Potassium Bromide & Seizures

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / December 21, 2018
potassium bromide

Whether your beloved dog is experiencing their first seizure, or it is a regular occurrence, the violent convulsions are sad and scary to witness. As a dog owner, you want the best for Fido. Naturally, if and when your dog has a seizure you are going to immediately take them to the vet for some relief. In that case, your veterinarian will likely prescribe Potassium Bromide. Desperately seeking comfort for your dog, you will likely administer it without a second thought. However, is potassium bromide good for your dog? Does it cause more side-effects than it does actual relief? In this article, we will answer these questions and more. So, let’s learn everything there is to know about seizures, epilepsy, and potassium bromide for dogs.

potassium bromide

What is Potassium Bromide?

Potassium Bromide is a prescription medication commonly used to treat seizures in dogs, cats, and humans. Veterinarians often turn to Potassium Bromide (also referred to as KBr) due to the fact that it can be used in tandem with other anticonvulsant medications. Furthermore, KBr has been used to treat seizures in humans and canines for over 100 years.

However, despite this long track record, Potassium Bromide (also referred to as KBr) is not approved for this use by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). To enumerate, a lack of FDA approval means that no manufacturers of KBr have attempted to prove their product is safe and effective. Not only does this mean companies are intentionally selling a potentially harmful, possibly ineffective product, but they are not manufacturing medicine without FDA-approved quality standards.

With a choice of capsules or serum, potassium bromide treatment is always started with a “loading dose”. Meaning, you administer a higher amount on day one and dial back dosage after the initial introduction.

What Causes Dog Seizures?

Before we dive into how to safely treat seizures in dogs, it is important to understand what is causing them in the first place. Interestingly enough, though seizures result in violent body convulsions, they are actually considered a neurological (brain) condition.

Due to the fact that seizures are triggered in the brain, they are typically caused by a change in the physiological environment. For example, seizures can be caused by physical trauma, the presence of toxins, infection, tumors, or disease. That is to say, seizures can sometimes be a symptom of another condition.

dog seizure

Idiopathic Epilepsy

The most common cause of seizures in dogs is Idiopathic Epilepsy. While this form of epilepsy has been known to be genetic, it is also a catch-all term when the cause of seizing is unidentifiable.  Epilepsy refers to “repeated episodes of seizures”. Therefore, not all animals that experience seizures have epilepsy.

Stages of a Canine Seizure

In the moment, a canine seizure may seem like it lasts a lifetime. Episodes are scary, violent, and leave you, their owner, feeling helpless. In reality, a typical seizure only lasts a few seconds, with more severe cases lasting mere minutes. Furthermore, there are three main phases of a canine seizure.

The Pre-Ictal Phase

Also known as “aura”, the pre-ictal phase of a seizure is the calm before the storm, so to speak. Dog’s will often appear nervous and whine, shake, salivate, or hide. Conversely, some dog’s will cling to their owner. Basically, dog’s have incredibly keen senses. Similar to how dogs can read people’s energy, a dog can sense when they are about to have a seizure.

The Ictal Phase

The most traumatic part of a seizure is the ictal phase. During the ictal phase, the bulk of the seizure will occur. Violent and uncontrollable jerking, accompanied by muscle spasms, can last anywhere from a few seconds to five full minutes. If the seizing exceeds five minutes, status epilepticus is in effect. Prolonged seizures like this are incredibly dangerous and require immediate medical attention.

During the ictal phase, a dog can lose consciousness or mental awareness. In some cases, dog’s will even snap at the air, in a hallucinatory state. Additionally, seizing dog’s tend to fall to their side and paddle erratically despite seeming otherwise paralyzed. It is entirely common for seizing dogs to lose control of bodily functions. Therefore, defecation, urination, or excess salivation is likely to occur.

Post-Ictal Phase

Upon returning to consciousness after a seizure, a dog is thought to be in the post-ictal phase. Dog’s will often appear confused, restless, and disoriented. In severe cases, post-ictal dog’s may experience temporary blindness. Current research reveals there is no real correlation between the length of the post-ictal phase and the severity of the preceding seizure.

Side Effects of Potassium Bromide in Dogs

With any prescription medication, there are side-effects involved. First of all, if potassium bromide is even successful in treating your dog’s seizures, it may take up to four months of dosage to work. That is a long time and a lot of medication. Furthermore, if your dog displays any adverse reactions, it is equally as bad for them to stop administering KBr cold turkey. That is to say, should you decide to try potassium bromide to treat your dog’s seizures, the stakes are pretty high. So without further adieu, the possible side-effects of potassium bromide for dogs include:

  • Profound sedation
  • Ataxia (loss of bodily control)
  • Increased appetite and thirst
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach (vomiting and diarrhea)
  • Excessive urination
  • Tremors
  • Paralysis of rear legs
  • Uncharacteristic irritability
  • Constipation

potassium bromide causes paralysis of rear legs

Clearly, potassium bromide can pack a scary punch. While common side-effects like upset stomach are pretty standard, sedation, ataxia, and paralysis are unacceptable.

Other Epilepsy Prescriptions

With the iffy side-effects associated with potassium bromide, you are likely interested in pursuing other seizure treatment options. Well, there are a number of other prescription seizure medications out there for canines. However, like potassium bromide, the risk is not worth the “reward”.

Phenobarbital for Dogs

Commonly used in tandem with potassium bromide, phenobarbital is a popular prescription anticonvulsant. One of the first seizure medications available, phenobarbital has been used for a long time. However, a number of dog’s cannot tolerate the chemical composition of the medication. That is why it is commonly prescribed in a smaller dose, to be paired with other medications, like potassium bromide.

Phenobarbital decreases neuron activity in the brain, which helps reduce, stabilize, and prevent seizures in dogs. To enumerate, phenobarbital reducing glutamate neurotransmitter activity, which calms nerve-stimulating properties. Furthermore, phenobarbital increases GABA neurotransmitter. Combined, these two actions work to stabilize neural functioning and reduce the severity and frequency of seizures. However, as I am sure you are aware, the brain is a very complex and delicate organism. Naturally, toying with the brains functionality chemically is not without side-effects.

Phenobarbital Side Effects

First of all, phenobarbital must be given promptly every twelve hours. Even the smallest lapse in dosage can result in a seizure breaking through. That is to say, if the drug works on your dog, you are committed for life as this medication is not a cure for seizures so much as it is a treatment. Furthermore, if your dog has an adverse reaction, it is vital to consult your veterinarian immediately, as stopping the drug “cold turkey” can cause further damage. Side-effects to look out for if and when your dog is taking phenobarbital include:

  • Extreme lethargy/sedation
  • Anxiety
  • Anemia (deficiency of red blood cells)
  • Excessive thirst and/or hunger
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight gain

To demonstrate lethargy further, many dog owners claimed their beloved pup acted “drunk” after taking phenobarbital. Their dogs would wobble around, knocking into furniture and having trouble staying awake.

Gabapentin for Dogs

Due to the fact that seizures and epilepsy are relatively common in canines, there are a number of prescription drugs available on the market. Gabapentin is yet another prescription treatment for seizures available on the market today. However, gabapentin is most known for its pain relieving qualities. Additionally, gabapentin is used as a sedative prior to anxiety-provoking situations, such as trips to the vet.

Gabapentin acts as a roadblock between pain signals and pain receptors in the brain. Specifically, the drug minimizing calcium currents in the nervous system. While gabapentin is an effective pain reliever, it does not actually treat any issues, it merely dulls the symptoms.

Gabapentin Side Effects in Dogs

As always, if and when introducing a new medicine to your pet, be sure to have prior vet approval. Moreover, it is vital that you monitor their condition after administration, to see if any side-effects become present. In the case of gabapentin, side-effects may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Upset stomach (diarrhea/vomiting)
  • Depression
  • Loss of coordination abilities
  • Lethargy or sedation
  • Loss of balance
  • Bulging eyes

bulging eyes in dogs

Another prescription, another list of unsavory side-effects.

Zonisamide for Dogs

Yet another prescription-only anticonvulsant medication, zonisamide is most commonly used in combination with another seizure RX. In fact, Zonisamide is often in tandem with phenobarbital or potassium bromide in the event they are not effectively treating seizures. Occasionally, Zonisamide will be prescribed when the patient cannot tolerate other, more popular seizure medication.

Interestingly enough, it is reported that the specific manner in which Zonisamide prevents seizures is “currently unknown”. Isn’t that what every pet parent wants for their beloved dog, mysterious and cryptic medications?  We think not.

Zonisamide for dogs Side Effects

To start, Zonisamide is a relatively new medication in the animal world. This leaves many veterinarians wary of prescribing it because there is little to no research regarding the long-term effects of the drug. Like it’s aforementioned anticonvulsant prescription sisters, Zonisamide is riddled with possible side-effects. Such as:

  • Sedation and excessive lethargy
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ataxia (loss of muscle control)
  • Blood disorders
  • Skin reactions
  • Hyperthermia

Clearly, prescription anticonvulsants are not worth the risk.

Long-Term Effects of Prescription Anticonvulsants

It is important to note, the aforementioned prescription side-effects are all mostly based on short-term reactions. In the event one of the above medications is effective in treating your dog’s seizures, they have to religiously stay on their drug regime or epileptic episodes can come back tenfold. Depending on the age of your dog, this could mean years of daily medication. Over time, the chemicals in the drugs will build up, often resulting in toxicity in the liver and kidneys. Worse yet, this toxic build-up can cause more seizures than before later down the road.

Natural Treatments for Dog Seizures

By now, you may feel at a loss for a safe, effective treatment option for your ailing pooch. Well, worry not! We live in the most innovative time in holistic medication ever. Meaning, you can have your pick of safe and natural treatment options that actually work. So let’s figure out how to help your seizure-prone pup, shall we?

CBD Oil for Dogs

If you keep up with homeopathic wellness at all, you have most likely heard of CBD oil. Not only is CBD oil quickly gaining popularity regarding human wellness, but in pet health as well. CBD oil is derived from the versatile hemp plant. Hemp is a member of the cannabis family. While “cannabis” comes with a bit of a stigma, rest assured that we are not trying to get your dog “high on reefer”. The psychoactive effects of marijuana, hemp’s infamous cousin, is caused by high levels of THC. Marijuana has 20-40% THC, while hemp merely has .3% THC. Translation, CBD oil is perfectly safe for your dog and will not make them have “the munchies”.

cbd for dogs

Benefits of CBD Oil for Dogs

So now that we know exactly what CBD oil is, let’s talk about the exciting benefits it possesses. First of all, CBD is an all-natural, virtually side-effect free way of treating seizures in canines. The only so-called side-effect is a bit of tiredness when first administered, however, a lower dose will adjust that right away! CBD oil is a powerful, safe, and effective tool in your dog’s holistic health plan. Benefits include:

  • Anxiety relief (take that, vacuum!)
  • Treatment of seizures andepilepsy
  • Easing of pain (nerve-related, joint, and more!)
  • Calming allergies
  • Preventing andcuring cancer
  • Increased blood flow
  • Promoting overall homeostasis in the body

The ability to prevent cancer while treating your dog’s seizures?! Talk about a win-win! Better yet, CBD oil provides homeostasis that helps the body function optimally, effectively preventing countless health issues.

Where do I get CBD Oil for Dogs?

So, where can you get this so-called “miracle herb”? First of all, with the rapid rise in CBD oil popularity, you have more options than over. However, not all CBD oils are created equally. It is vital to purchase only organic, non-GMO, lab-tested CBD oil made specifically with canines in mind.  To save you the black-hole google search, we recommend Honest Paws because their products meet the aforementioned standards. Better still, if you have any lingering curiosities about CBD oil for dogs, Honest Paws has a helpful definitive guide on the topic.


Utilizing the science behind pressure points, acupuncture is the practice of inserting tiny needles purposefully throughout the body. Expertly triggering the appropriate pressure points can work wonders in humans, and dogs alike. Acupuncture increases circulation, relieves pain, decreases inflammation, and helps treat seizures and epilepsy. Better yet, despite what you may think, acupuncture is not painful for your dog. In fact, many canines find it relaxing and fall asleep during their sessions.

If you and your veterinarian decide acupuncture is a useful practice for your dog, be sure to visit a trained animal acupuncture specialist. Frequency and duration of treatments will depend on your dog’s unique needs. Dog’s suffering more persistent seizures will likely need a longer treatment plan.

acupuncture for dogs with cushings disease


There are countless supplements and plant extracts that have been used in homeopathic medicine for centuries. When it comes to treatment of seizures and epilepsy, belladonna is the most popular choice. Furthermore, belladonna is used to treat rabies and various forms of inflammation.

You can get belladonna in a concentrated oil form. Simply administer three or four drops a day to help ward off seizures. Additionally, if you suspect an episode is imminent, you can give your dog a few drops pre-seizure to help reduce the time and intensity of the episode.

Food Therapy

We have all heard the saying “you are what you eat”, right? While your dog is obviously not eating seizures for breakfast, your dog’s diet may be encouraging them. Many ailments and diseases can naturally be warded off by a perfectly balanced, healthy diet.

Regarding seizures, a dog’s diet that is high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates is ideal for prevention. Higher fat levels help reduce neuron excitability tied to epileptic episodes. Better yet, implementation of powerful nutritional vitamins and supplements can work wonders. For example, essential fatty acids (such as Omega-3’s) help regulate brain activity naturally.

A Word of Advice

A canine body is a versatile and delicate ecosystem. That is to say, before introducing any new medication or supplement, it is vital you consult your veterinarian. Many prescriptions have even more adverse reactions when paired with other drugs or preexisting canine conditions. Be sure to fully inform your veterinarian about the patients previous and current medical history. With that information, your vet will be able to determine the safest, most effective treatment plan for puppy patients.

Furthermore, you should always consult your vet before introducing any major dietary changes. Sudden changes in diet may evoke side-effects such as an upset stomach. It is beneficial to slowly work in the new food while phasing out your dog’s old food.

My Dog is Having a Seizure, Help!

We can talk all day about how to treat seizures, but what do you do when your dog is actually having one? Below are some helpful tips for controlling seizures.

Stay Calm

First of all, it is important to try and stay calm. Dog’s are incredibly empathetic creatures, and they feed off of your energy. While a seizure looks painful and dramatic, your dog is in an altered state of consciousness and therefore is unaware of what is happening.

Create a Safe Space

Your pet parent instincts will likely be urging you to rush to your dog’s side. However, space is vital to both you and your during an epileptic episode. Considering dog’s are unaware of their surroundings during a seizure, it is not uncommon for them to try and bite things. The best you can do for your dog in the heat of the moment is clear the space of any hard or sharp objects and wait for it to pass. Do not put a blanket or towel on them. Your dog can easily get tangled in the blanket during an episode.

Monitor the Time

Finally, it is important to monitor the length and intensity of every seizure. Witnessing a seizure can be incredibly scary, and they may seem like they last a lifetime, when they really only lasted a few moments. Therefore, it is vital to get an accurate read on seizure length by timing it. This information is useful to your vet when determining the appropriate treatment plan.

happy healthy dog

Potassium Bromide for Dogs: The Bottom Line

Each and every dog is as unique as their loving owner. That is to say, it is important to find the most effective seizure treatment for your individual pet’s needs. There are countless anti-convulsion prescriptions, like potassium bromide, on the market. However, all of them have adverse side-effects in the short, and long-term. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to safely, naturally, and effectively treat your dog’s seizures homeopathically. Whatever path you choose, we wish you and your puppy pal a long, healthy life together. Now, go give your precious fur baby a hug and a snuggle!









3 Natural Treatments For Dog Seizures And Epilepsy

Zonisamide For Veterinary Use

Gabapentin for Dogs: How it Works, Dosage, and Side Effects

Phenobarbital For Veterinary Use

Phenobarbital for Dogs: Treating Canine Seizures

Dog Seizures: Symptoms, Types, and Treatment for Seizures in Dogs

Side Effects of Potassium Bromide for Dogs



About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for Honestpaws.com.