Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Dogs as a natural animal model of epilepsy

Epilepsy is a common neurological disease in both humans and domestic dogs, making dogs an ideal translational model of epilepsy. In both species, epilepsy is a complex brain disease characterized by an enduring predisposition to generate spontaneous recurrent epileptic seizures. Furthermore, as in humans, status epilepticus is one of the more common neurological emergencies in dogs with epilepsy. In both species, epilepsy is not a single disease but a group of disorders characterized by a broad array of clinical signs, age of onset, and underlying causes. Brain imaging suggests that the limbic system, including the hippocampus and cingulate gyrus, is often affected in canine epilepsy, which could explain the high incidence of comorbid behavioral problems such as anxiety and cognitive alterations. Resistance to antiseizure medications is a significant problem in both canine and human epilepsy, so dogs can be used to study mechanisms of drug resistance and develop novel therapeutic strategies to benefit both species. Importantly, dogs are large enough to accommodate intracranial EEG and responsive neurostimulation devices designed for humans. Studies in epileptic dogs with such devices have reported ictal and interictal events that are remarkably similar to those occurring in human epilepsy. Continuous (24/7) EEG recordings in a select group of epileptic dogs for >1 year have provided a rich dataset of unprecedented length for studying seizure periodicities and developing new methods for seizure forecasting. The data presented in this review substantiate that canine epilepsy is an excellent translational model for several facets of epilepsy research. Furthermore, several techniques of inducing seizures in laboratory dogs are discussed as related to therapeutic advances. Importantly, the development of vagus nerve stimulation as a novel therapy for drug-resistant epilepsy in people was based on a series of studies in dogs with induced seizures. Dogs with naturally occurring or induced seizures provide excellent large-animal models to bridge the translational gap between rodents and humans in the development of novel therapies. Furthermore, because the dog is not only a preclinical species for human medicine but also a potential patient and pet, research on this species serves both veterinary and human medicine.


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