Background: Epilepsy in dogs is often difficult to medically control, resulting in premature death of dogs with epilepsy. However, the risks of premature death are not known.
Hypothesis: Dogs with epilepsy have an increased risk of premature death as compared to a general population of dogs.
Animals: Sixty-three dogs diagnosed with epilepsy between 1993 and 1996 were included in this study.
Methods: A prospective longitudinal study of the population was performed from the diagnosis of epilepsy until the time of euthanasia, death, or a maximum of 12 years to investigate mortality and risk factors. Information about sex, onset, type, frequency, and control of seizures, remission of epilepsy, death, cause of death, and owner's perspective was collected and analyzed.
Results: The median age at death of dogs was 7.0 years. The life span of dogs in which euthanasia or death was directly caused by their epileptic condition was significantly shorter as compared with epileptic dogs that were euthanized because of other causes (P= .001). The median number of years that a dog lived with epilepsy was 2.3 years. Females lived longer with epilepsy than males (P= .036). Seizure type (primary generalized versus focal seizures) was not significantly associated with survival time. The remission rate of epilepsy (spontaneous remission and remission with treatment) was 15%.
Conclusion and Clinical Importance: The diagnosis of epilepsy implies an increased risk of premature death. The prognosis for dogs with epilepsy is dependent on a combination of veterinary expertise, therapeutic success, and the owner's motivation.