Epilesey is a diagnosis of ruleouts: you rule everything else out, and this is what you are left with at the end of whatever testing protocol was done. Seizures fall into two groups, grand mal and petite mal. For the dog with a history of presumed seizures I do at minimum a complete blood count, biochem profile, heart worm test and urinalysis. This allows me to make certain that various blood diseases, liver and kidney diseases are not causing the seizures. I follow up with abdominal and chest x-ray films to make certain that cardiac, lung and abdominal causes of seizures are not implicated.
For multiple, severe seizures I always try to have MRI studies done to rule out abnormal brain structures/tumors/masses as the cause of seizures.
Certainly there are a number of owners who balk at this series of tests, and I always tell them if they can live with the uncertainty, then so can I--and then I merely treat symptomatically, with the diagnosis open and the owner fully understanding that I don't know what the problem is.
There is no EEG test that is standardized in the canine, we can do this for human epileptics but not the dog.
As to causes for epilepsey: head trauma, genetics, previous severe illness. I suppose severe food allergies could be implicated, but this would be a rare, obscure cause. One way to test this would be to use an elemental diet, I personally like Hill's Ultra Z/D hypoallergenic diet. You would use this exclusively for at least 6 months. Others on this list may have their favorites, but you must be absolutely assured that it is a true hypoallergenic diet, just because claims are made for certain foods doesn't mean those claims are accurate.
Unfortunately, skull x-ray films will tell you nothing about the brain's architecture, because the skull will blot out any soft tissue structure. This is why MRI is necessary to view the brain.
As to treatment, if the seizures are infrequent and mild, then not every case is treated. Dogs do not need to work or drive cars, etc. If one does opt to treat, then many drugs exist, and a consult with a veterinary neurologist will help. I frequently use a combination of phenobarbitol and potassium bromide to treat my epileptic patients.
Now, having written all this, it may be entirely possible that all you are dealing with is an ear problem, so don't overlook the obvious.
Dr. Van Lienden
Dr. Raymond Van Lienden DVM
The Animal Clinic of Clifton
12702 Chapel Road, Clifton
Virginia, U.S.A. 20124