Seizures-Older Basenji

Basenji friends,
Here is a quick update on Elliot and his condition/seizures. He is now 16 years and 8 months old. My original post is pasted below for reference. We are grateful he is alive, but the quality of his life decreased with each seizure and he has lost his eyesight. We know that doggy heaven will have a new Basenji angel soon, but we want to contribute an update to help anyone that might be experiencing a similar condition with their dog.
Elliot has had 4 different veterinarians over the past year including a neurologist and ophthalmologist. Unfortunately, we do not have a diagnosis. It has been a very difficult year with very few answers. In one year, Elliott had 13+ seizures, several head tremor episodes and one hospitalization (2 days).
We have learned several things since our first post.

  1. Gabapentin was not effective to control Elliot's seizures.
  2. Keppra (Levetiracetam) controlled his seizures. 1 seizure in 3 months.
  3. 1/2 oral Valium calmed his head tremor.
  4. Once Elliot started Prednisolone his head tilt and twitch went away.
  5. A liquid suspension of Valium released in his rectum brings him out of a seizure in 10 to 15 seconds.
  6. IV Supportive care fluids gave Elliot a second chance at life 2 months ago. He stopped eating for 5 days and we took him to the animal hospital. After a comprehensive exam, we decided to try IV supportive care fluids for 2 days. It took him another day and a half to bounce back, but he began eating again.
  7. Elliot's liver enzymes are unexplainable, according to the vet and pathologist. They are high before and after fasting and eating a high fat meal. This remains a mystery.

Elliot's entire condition is a mystery and I dislike the unknown. Elliot has been a healthy dog his entire life. Up until a year ago people would stop us and ask about our puppy. They were shocked to learn his real age. Today, Elliot's physical appearance has changed. He has aged so quickly with each seizure. He still eats, goes potty outside (a few inside accidents) and we believe he is comfortable.
I have never been a fan of medication, but I am grateful for the current medicines that Elliot is taking. I only wish we would have started the Keppra sooner. I also wish we would have considered an MRI earlier when he was stronger because it would have confirmed if we are dealing with a slow growing brain tumor. I would have also insisted on every Cushing's disease test available before he started steroids (prednisolone). The price of the MRI and additional testing would have been minor compared to a year of specialty care and medication.
I wish I had more answers to share, but I have accepted that we may never know what is wrong with Elliot. I don't think this is just old age/failure to thrive. Something is wrong with his neck, head and eyes (white streaks in his eyes).
Note: We recently met another Basenji owner who had 2 Basenjs with an unknown neck/head issue. He had to put both down. One also had seizures.

Thank you all for your kind wishes. We will keep you posted. Elliot has brought so much joy to our life and we are honored to show him love and compassion at the end of his life.

Derek Groves

Original Post:
Derek Groves 30 Sep 2017, 16:58 reply quote
Does anyone have any experience with an older Basenji having seizures later in life? My male is 15 years and 9 months old. He's never had a seizure, or any major health issue before. However, he developed head tilt and a twitch 2 years ago. Seizures began 3 months ago.
His strength and spirit declines with each seizure and my heart is heavy to see a rapid decline. We have him on:

Taurine supplements (3 months)
Canna-Pet (Medical Grade Cannabis, 2.5 months)
Gabapentin ( started 24 hours ago)
(The above treatment list was recommended by our primary vet and neurologist)
We saw some immediate improvement with the cannabis, but the results faded and we observed him to be in pain, so our vet suggested Gabapentin. After research, we agreed it was best. After his first dose (100mg), he had his second largest seizure.
~Any advice on Gabapentin would be appreciated.
~Feedback on Canna-Pet also welcome.

Note: We have not had an MRI because our Basenji is aggressive and will not allow a needle anywhere near him. Additionally, we would not consider surgery if we found out he had a brain tumor. My main goal is to keep him comfortable.

Thank you,
Derek

Thank you for posting this, Derek. I'm sure it'll help others.

folks when you don't know the cause if seizure. look in kidney and liver first and treat with Hemp oil. it is amazing for neurological issues.

Many thanks for posting. No doubt it will help others.

So sorry Elliot is having this health problem. He's lived a long and doubtless full life but that doesn't make this type of health issue easier for him or you. No doubt most on this forum can empathize. Worst part of having a dog or other animal.

I can understand your regret at not having an MRI, but it's not an easy decision to go with a procedure that he might not have tolerated well. Just as a note, where we are pets and inmates use the MRI machine before the human patients show up. So early in the morning your dog gets to sit next to some guy in handcuffs.

In the early 2000's my 7 year old basenji developed Fanconi disease. He was on the Gonto protocol and his blood tests showed that the Fanconi was well managed. He he started to have seizures and we took him to a neurologist, who suspected Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis (GME). We did not have an MRI done. We made the sad decision to put him to sleep when he went into a seizure one night, temporarily lost his eyesight and just howled and howled (he was not a vocal dog at all). Pictures of him from that time showed a very tired dog. Until we looked at those pictures about 6 months later, we hadn't realized the toll it was all taking on him. Still miss him, he was a remarkable dog. Just wanted to share this with Derek, since his situation sounded similar.

Derek, I am so sorry. I can only imagine the "not knowing" horror of this, but you have done all you knew at the time. Perhaps some vet research facility could take his body and find answers that could help others.

I can only send heartfelt care for what you are going through to give him the best possible quality

I lost my Basenji, Kenya in Nov 2017. She had idiopathic focal seizures that began in 2012. I did have an MRI and there was no evidence to suggest why she was experiencing these seizures, thus the "idiopathic" diagnosis. She began Keppra after the MRI and remained in it until her passing. She also developed kidney disease in 2015. I was able to manage that with diet and activity for 2+ years. She was happy and energetic for the majority of the time. What I found was that, despite her water consumption, it wasn't enough so I would have to give her sub-q fluids. These fluids helped both the kidneys and helped manage her seizures, which were infrequent. I would watch her energy levels and if they seemed to wane from her norm then it was a sign she was in need. Not sure if any of this is helpful but thought I would offer what I experienced. Best of luck with your baby, my girl was so hard to let go....😥
Oh, and another thing to note about seizures in general....there is something called a pre-ictal phase which occurs before a seizure and a post-ictal phase, which occurs after a seizure. The pre-ictal phase can look like depression or some other form of irritability or any other abnormal behavior from your Basenji. The post-ictal phase occurs after the seizure and lasts until they are able to normalize. My Basenji would become confused, not respond to me, pace around, bite at me or anything else she could. Sometimes they become disoriented or very needy and/or may not be able to see properly. This part will pass after some time so be patient with your baby. These examples are not all inclusive so I encourage you to look up the terms online to see if you recognize any of the symptoms. Again, best wishes to you and yours. 💖

last edited by Little Monkey

I hate to say it, but there comes a time when you have to say goodbye. Hanging on for your own sake is not the right thing to do. The dog's quality of life and letting it go with dignity and without suffering are paramount - and far more important than the possible distress of the owner.

In my experience, a Basenji will tell you when it is time to show him/her that last kindness, that last act of love and send them on their way. You get one last chance to show them how much they mean to you and that is by letting them go.

In all my years with Basenjis, I have never once had one die naturally. They come and tell me their time has come and I fetch a spade and call the Vet. He always comes to the house - there is no way I'd send a beloved friend on that last lonely journey from the Vet's office - and we sit in the sun with the dog on my lap. Up to now, Marvin's hand has always been on the head of the dog, but these remaining two, now almost 13 and 10, will have to make do with me on my own.

They are all buried at the bottom of the garden with headstone laid flat to accommodate the lawn-mower.

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