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Primary Epilepsy:

Also known as idiopathic, genetic, inherited, or true epilepsy. There are no positive diagnostic findings that will substantiate the diagnosis. It is a case of ruling out every other possibility. The first seizure in a dog with primary epilepsy usually occurs between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. However, a diagnosis of primary epilepsy is not proof of a genetic defect; only careful breeding studies could prove that. The breed, the age, and the history may suggest a genetic basis for primary epilepsy if there is a familial history of seizures.

Secondary epilepsy refers to seizures for which a cause can be determined, and there are many. In dogs less than one year of age, the most commonly-found causes of seizures can be broken down into the following classes: degenerative (storage diseases); developmental (hydrocephalus); toxic (lead, arsenic, organophosphates, chlorinated hydrocarbons, strychnine, tetanus); infectious (distemper, encephalitis, and others); metabolic (such as transient hypoglycemia, enzyme deficiency, liver or kidney failure); nutritional (thiamine, parasitism); and traumatic (acute injury). In dogs 1-3 years of age, a genetic factor is most highly suspected. In dogs 4 years of age and older, seizures are commonly found in the metabolic (hypoglycemia, cardiovascular arrhythmia, hypocalcemia, cirrhosis) and neoplastic (brain tumor) classes.