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Casey's story

'The first time Casey had a seizure I thought she had been poisoned. She was sick and shaking. I put my hand in her mouth thinking I needed to remove something toxic and she bit me quite badly. I was mortified to see her like that and really panicked. The neighbours heard me screaming and came and took control. After that I went on to Google to find out everything I could about seizures. I wanted to make sure that if it happened again, I would be prepared.

Casey's seizures are grand mal. She falls to the ground, starts paddling her legs, loses control of her bowels and starts snapping. It is very distressing to witness. The seizures often happen as she is falling asleep or coming out of a deep sleep. They always seem to be when she is resting. When she is busy and active they don't seem to bother her so much. That is one of the reasons why we got a second dog, Enzo (pictured below with Casey), to play with her and help keep her occupied. She loves to compete in flyball, a four-dog relay race over jumps, and her epilepsy never bothers her then.

After affects of seizure

Casey's seizures usually last two to three minutes and tend to leave her very tired and hungry. She can also become extremely hot so we try to cool her down by placing ice on her back and between her shoulders.

When she comes out of a seizure she doesn't know where she is and starts sniffing everything as though she has only just arrived. She doesn't recognise Enzo or our cats. After about 40 minutes of stroking her and talking to her she usually falls into a very deep, hard sleep for a couple of hours. When she wakes up she is as right as rain. We can take her out for a run and you wouldn't know anything has happened to her.

Casey didn’t have her second seizure for a further 9 months and then they started to come more frequently. Although the vet thought from the outset that it was likely she had epilepsy, we wanted to see if they could be controlled another way and have all the tests to rule out other causes. It was only after a few more months when she started having two in a week that she was put on imepitoin, a relatively new drug thought to be the least invasive of the epileptic drugs.

Breakthrough seizures

For 18 months her epilepsy seemed to be well controlled and then she started having breakthrough seizures, sometimes two in a day. She is now slowly changing to phenobarbital. The side effects from the drugs mean she is a little overweight and can be quite sleepy. Since starting phenobarbital her back legs seem quite wobbly and uncoordinated. She also has a lot of head twitches which we hope will diminish as she adapts to the new drug.

Casey has to take her medication at 12 hourly intervals on the dot - 6am and 6pm so there are no lie-ins for us. She is very good at coming to remind us about her medication. Quarter of an hour before it is due, she will either whimper to wake us up or tap us on the arm; She is a very intelligent dog. Casey now has to have regular blood tests to check her therapeutic drug levels. This is very stressful for her.

Emotional burden

I have given up work so that I can look after Casey full time. She is totally reliant on my husband Shane and myself. The emotional, physical and financial burden of looking after her can be quite difficult to cope with but we wouldn't want to be without her. She is our responsibility and we want her to have the best life possible.

When we go out we have a pet monitor camera that we can access from a phone and check that she is alright. But of course there is always the constant fear that we may walk in and find her in status (a prolonged seizure) therefore  both Casey and Enzo generally come out with us.

When Shane and I got married two years ago, we left Casey with a neighbour while we went to Mauritius for our honeymoon While we were away she had two seizures. Now we have bought a caravan so that we can holiday in the UK with Casey and, of course, Enzo. We are hoping that in time, Enzo might learn to recognise Casey's seizures and be able to warn us when they are going to happen.

Fran Agnew, 2015