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Seizures start with neck scratching

Posted: Sun Jan 05, 2020 4:58 am
by gcox18

I have a 1 year old female pug, Potato, that began having seizures about two weeks after being spayed. The seizures all start the same way. She will start scratching at the left side of her neck, near the base of her ear. Sometimes it's just an itch, but other times it progresses into a seizure. She begins whining, becomes quite rigid, continues scratching at the left side of her head, the scratching moves toward her eye, and she bites at the air. Thankfully, her seizures only last about 60 seconds and she returns to normal within a couple of minutes. The way they start, it almost looks like she's having an extreme muscle cramp due to flexing so hard to get into the position she has to get into to scratch her neck.

The area on her neck that she scratches at has always been a hot spot where scratching it while petting her would cause her to start kicking her left hind leg. Now, unfortunately, this can trigger a seizure pretty quickly so we tell everyone that touches her not to touch her neck.

Potato is an extremely hyper pug and an obsessive chewer. I've had a lot of dogs, including another pug, and none of them were nearly as hyper and none of them seemed compelled to chew so much. Maybe this is unrelated but it's something unique about her, at least relative to my experience.

She has had liver function tests, X-rays, and an MRI that have ruled out skeletal issues, liver disease, encephalitis, hydrocephalus, and syringomyelia. All the doctors she has seen are baffled by the scratching behavior and the fact that a seizure can be manually triggered. When every doctor tells you, "I've never see that before", it doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in any diagnosis, which is currently just idiopathic epilepsy.

Treatments began with a low dose of Zonisamide, which seemed to quickly increase the frequency of her seizures from one every ~3 weeks to several per week, sometimes more than one per day. We turned to a neurologist and they put her on 250mg of Levetiracetam (Keppra) three times daily and tapered off the Zonisamide. The frequency decreased after this and she made it 6 weeks before having another seizure. Given her age, the neurologist is hoping to avoid/delay more liver-intensive medications like phenobarbital. However, she continues to scratch at this area and has recently had a few more seizures, one triggered during a routine vet visit when her vet scratched at her neck when greeting her. Not enough time has passed yet to know for sure whether the frequency has stabilized. We'll be consulting with the neurologist this week to see if we should make any other changes.

I see one other post on these forums about a lab that had similar scratching behavior, but this was way back in 2007 and the OP never followed up.

Has anyone else heard of anything like this before?

Thanks for reading!

Re: Seizures start with neck scratching

Posted: Tue Jul 06, 2021 4:00 am
by Degutis

I'm a researcher at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. My project's topic is genetic markers to pug dog encephalitis and I need to interview several pug owners to write my research paper for an analysis. After that, I can send you a copy of my results with the possible reasons and treatment methods for each case.