I have for several years been disappointed in the hidebound State guild known as the AMA. It took years to find a good doctor. I've had much better luck with veterinarians, who tend to be more open-minded, cheaper, and less regulated.
I bring this up because I found a few months ago my now six-month-old pug puppy is epileptic. At least I thought he was, at first. I've decided that instead he is allergic to the store-bought food I had been buying him.
He'd been twitchy since the day I got him when he was ten weeks old. One of the first things he did is twitch while in my lap and fly into the wastebasket.
I didn't think much of it. I thought it was one of those quirks dogs sometimes have. I realize now he was having a petit mal seizure. Sometimes while sleeping his head would come up, his front and back legs would shoot out, and his tail would stick up and vibrate. I still didn't think much of it, until one evening he had a grand mal seizure.
He was lying on the floor at my feet sleeping when he started paddling wildly with his legs, his eyes opened and staring glassily, with foam coming from his mouth. At first I had no idea what was happening. I thought he might have been dying.
The seizure lasted about 15 seconds, then when he came out of it he was confused for several minutes. For two days he didn't act right. That night, after the first one, he had three more.
The next morning when I got on the Internet I found there were three possibilities: pug encephalitis, a brain tumor, or epilepsy. If it was one of the first two, he was going to die. The chances were it was idiopathic epilepsy, which is a fancy way of saying, "Your dog has seizures and we don't know why."
It turns out seizures are very common among dogs, and pugs are the most likely to seize. Various veterinary sites I looked at said drugs would control the seizures, or, I could change his diet. A raw food diet could often reduce or eliminate seizures. That's why I think he is allergic, rather than epileptic.
A change in diet made sense to me. Dogs, after all, are carnivores and not kibble-eaters by nature. So, I began to feed him raw liver (yech), raw eggs, and raw fish, along with some organic kibble (expensive) which I bought at a natural foods store. I also feed him bananas, which are good for dogs, unlike onions or chocolate, which are poisonous to them.
His seizures ceased almost immediately, at least the grand mal ones. He still had the petit mal, which only affected him for a few seconds and did not make him act strange for two days. Once, while walking across the floor, he simply fell over on his side like a stuffed animal that had been tipped over. Then he got back up and was okay.
Still, he wasn't acting quite right. He'd hide in the corner, or under the bed, or behind the couch. He wasn't nearly as playful as he should be. At this time I called his vet and explained the situation, and that I really didn't want to put a puppy on drugs that would affect his brain.
The vet, who was sympathetic to Norman's plight, suggested I stop by the local organic-foods store and pick up a bottle of Bach Flower Remedies, specifically one called Rescue Remedy. He said many people had good results using it with epileptic dogs.
When I stopped by the store, it had all the remedies, of which there are dozens for various ailments. Next to the display there was a free pamphlet explaining how to use them on animals. So I bought the Rescue Remedy, which was about $10 for a small bottle.
The creator of these remedies was Dr. Edward Bach, an Englishman who back in the '30s investigated the effect of different flower essences on various illnesses. He came up with 38 essences. It's not homeopathy, and it's not aromatherapy. They're flowers distilled into little bottles of alcohol, with a dropper in it.
Expecting absolutely nothing, I pried Norman's mouth open and placed four drops in it. To my great surprise, within minutes he was acting as playful as ever. He still had mild petit mal seizures, but strangely enough only during a full moon. I figure if the moon can do to tides what it does, it certainly can affect a dog's brain. After all, the word "lunatic" comes from "luna."
Later, his seizures ceased completely, except for occasionally thrashing around while sleeping for a few seconds, then going back to sleep. He doesn't even do that very much anymore. I suspect he was allergic to the grains and preservatives in his kibble, since when he once got into some bread he had seven seizures that night.
I really don't know how the Bach Flower Remedies work, but they do work. Robert Becker, M.D. author of Cross Current: the Promise of Electromedicine (a book everyone should have), claims that acupuncture and homeopathy work by affecting the electrical currents in the body and brain. Since the currents in the brain are only a millionth of a volt, it seems it wouldn't take much to affect them. The research I've seen claims the flower remedies work by affecting the currents. It's as good of an explanation as any.
I only had to use the Rescue Remedy one time to fix Norman. I don't think he's cured; I've just got his problem under control. Otherwise, he just wants to play all the time. He also wants only the raw food, and not the kibble. I have to not feed him the raw food to make him eat the kibble.
I tried the Rescue Remedy myself, to see what it did. In my case, absolutely nothing. I assume it's because I don't need it. Perhaps I'll investigate them further. Maybe I can make Norman obey me and not use me for a chew toy when I'm trying to sleep.
Excluding the food (which I had to buy for him anyway) the cost of fixing Norman was $10. Too bad humans can't be that lucky.