Update on the AKC Canine Health Foundation Epilepsy Initiative

Author: Sharon M. Albright, DVM CCRT

Canine idiopathic epilepsy, recurrent seizures with no identifiable underlying cause, remains a common concern of dog owners and veterinary professionals. Despite the development of new anti-epileptic drugs, many dogs’ seizures remain uncontrolled using currently available therapies. To address this major health concern the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF), along with its donors, has invested over $673,000 since 2017 in the following research projects seeking improved diagnostics, novel therapies, and a better understanding of the genetics and pathophysiology of canine idiopathic epilepsy.

Grant 02248: Identification of a Novel Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy Gene and Its Underlying Disease Mechanism
Investigators at the University of Helsinki and the Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics explored a genetic mutation causing juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) in Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Five publications have resulted from this study describing the utility of video electroencephalography (EEG) to determine if unusual behavior was actually a seizure, documenting the clinical and EEG characteristics of JME, and describing the causative gene mutation and proposed mechanism of disease. Since JME is a common form of human epilepsy, this research has the potential to impact both dogs and humans.

02249-A: Studying the Role of the Gastrointestinal Tract in Canine Epilepsy
Investigators at North Carolina State University sought to determine if the intestinal bacterial population affects the development and progression of epilepsy in dogs. They compared the fecal bacterial population of epileptic and non-epileptic dogs, specifically looking at differences in the amount of Lactobacillus group bacteria present. They also explored the effects that anti-epileptic medications had on the Lactobacillus population. The increasing evidence supporting this important interaction between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain was presented in a CHF-sponsored webinar titled “What’s Feeding Those Seizures? An Update on Refractory Canine Epilepsy and the Potential Link to Gastrointestinal Health.” Watch on demand at akcchf.org/vetvine.

Grant 02252: Investigating a Ketogenic Medium-Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Supplement for the Treatment of Drug-Resistant Canine Idiopathic Epilepsy and Its Behavioral Comorbidities
Investigators at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London examined the effects of dietary supplementation with a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) on seizure control and quality of life in dogs with refractory epilepsy. Despite high doses of anti-epileptic drugs, these dogs continue to have seizures and suffer side-effects of the medication(s). Therefore, investigators tracked changes in anxiety, cognition, and stress in addition to seizure frequency and severity during this study. The first of several publications anticipated from this project (Berk, B. A., et al. (2018). Investigating owner use of dietary supplements in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Res Vet Sci, 119, 276–284) describes their survey results, detailing how and why epileptic dog owners use different diets and dietary supplements.

Grant 02257: Identification of Genetic Risk Factors for Canine Epilepsy
Investigators at the University of Missouri, Columbia are using whole genome sequencing to compare genetic variations present in epileptic dogs versus non-epileptic dogs. They are specifically looking for genes that could affect the function of ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors, potentially altering the seizure threshold. A case study has been published documenting a novel genetic mutation found associated with neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL) in a young Cane Corso. NCL is an inherited disease, also seen in people, that results in seizures and neurologic decline caused by the accumulation of fatty acids and proteins within nerve cells. Continued exploration could benefit both dogs and humans.

2323: Efficacy of Cannabidiol (CBD) for the Treatment of Canine Epilepsy
2533-E: 2018 Summer Veterinary Student Educational Grant
Investigators at Colorado State University are exploring the efficacy of cannabidiol (CBD), a prominent non-psychotropic component of the Cannabis sativa plant, in treating canine epilepsy. This is one of the first controlled studies on the use of CBD in canine epilepsy. Dr. Diane Brown, CHF CEO, and Dr. Stephanie McGrath, principal investigator, discuss this groundbreaking clinical trial in this AKC article: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/alternative-medicine/cbd-oil-for-dog-seizures/. To support the next generation of canine health researchers CHF provided funding for a summer veterinary student intern to work on this project.

CHF continues to find and fund new research in support of the canine Epilepsy Research Initiative to improve the understanding of and treatment for idiopathic and refractory epilepsy in dogs. Research grants will be awarded to peer-reviewed studies with the greatest potential to advance canine health. CHF remains committed to improving the health of all dogs by funding high-quality research to prevent, treat and cure canine idiopathic epilepsy and other diseases. View our full research portfolio at akcchf.org/researchportfolio.



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