Langford Vets perform cutting-edge canine epilepsy procedure

Tom Harcourt-Brown, Langford Vets veterinary neurologist and Mike Carter, paediatric neurosurgeon from Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, joined forces at Langford Vets Small Animal Referral Hospital to implant a Vagus Nerve Stimulator into Jago, a four year old border collie from Guildford, with medically unresponsive epilepsy.

Vagus Nerve Stimulators (VNS) are pacemaker type devices that are commonly implanted in children with medically unresponsive seizures and when other epilepsy surgery procedures aren’t suitable. The Paediatric Epilepsy Surgery centre at BRHC implants around thirty of these devices into epileptic children every year. Research work has demonstrated that the technique is effective in other mammals including dogs, although this is the first procedure of its type to be undertaken in the UK.

Epilepsy is a very common disorder in dogs and can be very difficult and very expensive to treat medically. For this reason many beloved family pets end up being put down when they fail to respond to drugs.  Although VNS is rarely curative of epilepsy in humans or dogs, we are very hopeful that that surgery will be effective in helping control Jago’s fits.  In recent months his seizures have become so frequent that he has had difficulty in walking and eating. His device will need regular programming over the next few months to get to optimum settings. If it proves effective, it may be possible to reduce the amount of anti-seizure medications he has to take. Its early days yet but this treatment might offer hope for other families with epileptic dogs.

This venture is part of the growing collaborative effort between doctors at the Trust neurosurgery and Langford Vets, supported by Livanova who manufacture these devices. It is increasingly clear that many treatments used in humans can be very useful in the animal world. Such endeavours also allow a great deal of progress in humans, when treatment measures have first proved successful in animals. Langford Vets and Bristol children’s hospital have previously worked together on models of brain tumour treatment, cardiac failure, hydrocephalus and now epilepsy. A trend that we very much hope will benefit both human and animal patients in the future.

Jago has come through surgery very well and appears to be adapting to VNS therapy nicely! He will be going home soon and we hope to post updates on his progress in weeks to come. 

Tom Harcourt-Brown said: "If a dog’s seizures cannot be controlled with medication, there are currently no other treatments available and this can lead to severe cases being put to sleep. Because of this, we are really excited to be working with Bristol Children’s Hospital and Livanova to able to offer vagal nerve stimulation as it is a potentially life-saving treatment in these cases.”

Find out more

Further information and FAQs about this new canine epilepsy procedure can be found here

If you think you have a suitable canine candidate for VNS Implantation, please contact our Small Animal Referral Hospital.