once the treatment is started. Your vet will also want to check your pet’s liver function and liver enzymes throughout treatment to ensure the medicine is being well tolerated.
What is Epiphen used for?
Epiphen is licensed in dogs to treat a condition known as epilepsy. Epilepsy is a condition that happens due to abnormal electrical activity within the brain. This disorganised electrical activity causes seizures. There are different kinds of seizures but the most common type are known as tonic-clonic seizures where there is loss of consciousness. These are also sometimes referred to as ‘fits’. Your vet will have performed an examination and possibly further testing upon your pet to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out other causes of collapse such as heart disease. Occasionally forms of advanced imaging will be required to look directly at the brain, including MRI scans. Your Vet will decide the most appropriate form of test and treatment for your dog and much will depend on the individual case. Generally, most dogs will respond well to Epiphen with minimal side effects.
For many patients, Epiphen is a life-saving medicine that can help prevent the health problems and distress that follow repeated seizures. It is essential that you follow the advice given by your vet when using this drug: devastating seizures can follow if the medicine is suddenly stopped or changes in dose made without consulting a vet.
How is Epiphen administered?
Epiphen is administered orally, with or without food. Epiphen is also sometimes given alongside other medications such as Potassium Bromide (Libromide). Occasionally human medicines such as Gabapentin or Keppra can be used, particularly in some moderate to severe cases or in situations where epiphen is not being tolerated well.
Available in strengths of 30mg Epiphen and 60mg Epiphen. The tablets are white in colour.
A Veterinary Prescription is Required for Epiphen and must be posted to us as Epiphen is a controlled drug
Epilepsy in dogs
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that involves fitting or seizures that happen repeatedly, due to abnormalities or chemical imbalances in the brain that lead to electrical storms of activity. Epilepsy in dogs can present as a loss of consciousness and fits, but for some dogs, seizures can be very minor and almost unnoticeable. Few things are more frightening for dog owners than witnessing their dog undergoing a seizure, particularly for the first time, and while the condition can be a serious one, it is often generally manageable with medication.
In this article, we will look at epilepsy in dogs in more detail, including what happens during the seizures themselves, and the care and management of the condition.
Epileptic seizures in dogs
There are two different types of epileptic seizures, known as petit mal and grand mal respectively.
Petit mal seizures are the more minor of the two types, and as such are sometimes overlooked, or not even recognised as a seizure at all. During a petit mal seizure, the dog will appear catatonic for a few seconds, losing their conscious awareness of their surroundings almost as if they are daydreaming, but without any associated fitting.
Grand mal seizures are known as tonic-clonic seizures, and these are the more dramatic, major presentation of the condition that are often accompanied by spasms, fitting, unconsciousness and a longer period of time needed afterwards for the dog to fully recover.
Either type of seizure can vary considerably in terms of their presentation, longevity and recurrence rate; some dogs may suffer from regular seizures, while others may be afflicted only a couple of times a year.
Treatment options for canine epilepsy
If your dog has a grand mal seizure or you know or suspect that they have undergone the more minor petit mal seizures, you must take your dog along to the vet for diagnosis, testing and treatment. If you can film your dog having an attack, this can be very helpful to show to your vet, to demonstrate what happens when your dog has a seizure.
Once your vet has diagnosed your dog with epilepsy, they may wish to keep them in the clinic for a few days to monitor them and run some tests, before recommending treatment with various anti-seizure medications such as Pexion, Epiphen or Libromide, all of which are designed for ongoing use to reduce the severity and occurrence rate of your dog’s seizures.
Your vet will also work with you to identify any patterns in your dog’s seizure presentation, any potential triggers, and how to manage the attacks themselves and their recovery.
Epilepsy cannot be cured per se, and may have a hereditary element to it, and so affected dogs should not be used for breeding. With the correct medication for the condition, many epileptic dogs can lead otherwise normal lives in good health, and manage their seizures and recovery without these things having a significant negative impact on the rest of their lives.
Once your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy, it is important that you keep a record of your dog’s seizures and learn to recognise their patterns, and some of the warning signals that can present before a seizure is likely to occur.
When you suspect that a seizure is in the offing, ensure that the environment around your dog is safe and comfortable, with enough room for your dog to fit without risking injury. Do not restrain, hold down or intervene when your dog is fitting, but do try to protect your dog from hitting their head on the floor or walls. Make sure that your dog can breathe without problems and is not choking on their tongue, but never put your hand in the mouth of a fitting dog, as they may inadvertently bite you.
When your dog is recovering from a seizure, stay with them and comfort them until they return to full consciousness. Do not give them treats or food until they are fully conscious, but offer them water once they are able to drink unaided.
Your dog’s epilepsy medications should be reviewed periodically by your vet to ensure that they are still proving effective, and are the best fit for your dog. If one medication seems to be failing or not really working out for your dog, there are alternatives, which is one of the reasons why keeping a diary of your dog’s seizures is so important. It is also worth noting that as your dog ages, their seizures may become more severe or occur more frequently, and so building up a good relationship with your vet and maintaining the consistency of their care is important.
Never stop or change the medications provided for your dog without first consulting with your vet, and speak to your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health unrelated to their epileptic condition.