War Memorial Gary Trouton

The Phyllis Croft Foundation

March 2001

Information about this charity in aid of canine epilepsy

I have a Border Collie called Gemma; she is now nearly six and, like all Border Collies, is a real handful. A natural working dog, she demands lots of attention, lots of exercise and a strong willed boss. She has a strong personality and simply loves to try to dominate me in every way possible. All in all, she is a real challenge!

When Gemma was 22 months old she had what I now know was her first Epileptic fit. It was horrific. Animal lovers will understand the complete panic I experienced, especially as I was totally unaware that animals even suffered from epilepsy. I contacted my Vet immediately and he told me not to worry. He said the best thing I could do was to wait and see if she had anymore. I wouldn't wish the tension generated by that wait on anyone. Every day, every hour I would respond to the slightest twitch with a heaving heart and a gut wrenching feeling of sheer, unadulterated panic. Unfortunately, a few months later, my imagined nightmare became real when she suffered what appeared to be another fit and I had to again take her to the surgery. My worst fears were confirmed and she was diagnosed Epileptic and prescribed Phenobarbitone. It took a blood test and a gradual increase in dosage over several weeks to determine the precise level of medication she needed to control her fits. Things did improve slightly but she continued to have fits, albeit of lesser intensity and reduced frequency

My brother-in-law found a lot of information on canine epilepsy on the Internet; it was apparently a major topic both here and in America. One particular item caught my eye in that it appeared that a combination of potassium bromide and Phenobarbitone had achieved, in some trials, a success rate of 85%. I discussed this with my Vet (perhaps I should say I forcible instructed my Vet about this trial) and we agreed that this was a sensible way to proceed. Things did improve, and quite quickly. There were longer periods between fits and their intensity seemed to be diminished. I innocently thought, this was it; Gemma was cured and it was no little thanks to my perseverance. Needless to say, I was a little over optimistic; even now, almost 4 years later, I still find myself making regular visits to my Vet.

No doubt owners of other animals suffering from serious medical disorders will have experienced the same problems that I now have with Gemma. Gone are the relaxed days of irregular feeds and haphazard routine; lying in bed at the weekend, ignoring the walks if in inclement weather. Instead comes the regime of regular medicine dosage, carefully controlled feeding routines and a much more intensive programme of exercise, grooming and general care. I suppose the upside is that I am now even closer to Gemma than ever.

During one of my, by now, regular contributions to the Vets Benevolent Fund I noticed a card on the wall in the waiting room about `The Phyllis Croft Foundation`. I wont say I was desperate, but I did feel I needed to talk to someone who had more understanding of the canine epilepsy condition than your average man in the street (I hesitate to say your average Vet in the Street). I decided, therefore, to write to the Foundation; a decision I have never regretted.

Phyllis Croft OBE PHD FRCVS has specialised in canine epilepsy for many years. Indeed, she is one of the world's leading exponents of treatment of the canine epilepsy condition. I discovered that by joining the Foundation, at a minimal fee of £8 a year, I was able to turn on a veritable tap of information and, dare I say it, re-assurance and plain old heart-warming comfort. Membership provided me with four newsletters a year (BRAINWAVE) and, if I need any advice or help, entitled me to ring Phyllis Croft direct. But it is not all take. On the other hand, I am encouraged to make my personal contribution to the Foundation.

If any member can help other owners, or wish to tell of their own experiences in coping with a dog with epilepsy, their letters are encouraged and then published in the Foundation Newsletter. I must admit, I found it a great comfort to read the letters of other members and the Brainwave newsletter gave me a much better insight into Gemma's illness. I suppose it also gave me the courage to persevere with the treatment and care that an epileptic dog so desperately needs. Ultimately, I suppose, it has prolonged Gemma's life and ensured that I can still enjoy the delights of my very own one dog avalanche!

For anyone who thinks their dog has Canine Epilepsy or for those who just want to know more about the disease, the address to write to is:

Margaret James77 Upland Road,Billericay,Essex CM12 OLD01277 630145

Why not join up? For a measly £8 a year you too can be a member of the epileptic dog owners club with access to a veritable treasure trove of information, advice and plain old common sense. And Gemma says, if you don't, she'll come round and see you next time she is in Stoke Ferry!

Pat Watts

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