It wasn’t long after we brought home our Italian greyhound puppy that we started calling him “Corso, the Wonder Dog.” What a charmer. I was smitten.
But when Corso had his first seizure three years later, I was scared.
He was in the car with my husband and suddenly started flapping around, “like paddling a rowboat with his hind legs and front legs,” Steve told me. Corso didn’t answer to his name, nor did he seem aware of his surroundings.
Our veterinarian’s office just happened to be nearby, and when Steve arrived Corso was calm and responsive. But when the vet came into the examining room, Corso was just coming out of a second, milder attack. Good thing I wasn’t there.
The vet looked Corso over, gave him a shot to prevent another immediate seizure and ordered blood work to see if the attacks might have been caused by something other than a misfiring brain — kidney or liver disease, or diabetes, for example. The tests, however, confirmed our worst fear: Corso had canine epilepsy, likely inherited and incurable.
We learned that if the seizures recurred only intermittently, we would just need to keep him safe until they stopped. In more serious cases, when seizures become as frequent as once a month or more, there is a risk of brain damage and anti-convulsive medicine is required. Corso turned out to be in the latter group.
Corso wasn’t a rescue or a shelter dog. We wanted an Italian greyhound puppy and made a decision to go through a breeder. And we got a dog with seizures. Of course, rescue and shelter dogs can have seizures too. But here’s the thing: Canine epilepsy like Corso’s can’t be cured, but with the right medication, most cases can be managed and the dogs can live otherwise normal, happy and active lives.
It’s true. Corso the epileptic IG just celebrated his 12th birthday.
Corso takes Phenobarbital twice a day and rarely has seizures more than once or twice a year, and that’s usually because he managed to dig the tiny pill out of his food dish and hid it somewhere. Ever the Wonder Dog, he is playful, impish, flirtatious, and dedicated to ridding the neighborhood of cats and squirrels. He travels with us, loves the beach, loves to run, adores playing with fluffy white dogs and buries treats (for later) in the sofa or under my pillow. Come by and you’ll find him snuggled up close to me n what I can only described as doggy bliss. Now that’s a happy and active life.
Here’s what the Canine Epilepsy Network website, which is sponsored by the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, says about living with an epileptic pet:
Most epileptic pets can live relatively normal lives. We can successfully control epilepsy in over 2/3 of the cases. These dogs may require daily medication, but they can still run and play and love. Even the best controlled epileptic will still have some seizures, but usually we can keep their occurrence down to a tolerable level. The number of dogs who have serious side effects from the medications is very small. Some may experience sedation, but this does not prevent them from being loving companions. They don’t need to stay awake in class or behind the wheel, so if they need an extra nap in the afternoon, who cares!
Yes, even one of those rare seizures still frightens me, but when you get the kind of love and companionship – and, in our case, entertainment – that dogs provide, it’s worth it.