The University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Fitzpatrick Referrals in Surrey have been researching a very debilitating yet rare type of epilepsy that affects dogs as well as children. Their research was released in PLOS One, and it focuses on developing treatment for the dogs, as well as the children (approximately 50 around the world), who are suffering from this condition.
This condition is known as Lafora’s disease although rare in humans, it is a very serious form of epilepsy that is fatal. The disease is caused due to a mutation in the genes. This causes the levels of glycogen in the body to be abnormal, and when children and dogs suffer from this condition, it will cause seizures, as well as the loss of the ability to walk and dementia.
To help learn more about this disease and to find treatment options, the researchers have looked to specialists working at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and to owners of the breed of dog that has one of the highest occurrences of this disease, the miniature wirehaired dachshund. They spoke with 27 owners of these dogs and they spent time looking for clinical signs of the disease, and watched how it would advance. They believe it would help them to better understand how the disease might advance in children.
What Are the Signs?
The researchers found that spontaneous muscle contractions and reflexes were the most common sign of the disease, along with jerking motions, and generalized seizures. These were not the only signs they discovered, however. They also say that there could be focal seizures, panic attacks, aggression, and smacking of jaws.
The conditions of this disease cause the quality of life for the child, or for the dog, to spiral downward. As mentioned, this is a fatal disease, and unfortunately, there is still very little known about it or how to treat it. This genetic mutation was only discovered in 2005, so there is still much that is unknown about it.
The researchers are hoping that their efforts will help to make it faster to provide a diagnosis for the disease. They want to learn more so they can not only diagnose the disease quickly, but also so they can learn ways to provide treatments to those patients, human and canine, who are suffering.
With increased awareness that has started to develop in recent years, it has been possible to reduce the risk of puppies being born with Lafora from 55% to less than 5%. Ideally, there will be a way to provide not only preventative measures for the dogs, but also treatments for dogs and humans alike.
Of course, there still needs to be a substantial amount of research conducted regarding Lafora’s disease. By continuing to spread awareness and learning to look for the signs of the disease, it will at least be possible to diagnose it for those who suffer.