Although seizures are not common in Deerhounds, they do occur. According to the most recent health survey, Deerhounds have an incidence of seizures (4%) that is similar to the incidence in the dog population as a whole (1-5%). There are many causes of seizures, not all of which are genetic. Although there are families of Deerhounds that appear to have more dogs with seizures than others, we don’t know whether that is because of genetics or all of the dogs are exposed to the same environmental cause.
If your Deerhound has a seizure, you should contact your veterinarian. Deerhounds are not more or less likely than other breeds to be affected by many of the conditions that can cause seizures, such as cancer (insulinomas and brain tumors in middle-aged and older dogs), trauma, allergies, infections, toxins, etc., at least as far as we know. However, there are some illnesses that should be ruled out when any Deerhound has seizures:
LIVER SHUNT is definitely a problem in Deerhounds, and it can cause seizures at any point in an affected dog’s life. Even if your dog has tested normal on a routine blood test for liver function, liver shunts don’t always show up on those: you need to do a bile-acid test, which is a special blood test, which includes two blood draws and a specific feeding protocol, to rule it out. Many breeders routinely test their puppies for this before they go to their homes, but not every breeder does, and some people use an in-house test that isn’t always reliable. This DEFINITELY needs to be on the rule-out list for any Deerhound with seizures, and the bile-acid test needs to be sent out to a lab.
TICK-BORNE DISEASES, including Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, list seizures as a symptom. One breeder has reported seizures in three dogs, all of which tested positive for Anaplasmosis, a tick-borne disease that is common in many parts of the U.S. One dog would seize (and he eventually developed other neurological symptoms) every time his owner tried to take him off doxycycline, even years after his initial diagnosis and without his titer going up, so Anaplasmosis was implicated at least in this dog. These dogs might have had a genetically lower seizure threshold that was triggered by the Anaplasmosis, which has seizures as a listed symptom. Another Deerhound, from an unrelated line, had other neurological problems after developing Anaplasmosis. There are other tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, where seizures are a listed symptom, so all should be ruled out.
HYPOTHYROIDISM & ADDISON’S DISEASE: Although Deerhounds do not commonly get hypothyroidism, it does sometimes occur so is worth ruling out. Ditto for Addison’s Disease, which is sometimes seen in Deerhounds.
It is important to contact your dog’s breeder, not only because your breeder needs to know they bred a dog that has seizures, but also because if there are seizures already in the line the breeder might be able to give you some helpful information.
For some cases, consultation with a veterinary neurologist can be helpful.
For more information on seizures in Deerhounds, see John Dillberger’s article reprinted from the Claymore.