Epilepsy Initiative

About the Epilepsy Research Initiative

The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) identified the need to better understand epilepsy in dogs with the launch of the Epilepsy Research Initiative. New studies that translated results from the research lab to the veterinary clinic were sought in 2014 in a collaborative response to donors, dog owners and the veterinary community impacted by canine epilepsy. In 2017, an initiative matched-funding challenge furthered CHF’s ability to support innovative research leading to better understanding of epilepsy and more effective treatments. The Epilepsy Research Initiative continues today to equip dog owners and veterinarians with the latest educational resources and further cutting-edge canine health research for this devastating condition.

Epilepsy affects one in every 100 dogs (Heske L, Nodvedt A, Jaderlund KH, Berendt M, Egenvall A. A cohort study of epilepsy among 665,000 insured dogs: incidence, mortality and survival. 2014.  Vet J; 202:471-6) and refers to recurrent seizures resulting from an abnormality in brain function. The condition can be inherited (genetic epilepsy), caused by structural problems in the brain (symptomatic epilepsy), or may be of unknown cause (idiopathic epilepsy). Determination of the appropriate treatment for canine epilepsy, as well as prognosis for the condition, depends on accurate diagnosis of the type and cause of seizures.

Since 1995, CHF and its donors have invested more than $2.8 million in 42 grants to study canine epilepsy. Ongoing studies are exploring the use and effects of dietary supplements in the treatment of canine epilepsy, underlying genetics and disease mechanisms, and the role of the gastrointestinal tract and microbiome in the development and treatment of this disease.

$2.8M invested in epilepsy research since 1995.


Learn More about the Initiative

Learn more about the Epilepsy Research Initiative by AKCtv's Ask the Expert: Epilepsy and Tick-borne Disease with former CHF CEO, Dr. Diane Brown.

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Why Study It?

  • Epilepsy is the most common medical neurological disorder in dogs
  • Despite the development of new anti-epileptic drugs, many dogs' seizures remain uncontrolled using currently available therapies
  • Knowledge gained may also improve our understanding of human epilepsy
  • Understanding the mechanisms of anti-epileptic drug resistance may lead to more successful seizure management
  • New treatment strategies may help dogs whose disease is uncontrolled by currently available therapies and those who cannot tolerate the side effects of current anti-epileptic drugs
  • Identification of genetic risk factors may enable breeders to select against such factors and help owners of affected dogs make lifestyle and treatment decisions that improve their dog’s quality of life

Our Progress So Far

Current CHF-Funded Studies

The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) believes in the advancement of science to meet the unmet medical needs of the dogs that are such an important part of our daily lives. Here we list the important active studies in this research program area.

 03255-MOU Clinical Characteristics and Heritability of Idiopathic Epilepsy in the Otterhound Breed: A Survey-based Study
 03243-A Comparison of Clorazepate and Levetiracetam as Pulse Therapy for the In-Home Management of Cluster Seizures in Dogs with Idiopathic Epilepsy: A Pilot Study
 03039 Prognostic Biomarkers for the Development of Drug Resistance in Dogs with Idiopathic Epilepsy
 03036-A Mapping Microstructural Myelin and Axonal Damage in Dogs with Idiopathic Epilepsy using Diffusion MRI and Tract-Based Spatial Statistics
 02940 Investigating Neuronal Network Connectivity in Dogs with Idiopathic Epilepsy using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
 02931 Assessment of Frequency of Seizures and Antiseizure Drug (ASD) Efficacy by Electroencephalography (EEG) for Dogs with Epilepsy
 02930 A Dose Finding Study of Cannabidiol in Dogs with Idiopathic Epilepsy

 02323  Efficacy of Cannabidiol (CBD) for the Treatment of Canine Epilepsy
 02566  Genetics of Idiopathic Epilepsy in Labrador Retrievers

 Investigating a Ketogenic Medium-Chain Triglyceride(MCT) Supplement for the Treatment of Drug-Resistant Canine Idiopathic Epilepsy and Its Behavioral Comorbidities

 02248  Identification of a Novel Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy Gene and Its Underlying Disease Mechanism
 02249-A  Studying the Role of the Gastrointestinal Tract in Canine Epilepsy
 02257  Identification of Genetic Risk Factors for Canine Epilepsy
 02131  Neurostimulation: A Groundbreaking New Treatment for Canine Epilepsy
 02133  Canine Epilepsy: Genetic Variants, Biomarkers, and New Therapies


Webinar: See what Karen R. Muñana, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Neurology) has to say about the link between epilepsy and gastrointestinal health here.


Podcast: Dr. Diane Brown, former CHF CEO, spoke with Pure Dog Talk in 2018 about canine epilepsy and the multifaceted research approach being taken to address this common malady in dogs through the AKC Canine Health Foundation’s Epilepsy Research Initiative. Listen to the podcast here.

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Whitepaper:  Read our peer reviewed Epilepsy whitepaper and sign up to download a free seizure diary.

American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine: Idiopathic Epilepsy

Purina Labrador Retriever Update: Labrador Retrievers May Benefit from Epilepsy Research to Identify Genetic Risk Factors



Researchers awarded grants through CHF continue to produce a wealth of publications contributing to scientific knowledge. These scientific articles, grouped by publication date, are a result of CHF-funded epilepsy research!

  • Berk, B. A., Ottka, C., Hong Law, T., Packer, R. M. A., Wessmann, A., Bathen-Nöthen, A., Jokinen, T. S., Knebel, A., Tipold, A., Lohi, H., & Volk, H. A. (2022). Metabolic fingerprinting of dogs with idiopathic epilepsy receiving a ketogenic medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 9. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2022.935430
  • Berk, B. A., Packer, R. M.-A., Fritz, J., & Volk, H. A. (2022). Oral Palatability Testing of a Medium-Chain Triglyceride Oil Supplement (MCT) in a Cohort of Healthy Dogs in a Non-Clinical Setting. Animals, 12(13), 1639. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12131639
  • Belanger, J. M., Famula, T. R., Gershony, L. C., Palij, M. K., & Oberbauer, A. M. (2020). Genome-wide association analysis of idiopathic epilepsy in the Belgian shepherd. Canine Medicine and Genetics, 7(1), 12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40575-020-00091-x
  • Berk, B. A., Packer, R. M. A., Law, T. H., Wessmann, A., Bathen-Nöthen, A., Jokinen, T. S., Knebel, A., Tipold, A., Pelligand, L., & Volk, H. A. (2020). Medium-chain triglycerides dietary supplement improves cognitive abilities in canine epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yebeh.2020.107608
  • Berk, Benjamin A., Law, T. H., Packer, R. M. A., Wessmann, A., Bathen‐Nöthen, A., Jokinen, T. S., Knebel, A., Tipold, A., Pelligand, L., Meads, Z., & Volk, H. A. (2020). A multicenter randomized controlled trial of effect of medium-chain triglyceride dietary supplementation on epilepsy in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 1–2. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.15756
  • Muñana, K. R., Jacob, M. E., & Callahan, B. J. (2020). Evaluation of fecal Lactobacillus populations in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy: A pilot study. Animal Microbiome, 2(1), 19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42523-020-00036-6
  • Watson, F., Packer, R. M. A., Rusbridge, C., & Volk, H. A. (2019). Behavioural changes in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Veterinary Record, vetrec-2018-105222. https://doi.org/10.1136/vr.105222
  • Villani, N. A., Bullock, G., Michaels, J. R., Yamato, O., O’Brien, D. P., Mhlanga-Mutangadura, T., Johnson, G. S., & Katz, M. L. (2019). A mixed breed dog with neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis is homozygous for a CLN5 nonsense mutation previously identified in Border Collies and Australian Cattle Dogs. Molecular Genetics and Metabolism. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ymgme.2019.04.003
  • Thomovsky, S. A., Chen, A. V., Deavila, D. M., & Kiszonas, A. M. (2019). Serum Melatonin Values in Normal Dogs and Dogs with Seizures. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association. https://doi.org/10.5326/JAAHA-MS-6669
  • Hartsel, J. A., Boyar, K., Pham, A., Silver, R. J., & Makriyannis, A. (2019). "Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine: Cannabinoid Therapies for Animals: Clinical Efficacy of CBD for Treating Osteoarthritis and Refractory Epilepsy in the Dog: A Pilot Study." In R. C. Gupta, A. Srivastava, & R. Lall (Eds.), Nutraceuticals in Veterinary Medicine (pp. 121–155). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04624-8_10
  • Berk, Benjamin Andreas, Packer, R. M. A., Law, T. H., Wessmann, A., Bathen-Nöthen, A., Jokinen, T. S., Knebel, A., Tipold, A., Pelligand, L., & Volk, H. A. (2019). A double-blinded randomised dietary supplement crossover trial design to investigate the short-term influence of medium chain fatty acid (MCT) supplement on canine idiopathic epilepsy: Study protocol. BMC Veterinary Research, 15(1), 181. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-019-1915-8
  • Wielaender, F., James, F. M. K., Cortez, M. A., Kluger, G., Neßler, J. N., Tipold, A., Lohi, H., & Fischer, A. (2018). Absence Seizures as a Feature of Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy in Rhodesian Ridgeback Dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 32(1), 428–432. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.14892
  • Berk, Benjamin Andreas, Packer, R. M. A., Law, T. H., & Volk, H. A. (2018). Investigating owner use of dietary supplements in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Research in Veterinary Science, 119, 276–284. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rvsc.2018.07.004
  • Wielaender, Franziska, Sarviaho, R., James, F., Hytönen, M. K., Cortez, M. A., Kluger, G., Koskinen, L. L. E., Arumilli, M., Kornberg, M., Bathen-Noethen, A., Tipold, A., Rentmeister, K., Bhatti, S. F. M., Hülsmeyer, V., Boettcher, I. C., Tästensen, C., Flegel, T., Dietschi, E., Leeb, T., … Lohi, H. (2017). Generalized myoclonic epilepsy with photosensitivity in juvenile dogs caused by a defective DIRAS family GTPase 1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(10), 2669–2674. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1614478114
  • Packer, R. M. A., Volk, H. A., & Fowkes, R. C. (2017). Physiological reactivity to spontaneously occurring seizure activity in dogs with epilepsy and their carers. Physiology & Behavior, 177, 27–33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.04.008
    Koskinen, L. L. E., Seppälä, E. H., Weissl, J., Jokinen, T. S., Viitmaa, R., Hänninen, R. L., Quignon, P., Fischer, A., André, C., & Lohi, H. (2017). ADAM23 is a common risk gene for canine idiopathic epilepsy. BMC Genetics, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12863-017-0478-6
  • Kolicheski, A., Johnson, G. S., Villani, N. A., O’Brien, D. P., Mhlanga-Mutangadura, T., Wenger, D. A., Mikoloski, K., Eagleson, J. S., Taylor, J. F., Schnabel, R. D., & Katz, M. L. (2017). GM2 Gangliosidosis in Shiba Inu Dogs with an In-Frame Deletion in HEXB. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 31(5), 1520–1526. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.14794
  • Kolicheski, A., Barnes Heller, H. L., Arnold, S., Schnabel, R. D., Taylor, J. F., Knox, C. A., Mhlanga-Mutangadura, T., O’Brien, D. P., Johnson, G. S., Dreyfus, J., & Katz, M. L. (2017). Homozygous PPT1 Splice Donor Mutation in a Cane Corso Dog With Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 31(1), 149–157. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.14632
  • James, F. M. K., Cortez, M. A., Monteith, G., Jokinen, T. S., Sanders, S., Wielaender, F., Fischer, A., & Lohi, H. (2017). Diagnostic Utility of Wireless Video-Electroencephalography in Unsedated Dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 31(5), 1469–1476. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.14789
  • Vuu, I., Coles, L. D., Maglalang, P., Leppik, I. E., Worrell, G., Crepeau, D., Mishra, U., Cloyd, J. C., & Patterson, E. E. (2016). Intravenous Topiramate: Pharmacokinetics in Dogs with Naturally Occurring Epilepsy. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 3. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2016.00107
  • Milne, M. E., Steward, C., Firestone, S. M., Long, S. N., O’Brien, T. J., & Moffat, B. A. (2016). Development of representative magnetic resonance imaging–based atlases of the canine brain and evaluation of three methods for atlas-based segmentation. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 77(4), 395–403. https://doi.org/10.2460/ajvr.77.4.395
  • Koskinen, L. L. E., Seppälä, E. H., Belanger, J. M., Arumilli, M., Hakosalo, O., Jokinen, P., Nevalainen, E. M., Viitmaa, R., Jokinen, T. S., Oberbauer, A. M., & Lohi, H. (2015). Identification of a common risk haplotype for canine idiopathic epilepsy in the ADAM23 gene. BMC Genomics, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-015-1651-9

  • Milne, M. E., Anderson, G. A., Chow, K. E., O’Brien, T. J., Moffat, B. A., & Long, S. N. (2013). Description of technique and lower reference limit for magnetic resonance imaging of hippocampal volumetry in dogs. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 74(2), 224–231. https://doi.org/10.2460/ajvr.74.2.224
  • Seppälä, E. H., Koskinen, L. L. E., Gulløv, C. H., Jokinen, P., Karlskov-Mortensen, P., Bergamasco, L., Baranowska Körberg, I., Cizinauskas, S., Oberbauer, A. M., Berendt, M., Fredholm, M., & Lohi, H. (2012). Identification of a Novel Idiopathic Epilepsy Locus in Belgian Shepherd Dogs. PLoS ONE, 7(3), e33549. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0033549
  • Hardy, B. T., Patterson, E. E., Cloyd, J. M., Hardy, R. M., & Leppik, I. E. (2012). Double-Masked, Placebo-Controlled Study of Intravenous Levetiracetam for the Treatment of Status Epilepticus and Acute Repetitive Seizures in Dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 26(2), 334–340. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1939-1676.2011.00868.x
  • Boothe, D. M., Dewey, C., & Carpenter, D. M. (2012). Comparison of phenobarbital with bromide as a first-choice antiepileptic drug for treatment of epilepsy in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 240(9), 1073–1083. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.240.9.1073
  • Ekenstedt, K. J., Patterson, E. E., Minor, K. M., & Mickelson, J. R. (2011). Candidate genes for idiopathic epilepsy in four dog breeds. BMC Genetics, 12(1), 38. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2156-12-38
  • Oberbauer, Anita M., Belanger, J. M., Grossman, D. I., Regan, K. R., & Famula, T. R. (2010). Genome-wide linkage scan for loci associated with epilepsy in Belgian Shepherd Dogs. BMC Genetics, 11, 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2156-11-35
  • Muñana, K. R., Zhang, D., & Patterson, E. E. (2010). Placebo Effect in Canine Epilepsy Trials. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 24(1), 166–170. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1939-1676.2009.0407.x
  • Leppik, I. E., Patterson, E., Hardy, B., & Cloyd, J. C. (2009). Canine status epilepticus: Proof of principle studies. Epilepsia, 50, 14–15. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2009.02362.x
  • Kennerly, E. M., Idaghdour, Y., Olby, N. J., Munana, K. R., & Gibson, G. (2009). Pharmacogenetic association study of 30 genes with phenobarbital drug response in epileptic dogs. Pharmacogenetics and Genomics, 19(12), 911–922. https://doi.org/10.1097/FPC.0b013e3283307cba
  • Dewey, C. W., Cerda-Gonzalez, S., Levine, J. M., Badgley, B. L., Ducoté, J. M., Silver, G. M., Cooper, J. J., Packer, R. A., & Lavely, J. A. (2009). Pregabalin as an adjunct to phenobarbital, potassium bromide, or a combination of phenobarbital and potassium bromide for treatment of dogs with suspected idiopathic epilepsy. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 235(12), 1442–1449. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.235.12.1442
  • Licht, B. G., Lin, S., Luo, Y., Hyson, L. L., Licht, M. H., Harper, K. M., Sullivan, S. A., Fernandez, S. A., & Johnston, E. V. (2007). Clinical characteristics and mode of inheritance of familial focal seizures in Standard Poodles. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 231(10), 1520–1528. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.231.10.1520
  • Patterson, E. E., Armstrong, P. J., O’Brien, D. P., Roberts, M. C., Johnson, G. S., & Mickelson, J. R. (2005). Clinical description and mode of inheritance of idiopathic epilepsy in English Springer Spaniels. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 226(1), 54–58. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.2005.226.54

  • Patterson, E. E., Mickelson, J. R., Da, Y., Roberts, M. C., McVey, A. S., O’Brien, D. P., Johnson, G. S., & Armstrong, P. J. (2003). Clinical Characteristics and Inheritance of Idiopathic Epilepsy in Vizslas. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 17, 319–325. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12774973
  • Oberbauer, A. M. (2003). The Genetics of Epilepsy in the Belgian Tervuren and Sheepdog. Journal of Heredity, 94(1), 57–63. https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esg010
  • Licht, B. G., Licht, M. H., Harper, K. M., Lin, S., Curtin, J. J., Hyson, L. L., & Willard, K. (2002). Clinical presentations of naturally occurring canine seizures: Similarities to human seizures. Epilepsy & Behavior, 3(5), 460–470. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1525-5050(02)00523-1

How to Get Involved


Donate to Support Epilepsy Research

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Participate in Research

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Sponsor the Epilepsy Research Initiative

Sponsor today at a $2,500+ level!

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Thank you to the Sponsors of the Epilepsy Research Initiative!

Champion Sponsors ($50,000+)

Collie Health Foundation
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Sponsors ($2,500+)

Alaskan Malamute Club of America
American Belgian Tervuren Club, Inc.
American Brittany Club
American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Charitable Trust 
American Chesapeake Club Charitable Trust
American Chinese Crested Club
American German Shepherd Dog Charitable Foundation, Inc.
American Miniature Schnauzer Club
American Pointer Club
American Shetland Sheepdog Association
American Spaniel Club Foundation
Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute
Bichon Frise Club of America, Inc.
Border Terrier Club of America
Border Terrier Club of America Health and Scholarship Foundation
Boston Terrier Club of America
Central Wisconsin Vizsla Club
Chihuahua Club of America
Embark Veterinary, Inc.
English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association Foundation
English Springer Spaniel Foundation
Field Spaniel Society of America
French Bulldog Club of America
Friends of the Cane Corso, International Cane Corso Federation, and Cane Corso Association of America
German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America
Giant Schnauzer Club of America
Gordon Setter Club of America
Great Dane Club of America

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America
Greyhound Club of America
Health & Rescue Foundation of the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen Club of America
Irish Setter Club of America Foundation, Inc.
Irish Wolfhound Club of America
Irish Water Spaniel Club of America
Keeshond Club of America
Labrador Retriever Club, Inc.
Mastiff Club of America Charitable Trust
Miniature Pinscher Club of America, Inc.
National Beagle Club
Norwegian Elkhound Association of America, Inc.
Orthopedic Foundation for Animals
Otterhound Club of America
Pawtucket River Labrador Retriever Club
Piedmont Border Collie Association
Poodle Club of America Foundation
Portuguese Water Dog Foundation
Rhodesian Ridgeback Charitable Foundation
Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States
Saint Bernard Club of America and Charitable Foundation
Suzanne Stone & Paul Miles
Siberian Husky Club of America, Inc.
Tibetan Terrier Club of America
Toby's Foundation
United States Australian Shepherd Association
United States Australian Shepherd Foundation/USASA
Vizsla Club of America & Vizsla Club of America Welfare Foundation

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