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Behavioral Interventions as an Adjunctive Treatment for Canine Epilepsy: A Missing Part of the Epilepsy Management Toolkit?

By Rowena M. A. Packer, Sarah L. Hobbs, Emily J. Blackwell

Category Journal Articles

Epilepsy is a common, complex and often challenging neurological disorder to treat in the dog, with 20–30% of dogs resistant to conventional medical therapies, and associated with cognitive and behavioral comorbidities and early death. Behavioral interventions are an emerging area of focus in the adjunctive treatment of drug-resistant human epilepsy patients, with studies indicating positive effects of a variety of interventions including relaxation-based techniques and behavioral therapy interventions. Behavioral interventions have the potential not only to improve seizure control, but also improve behavioral comorbidities and general quality of life in this hard to treat patient group. Despite striking similarities between human and canine epilepsy patients, including the recognition of co-morbid anxiety in epilepsy patients, behavioral interventions have yet to be studied in dogs. This is compounded by several licensed psychopharmaceutical agents for dogs being contra-indicated in epilepsy patients. We present evidence from human studies of the efficacy of behavioral interventions to improve seizure control, psychiatric comorbidities and quality of life, and propose that adapting such interventions for canine patients may be a valuable addition to the epilepsy management toolkit. There is a need for multi-center, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials to confirm the effects of behavioral interventions on seizure frequency in veterinary medicine. In the absence of such evidence to date, the use of established behavioral medicine techniques to reduce stress and improve the mental health of these often sensitive and challenging patients is advocated, with a greater role for behaviorists in the management of epilepsy patients alongside neurologists and general practitioners.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 6
Pages 9
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2019.00003
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  3. Dogs
  4. Epilepsy
  5. Mammals
  6. open access
  7. peer-reviewed
  8. Pets and companion animals
  9. Relaxation
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed