Epilepsy after head injury in dogs: a natural model of posttraumatic epilepsy

Epilepsia. 2013 Apr;54(4):580-8. doi: 10.1111/epi.12071. Epub 2013 Jan 7.


Purpose: In humans, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the most common causes of acquired (symptomatic) epilepsy, but as yet there is no treatment to prevent the development of epilepsy after TBI. Animal models of posttraumatic epilepsy (PTE) are important to characterize epileptogenic mechanisms of TBI and to identify clinically effective antiepileptogenic treatments. The prevalence and phenomenology of naturally occurring canine epilepsy are similar to those in human epilepsy. However, the risk of epilepsy after TBI has not been systemically studied in dogs. We therefore performed a large retrospective study in 1,000 dogs referred to our clinical department over a period of 11.5 years with the aim to determine the incidence of early and late seizures after head trauma in this species.

Methods: Two strategies were used: in group I (n = 392), we evaluated whether dogs referred for the treatment of a head trauma (group Ia) or other trauma (group Ib) developed seizures after the trauma, whereas in group II (n = 608) we evaluated whether dogs referred for the treatment of recurrent epileptic seizures had a history of head trauma. Data for this study were obtained from our clinical database, questionnaires sent to the dogs' owners, and owner interviews.

Key findings: In group Ia, 6.6% of the dogs developed PTE, which was significantly different from group Ib (1.9%), indicating that head trauma increased the risk of developing epilepsy by a factor of 3.4. The risk of PTE increased with severity of TBI; 14.3% of the dogs with skull fracture developed PTE. In group II, 15.5% of the dogs with epilepsy had a history of head injury, which was significantly higher than the incidence of PTE determined for group Ia.

Significance: Our study indicates that head trauma in dogs is associated with a significant risk of developing epilepsy. Therefore, dogs with severe TBI are an interesting natural model of PTE that provides a novel translational platform for studies on human PTE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Castration
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / complications*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / physiopathology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / veterinary
  • Data Collection
  • Databases, Factual
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dog Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Dogs
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / etiology*
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Epilepsy, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors