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I bought a Shiloh Shepherd puppy from a reputable breeder, and brought him home on May 18th at 8 weeks, 4 days of age.

Eight days ago, during the evening while he was laying down, he had a focal seizure involving the back legs. I am quite sure it was a seizure, but was stunned, as I have never heard of seizure activity in a puppy so young. I took him to the vet a few days later, who also said she had never seen seizures in a puppy this young, and advised to "keep an eye on him." That was 4 days ago.

Today (in the air conditioned comfort of home), he had the same seizure, this time, though, he was standing up, and he fell to the ground, his back legs again "twitching". Each episode was over in less that 30 seconds.

I already love this puppy, but I'm retired and I'm fearful of committing to a dog who will need medication (at least) or expensive testing (at worst) on my relatively modest retirement income (which I can't see going up in the future.)

What should I do?

Part of me is already committed to this puppy. It would break my heart to return him, but I know the breeder well enough (really) to know that she would place him in a loving home or keep him herself.

The realistic part of me is worried about what is certain to be an expensive puppy to keep. Think: medications, EEG's, MRI's, blood levels, etc.

FWIW, I've already gone over all the causes of seizures in puppies, including to the extent that I've asked neighbors if they may have put rodenticides/pesticides/etc. out. I don't have my lawn treated (I'm an old hippy/environmentalist), but the neighbors do. However, no one has had their lawn treated since before I brought the pup home. The food and the treats I give him and my other dogs are made in the US and have decent reputations. No other dog is sick. He hasn't been exposed to any toxins in the home. So I think this is neurological. The vet thinks the next step is either to return the pup or have him seen by a neurologist.

Any help on how to approach this (non-medically) would be appreciated.

(Edited to answer a comment.)

Edited to add: The pup was scheduled for a neurologist visit and an MRI ($2000). In the four weeks I had him, he has 5 seizures, and I decided to take him back to the breeder for a refund. It did not go very well, as the breeder didn't want to own up to a potentially genetic problem in her dog line (she has males she still studs out.) So I wasn't refunded the deposit ($400), and she blamed me and my vet for the dog's condition, even posting a nasty post on my vet's facebook page. She claims the dog has had no further seizures. One on the pups from that litter died in the middle of the night, though, a few weeks later (from VTach.) My take away after all the reading I did was that Shiloh Shepherds are a tricky breed at best, and the testing for them to breed isn't extensive enough. I went with a different breed puppy.

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No one can definitely say keep the puppy or not, but that is the advice you are asking. We cannot know for sure what the diagnosis is or if the puppy will respond well to treatment.

Firstly: It sounds like epilepsy:

Dogs that have their first seizure at less than 5 years of age are most likely to have idiopathic(primary) epilepsy. (1)

From a totally negative view point:

Get the refund.

You have meticulously ruled out some localised poisoning and it points to having a neurological problem that has appeared early on. It could well be a lifelong problem and it will cost money in veterinary care and medication.

If this is a form of epilepsy it will take daily medication (possibly twice daily) and regular visits to the vet. This will add up.

Dogs that seizure more frequently than 1 seizure a month and/ or have seizures in clusters (more than 2 seizures in 24 hours) and/or have ever had an episode of status epilepticus (continuous seizuring) and/or have prolonged seizures (> 3-5 mins) should be treated with anti convulsant medication.

Or it could be worse.

Any dog or cat of any age with seizures and abnormalities on neurologic exam that are progressive (getting worse) is likely to have a progressive intracranial disease such as encephalitis, tumour or neurodegenerative disorder. Further tests such as brain imaging (CT or MRI scan) and/or CSF analysis should be considered.

You have a dog you know is going to be more difficult to manage than a healthy puppy. On a limited income this is hard and we need to be realistic of the costs of animal care. They're a huge commitment (as we all know) and take our time and resources - similar to children - though not as expensive.

Although you'll miss him, you know he'll be lovingly cared for by people who can afford to do so. There may be less stress for another person to take ownership of him, which is also better for the pup. As much as you like this breed and you know this is the last pup that will be available, is there another breeder you can buy from? Are you interested in other breeds.

From a more positive viewpoint:

Keep the puppy, a dog can easily become victim to an accident and cost a lot more money than this dog may ever cost you, that's a risk of pet ownership.

Ask the breeder if you can hold onto him, but if it is a serious degenerative disorder and the dog is going to have a short life, are you able to have a refund.

Dogs that are less than one year of age at the onset of seizures may have a higher incidence of brain malformation as a possible cause of seizures and further investigation (brain imaging) may be warranted. Seizures in dogs less than 12 months of age may be associated with neurodegenerative disorders, inherited metabolic disorders (eg organic aciduria) and have also been seen young dogs (generally less than 6 months of age) with a heavy parasitic burden. (1)

Take the dog to your local vet. A specialist may not be necessary, your vet can guide you (it is likely such a young dog will require brain scans(1)). They can make a diagnosis and form a treatment plan. Although the vets visit will cost money, your puppy will be needing to make regular vets visits for vaccinations and you can use these visits as a regular check up.

Check out the cost of epileptic medications for dogs and factor that into your budget.

60 tablets, for example, can cost $11 to $35, while 180 tablets can cost $30 to $110. (2)

So it could work out at less than a dollar a day for medication.

Extra care

The other thing worth mentioning is this is a bigger commitment than a healthy pet. That may not be an issue if you are retired, as you may well have the time to devote to an unwell pet.

Also the dog may require you to physically carry him, as a full grown dog. Are you physically capable of lifting him when he is full grown? This is

As mentioned in the other answer, you will likely be more attached the longer you have the pup. This is the time to dig deep into your practical brain and say to yourself, I need to make a logical decision, not an emotional one. There is nothing to lose if you know this puppy will be well cared for if he is returned to the breeder.

(1) Seizure disorders in dogs (and cats)- Spack Attacks, Georgina Child BVSc DACVIM (Neurology)

(2) How Much Does Phenobarbital for Dogs Cost?

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    Thank you for this helpful answer. The article was very helpful! The dog is expected to max out at between 120 and 140 pounds. I hadn't even thought of that! The vet I saw will not order an MRI. She wants me to either return the dog, or see a neurologist because of the dog's age. – anongoodnurse Jun 13 '17 at 13:26
  • @medica I don't know your living situation, but if you don't have someone strong on hand it could be a problem, particularly if the fits continue or have trouble being controlled. Yep he's so young it is worrying, I know we are soft hearted people (trust me I know!), but just forgive yourself if you do get the refund. Please let me know what you decide to do and the dog's progress. – Nobody Jun 13 '17 at 14:46
  • Yvette, your first article stated that even partial complex (focal) seizures in very young puppies can be caused by a heavy parasite burden. Hope! I'll have a stool sample analyzed; the vet didn't mention that. (He had a third seizure this morning. Again, rear legs twitching and unable to hold himself upright.) – anongoodnurse Jun 13 '17 at 16:29
  • @medica yes I saw that. It would be good if it was something like that - fixable. I just assumed he would've been wormed, but he may have missed his dosage. I'm sorry he's had another seizure, my only concern for returning him is the financial issue. he sounds quite unwell. Are you prepared to keep him if he dies young? Can you afford another purebred? Would you consider a rescue dog if this dog goes early? Just brain storming. I know what it's like when in the emotional situation. Sometimes I can overlook the obvious and it helps to brain storm. – Nobody Jun 13 '17 at 16:39
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    Yvette, I'll answer in chat. :) – anongoodnurse Jun 13 '17 at 17:14
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We've cared for and loved a paraplegic dog for around five years now. The accident that caused the paraplegia occurred when he was eleven years old and he is now sixteen years old.

He has aged quickly in the last three months, we believe largely due to a diagnosis of lymphoma. So our wonderful companion is close to the end of his extraordinary life.

He is a lot of work.

It is, however, completely worth it to see him still happy and reward us with his amazing love and affection, his infectious character, resilience and love of life.

The moral of this short story is that the longer you keep your puppy, the closer you will become and the more difficult it will be for you to let him go.

It is already heartbreaking for you and is obviously very difficult to come to a decision.

At this stage you still have the opportunity to return your little friend to the breeder. It may be the more responsible decision to return the puppy to the breeder? The breeder may know someone who is more suited to caring for the little boy?

This is all speculation however!

My advice to you right now - better understand your options...

  • contact the breeder with the aim of having a discussion about what to do - don't try to approach the discussion expecting an outcome - instead attempt to better understand your options so you can make a decision in a few days;
  • attempt to obtain a realistic diagnosis so that you can understand the symptoms and develop an understanding of the exact nature of your puppy's illness;
  • contact your local specialist animal hospital and ask them how much the necessary testing is likely to cost - maybe the breeder would cover the cost of these tests.

In particular I'd advocate talking to other people about your dilemma. Talking about the problem with people face to face often helps me reach a decision.

Hope this helps. If you'd like any further advice please let me know in the comments and I'll update my answer.

  • Thank you for this very thoughtful and helpful answer. I spoke to the breeder today who sounded sincerely worried, thinking this might be a problem from one of her dogs (she's going to check this out.) She offered me a full refund and will take the pup back if I wish, but since this was her last litter, I can't get a replacement puppy. We didn't discuss coverage of testing. The next step medically is to see a veterinary neurologist. I don't know how quickly I can get in. You're right, of course. Every day it will become harder. – anongoodnurse Jun 13 '17 at 1:53
  • Thanks again for the sympathetic answer. @Yvette Colomb asked me the key question, though, that clinched the decision: can I lift/carry the full grown dog out of harm's way if he has a seizure? The answer is no. He is expected to max out at 140 lbs. :( – anongoodnurse Jun 14 '17 at 17:25
  • That's all good, no explanation needed, although it is kind of you and is appreciated. I'm sorry for your dilemma and wanted to offer my contribution. I don't expect anything back, so your kind words are more than enough. We all have different experiences and perspectives and it's great that one of our fellow contributors has provided an answer that helps you solve your dilemma. 140lb (over 60kg) is a very heavy dog. I struggle with our boy who during his life was half that weight and is now around 45lb (20kg). Good luck and if you feel up to it please let us know how you get on. – andrewbuilder Jun 15 '17 at 10:59
  • I've updated. Again, thanks for sharing your wisdom. It was very helpful. – anongoodnurse Sep 28 '17 at 20:30

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