Senior Dog Cluster Seizures: Calvin’s Brain Tumor and Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)

Do you know what is the most common cause of seizure onset in senior dogs?

No, epilepsy is not it. While injuries, infections, poisoning, organ failure, etc., can happen at any age, it is easy to confirm or rule those out. The next most likely cause of seizures in a senior dog is a brain tumor.

Is a brain cancer diagnosis a death sentence for your dog?

Senior Dog Cluster Seizures: Do you know what is the most common cause of seizure onset in senior dogs?

Dog brain tumors quick facts

Dogs can develop brain tumors and it can be a complicated issue. However, they vary widely in the level of malignancy and treatments improve all the time. Brain tumors in dogs can be primary or secondary.

Primary brain tumors include:

  • meningiomas
  • gliomas
  • pituitary adenomas or adenocarcinomas

Cancers that can originate elsewhere in the body and metastasize into the brain include:

  • hemangiosarcomas
  • melanomas
  • breast cancer

Symptoms of brain tumors depend on the type and location and can include seizures. Other potential symptoms you might be looking at if your dog has a brain tumor can mimic other health issues:

  • behavioral changes
  • mental changes
  • circling
  • heat tilt
  • wobbly gait
  • vision changes

Further information: Brain Tumors in Dogs and Cats

Calvin’s story

English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Boxers are breeds especially susceptible to primary brain cancer (Canine Primary Intracranial Cancer). Calvin was an adorable, 7-years-old neutered French Bulldog.

Calvin was a happy boy He did have a history of breathing problems—he was a victim of his anatomy. But Calvin never had a single seizure. However, shortly after he turned seven he started having severe cluster seizures. He would have as many as ten focal and grand mal seizures within one day.

The veterinarian quickly ruled out other causes and referred Calvin to a veterinary oncologist.

Calvin’s diagnosis

MRI confirmed the suspicion—it revealed a fairly large mass on Calvin’s brain. Calvin was a good candidate for stereotactic radiosurgery—the treatment could eliminate his tumor.

Stereotactic surgery, or Cyberknife, is a relatively new technique. It’s not surgery in the traditional sense. Rather, it is radiation treatment delivered with surgical precision. This treatment enables the veterinarian to deliver the maximum dose of radiation without damaging healthy tissues. It is new hope for dogs with cancers that were untreatable in the past.

Further information: Radiation Therapy 101

Calvin’s treatment

Calvin’s parents agreed to the procedure. Calvin received treatment over three days. He had a seizure on the first day, but otherwise, everything went smoothly. Calvin had no further seizures, and a follow-up MRI was clear.

Senior Dog Cluster Seizures: Calvin's Brain Tumor and Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)
Calvin’s before and after MRI. Image PetCure Oncology

In closing

Cyberknife is a groundbreaking treatment option. It works when a specialist couldn’t reach the tumor surgically. It is less invasive than standard radiation or chemotherapy and it targets the cancerous tissue directly.

Related articles:
Seizures or Convulsions in Dogs: What Can Seizures Look Like and What Can Cause Them?
Can Dog Food Cause Seizures?
Really Angry Vet on Seizures: Winston’s First Seizure

Further reading:
Seizures in Dogs

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