The Food and Drug Administration approved the clinical study on a new anti-convulsant drug that is underway at the Animal Specialty Center in Yonkers, New York. It is the only veterinary hospital in the state participating in the study, which is taking place in 11 other states.
Dr. Richard Joseph, a veterinary neurologist for more than 25 years, is leading the Yonkers study.
“There are indications from preliminary data that this drug will have efficacy,” Joseph said, noting that the name of the drug and its manufacturer are currently classified.
He emphasized that the more pet owners that are involved, the more robust the study becomes.
Some 780,000 dogs are diagnosed with epilepsy every year and it is the most common neurological problem in animals, he said. There is no broad-spectrum drug that can effectively treat epilepsy with certainty, forcing veterinarians to experiment with different ones.
“It’s all trial and error and a diagnosis of exclusion,” Joseph said. “If we can’t find an underlying cause, it’s usually epilepsy.”
An average epileptic seizure lasts between 30 and 60 seconds. Seizures under a minute that are separated by a few hours are not fatal.
“The danger is if an animal has a seizure lasting longer than five minutes or they have multiple seizures within a couple of hours. It’s like revving a car engine for a long time. The brain can overheat. That’s an emergency,” Joseph said.
There is no difference between animal and human epilepsy.
Patty Militello, of Thornwood, says her golden Lab is epileptic.
“When Honey gets a seizure she shakes all over, then she flops to the ground and just shivers,” she said. “We sit next to her, pat her, talk to her. It’s frigthening for both us and the animal.”
Militello enrolled Honey in the clinical study and said the results have been promising.
“Since the study she has only had one seizure and she has been doing really well. She’s a different dog, she wants to go on walks again,” she said.