Epilepsy in dogs may be partly related to nutrient status and intake

Dogs with epilepsy had altered levels of essential trace elements in blood and hair compared to healthy dogs and feeding puppies with dietary fish fat had a protective effect against epilepsy later in life, according to three new studies published this year by the DogRisk research group at the University of Helsinki.

Two of the studies looked at trace elements and toxic metals in hair (n=105) and blood samples (n=38) of dogs with epilepsy and healthy dogs, showing that epileptic dogs had significantly higher blood and hair levels of selenium and copper, and lower levels of blood chromium. “Selenium and copper are essential trace elements that may become harmful if we have too much of them, and an adequate level of chromium is important to maintain a normal blood sugar metabolism. However, since we do not know why the dogs had imbalanced levels of these trace elements, we cannot recommend dietary changes or supplementation at this stage”, says main researcher of the two studies, Sarah Rosendahl, DVM and PhD student in the research group.

The third study suggests that supplementing fish oil to puppies could be an important factor in reducing epilepsy in dogs.  The researchers collected information from thousands of dogs over several years using an internet-based food frequency questionnaire (DogRisk FFQ, a copy available at: http://bit.ly/427aGBa), including details about the dogs’ diet, breed, living conditions, etc.

Dr. Manal Hemida, DVM and PhD, the main scientist behind the third study, explained: "Our research found that dogs who regularly consumed fish oil supplements at least once a week when they were puppies, had a much lower risk of having seizures when they grew older. Even when we considered other factors such as breed, gender, and living conditions, the positive effect of the fish oil remained clear." Dr. Hemida continues: “Although we're not entirely sure of the working mechanisms yet, it seems like the ingested fatty acids might help protect dogs from having seizures. However, clinical diet interventions are needed to prove that.”

“Our results show that dogs with epilepsy have trace element imbalances, which have also been reported in human epileptic patients. Fish oils and fatty fish are known for having a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for our health, and for our pets’ health too. Therefore, we already recommend adding fatty fish and/or fish oil to your dog's diet as part of their overall health plan. More studies on diets and nutrient intake are however needed to understand in what ways these dietary elements are related to the epilepsy pathogenesis”, says Adjunct Professor Anna Hielm-Björkman, leader of the DogRisk research group.



Rosendahl S, Anturaniemi J, Kukko-Lukjanov TK, Vuori KA, Moore R, Hemida M, Muhle A, Hielm-Björkman A. Whole blood trace element and toxic metal concentration in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy and healthy dogs: A case-control study. Front Vet Sci. 2023 Jan 4. 9:1066851. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2022.1066851

Rosendahl S, Anturaniemi J, Kukko-Lukjanov TK, Vuori KA, Moore R, Hemida M, Muhle A, Hielm-Björkman A. Mineral, trace element, and toxic metal concentration in hair from dogs with idiopathic epilepsy compared to healthy controls. J Vet Intern Med. 2023 Apr 6. 37:1100‐1110 doi: 10.1111/jvim.16698

Hemida M, Rosendahl S, Jokinen TS, Moore R, Vuori KA, Anturaniemi J and Hielm-Björkman A (2023) Assessing the association between supplemented puppyhood dietary fat sources and owner-reported epilepsy in adulthood, among Finnish companion dogs. Front. Vet. Sci. 10:1227437. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2023.1227437