Veterinary World Comes to Consensus on Epilepsy

The International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force wants to get practitioners, researchers and pet owners on the same page.

A team of veterinarians and neurology experts has agreed on a common definition of epilepsy in an effort to ensure the condition is correctly diagnosed in dogs and cats and that researchers are consistent in their thinking.

The latest consensus statement is one of seven produced by the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force. The 26-member group was formed in 2014 and includes four U.S. veterinarians, among them Ned Patterson, DVM, Ph.D., an epilepsy researcher at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

“The group’s findings will create a common language among practitioners and provide best practices for veterinarians treating dogs and cats with epilepsy,” Dr. Patterson said.

An estimated 780,000 dogs are diagnosed with epilepsy each year in the United States, but whether individual patients actually have the disease or suffer from another neurological condition is an open question.

“Lack of consistency among epilepsy researchers concerning classifications, definitions and therapeutic outcome measures makes it difficult to draw comparisons and significantly limits the scientific impact of the studies,” said another task force member, Karen Munana, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM.

Dr. Munana, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, focuses on canine epilepsy and inflammatory brain diseases in dogs and cats. 

The two other U.S. panel members are Simon R. Platt, BVMS, Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ECVN, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, and Michael Podell, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, a Chicago practitioner and a professor at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

A consensus statement published in BMC Veterinary Research and available at lays out two fundamental steps for veterinarians and researchers: “Establish if the events the animal is demonstrating truly represent epileptic seizures and, if so, [identify] their underlying cause.”

A section titled “Is the Animal Having Epileptic Seizures?” recommends that dog owners fill out a standardized questionnaire and make a video recording of any episodes. The questionnaire is available at

“This information can help the clinician to clarify the nature of the event … and its phenotype,” the consensus statement reads. “Numerous disorders can result in episodic paroxysmal events that may mimic epileptic seizures.”

The work of the task force could have One Health significance, Dr. Platt said.

“For many years epilepsy in cats and dogs has been a significant issue for the veterinarian but unlike for human epilepsy, we have not had a consensus developed based on multinational, institutional and individual knowledge and experience,” he said.

“This task force effort represents a crucial step in the right direction toward more effective diagnosis and treatment of pets with seizures and may help to draw important parallels with the human disease, benefiting both of our worlds.”

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