August 08, 2016

Quality of Life of Owners of Epileptic Italian Spinoni

A UK survey of owners of Italian spinoni with idiopathic epilepsy sheds light on the effects of caring for an epileptic dog.
By Laurie Anne Walden, DVM, ELS
A UK survey of owners of Italian spinoni with idiopathic epilepsy sheds light on the effects of caring for an epileptic dog. The report was recently published in Veterinary Record Open.
“Studies in human medicine have shown that caring for an epileptic child or adult has a severe impact on the carer's quality of life and psychological health,” write the authors. “There is limited veterinary literature on quality of life in epileptic dogs and their carers.”
Owners of 47 Italian spinoni with idiopathic epilepsy completed a 110-item questionnaire including questions about seizure activity, treatment, and the effects of caring for epileptic dogs on owners’ lives. Participants were owners of Italian spinoni registered with the UK Kennel Club and identified as having idiopathic epilepsy in an earlier phase of the study.
The mean age of onset of idiopathic epilepsy was 39 months. Seventy-two percent of the dogs had experienced cluster seizures, and 21% had experienced status epilepticus. The dogs had a median of 5 seizures in the 3 months before death or the end of the study; only 9 dogs had no seizures in this 3-month period.
Ninety-four percent of the dogs received antiepileptic drugs (26% received 3 or more drugs). Of the dogs receiving antiepileptic medication, 82% had experienced adverse effects, most often polyphagia, polydipsia, weight gain, sedation, and ataxia.
By the end of data collection, 47% of the dogs had died. Most of these (77%) had been euthanized because of idiopathic epilepsy; the others died of unrelated causes.
Half of the owners reported that caring for their epileptic dogs often or very often caused conflicts with work, education, or daily activities. Thirty-six percent reported that caring for their dogs limited their social life. The overall limitations on life caused by caring for an epileptic dog were considered very or extremely bothersome by 29%, a little or moderately bothersome by 40%, and not at all bothersome by 30%. Most of the owners reported being moderately to extremely worried about their dogs’ seizure frequency (71%) and severity (65%). Forty percent considered adverse drug effects to be moderately to extremely bothersome.
Results of the earlier phase of the study indicated that the prevalence of idiopathic epilepsy in Italian spinoni in the United Kingdom is higher than in the general UK dog population (5.3% vs 0.6%). Idiopathic epilepsy in spinoni tends to be severe and have a low remission rate. “These breed-specific [idiopathic epilepsy] features could affect the dog's carer's perception of canine epilepsy and quality of life,” write the authors.
The study did not explore owner-related factors (such as financial status, physical and psychological health, and availability of emotional support) that could have affected the impact of caring for an epileptic dog. The authors also acknowledge that response bias could have affected the results because not all respondents answered all questions.
Dr. Laurie Anne Walden received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from North Carolina State University. After an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Auburn University, she returned to North Carolina, where she has been in small animal primary care practice for over 20 years. Dr. Walden is also a board-certified editor in the life sciences and owner of Walden Medical Writing, LLC.

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