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Health & Wellness

If your dog has seizures, ask your vet about phenobarbital

Phenobarbital especially helps dogs with epilepsy.

Dogs who have seizures from epilepsy, inflammatory diseases or after being exposed to toxins might benefit from being prescribed phenobarbital, an anticonvulsant medication. But there are certain side effects you should be aware of, as the medicine can have severe implications on a pup’s health if they’re given too much. 

What’s phenobarbital for dogs?

Phenobarbital is an anticonvulsant medication prescribed to treat seizures in dogs, Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. 

“Epilepsy is a condition that most commonly causes seizures in dogs due to a misfiring of neurons in the brain,” Dr. Singler adds. 

But seizures can occur from other conditions, too, like infections, inflammatory diseases, toxin exposure, trauma, cancer, liver disease or uncontrolled diabetes

Can dogs still have seizures while taking phenobarbital? 

While phenobarbital works to reduce the number and impact of your pet’s seizures, it’s still possible for your loved one to experience seizures while on the medication. But not every dog experiences the same outcome.

Some dogs will have few-to-no seizures when they’re on an appropriate dose of phenobarbital, while others will see no improvement in the number of episodes they have. Your dog may need to take multiple medications at once to control their seizures in these cases. 

RELATED: Does pet insurance cover medication?

What are the side effects of phenobarbital for dogs?

It’s common for dogs to experience side effects, including sedation, increased thirst and urination, a ravenous appetite, weight gain and incoordination in their hind legs, within the first few weeks of taking phenobarbital.

Mild side effects usually resolve as their body adjusts to taking the medication (usually within 2 to 3 weeks), Dr. Singler says. But if your dog’s experiencing a more severe reaction, the phenobarbital dosage may need to be reduced.

You’ll want to remain in contact with your veterinarian while your pup is on phenobarbital, as it can cause toxicity and worsen liver problems in dogs with underlying health issues if their dose is too high.

“There may be times when the dose either needs to be reduced or when the medication needs to be stopped completely,” Dr. Singler shares.

How should pet parents give phenobarbital to their dogs? 

Phenobarbital is usually administered to dogs as a pill or oral suspension, which is a liquid. Your veterinarian will determine the appropriate dosage based on your pet’s weight, the severity of the seizures and the availability of dose forms of the medication. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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