It was late in the evening and time to get ready for bed. Spencer, our six-year old greyhound, trooped out to the backyard with our three other dogs to take care of business. The other dogs bounced back into the house as usual after a few minutes, but Spencer was not with them.
In the next instant, we heard a commotion out on the patio. We ran out the back door to find Spencer lying on his side on the flagstones, writhing uncontrollably and salivating. His eyes were half closed and glassy and we knew immediately he was having a seizure. All we could do was clear the area so he wouldn’t hurt himself. The entire seizure episode probably took less than two minutes, but when your dog is having one, especially for the first time, it’s frightening and feels like hours. We knew not to panic and to keep Spencer as safe as possible, but we wanted to help him and reduce the effects of the seizure. We also knew if this was the fi rst, there would probably be more.
What causes seizures?
A seizure is a neurological dysfunction or misfi ring of the neurons most often in the cerebrum section of the brain. Studies show that the chemical balance of the neurotransmitters is compromised. Some dogs experience mild seizures while others endure lengthy, more severe episodes. Unfortunately, there is another category of more extreme situations when a dog is stricken in quick succession with severe, relentless seizures that often result in death.
The veterinary community is not exactly sure why dogs experience seizures, nor why the number of dogs with seizure disorders is on the rise. There are many possible triggers, including hereditary defects, toxins (household cleaners, tick repellents, fertilizers, foods, etc.), tumors, brain damage, hyper or hypothermia, certain medications, hormonal imbalance, distemper, Lyme disease, kidney disease, liver disease – the list goes on. Many seizure disorders are deemed “idiopathic”, meaning “unknown cause”, since it is diffi cult to track the pathology.
Seek veterinary help first
When your dog has a seizure, the first step is to consult with a holistic veterinarian and follow his/her recommendations. Usually, the dog will be given some form of anti-convulsant to help avoid or minimize future seizures. As an initial method of controlling the episodes, this is the most reasonable way to help your dog.
While he is taking the prescribed medication and following your vet’s recommendations, you might want to turn to canine acupressure to help mitigate the severity and duration of the seizures, and the use of drugs.
Acupressure and seizures
Acupressure has been used for thousands of years to maintain the health of animals and humans. This touch therapy is gentle and non-invasive, yet powerful. Acupressure is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) concepts and theories.
According to Chinese medicine, most seizure disorders are related to an invasion of Wind that affects the Liver organ system. To the Western mind, associating wind with seizures may seem strange. Take a minute to picture a strong wind blowing the limbs of trees in all directions while other branches and dust are chaotically swirling in the air. Now have that wind blowing inside the dog’s body, creating a similar internal chaos and movement. The dog’s involuntary movements and loss of consciousness during a seizure are similar to the chaos created by a strong wind.
The Liver organ system is responsible for the smooth and harmonious flow of life-promoting energy called chi (also seen as qi or ki and pronounced “chee”). When the Liver is compromised in any way, by toxins or disease, it becomes vulnerable to an invasion of Wind. In turn, the Wind will disrupt the harmonious flow of chi in the dog’s body, leading to a seizure. To prevent and/or minimize seizures, we need to restore the natural balance of Liver chi and calm the nervous system.
An acupressure session for seizures
The acupressure chart with this article offers acupoints that can help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures and may even completely resolve the disorder. They can also help reduce the amount of medication a dog may need to receive to control the disorder.
Keep in mind that acupressure is not a substitute for veterinary care. As well, these points are not intended for during a seizure. The intent is for the guardian to consistently offer this acupressure session every five to six days.
This session is designed to specifically dispel internal Wind, strengthen Liver chi, rebalance the autonomic nervous system, and clear the mind of anxiety.
The acupoints shown in the chart are to be stimulated in succession (one at a time) on both sides of the dog’s body. By stimulating a point, we simply mean applying gentle pressure to the point with the soft, fleshy portion of your thumb at a 45° to 90° angle to the dog’s body. You do not have to apply much pressure because this is energetic work, not tissue manipulation.
While holding the acupoint, count to 30 slowly or until the dog moves away or demonstrates some form of release. Energetic releases can include yawning, licking lips, stretching, passing air, demonstrating the need to move, even falling asleep. Remember to repeat this procedure on both sides of the dog since the body is bilateral. If the dog gives any indication of pain, please stop immediately and work the points on his other side. If the dog continues to be uncomfortable, try again at a later date when he’s not as sensitive.
Depending on your dog’s condition, regular acupressure sessions can go a long way to controlling his seizures. It may not completely eliminate them, but it will make life a lot less stressful for you and your dog.