Hines’s Gulping: An Update

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Update to the update: After doubling Hines’s Zonisamide dosage he has returned to healthy times!

When I adopted my dog Hines several years ago, he started demonstrating some troublesome medical issues revolving around intense, extended episodes of uncontrollable gulping. After pursuing treatment options for some time, we finally settled on treating these episodes as complex partial seizures. You can read more about that experience at Hines’s Gulping: A Cautionary Tale.

For nearly two years, treatment with the seizure medication Zonisamide kept Hines’s gulping problem largely in check, and his story online offered a bit of hope and some good advice for other sufferers.

Unfortunately, I write with an update that Hines’s treatment no longer seems to be effective.

In the past couple of months, Hines has had small episodes separated by only a few weeks, which was much more frequently than the twice-yearly episodes we had come to expect. We got in touch with his vet, who increased his dosage of Zonisamide quite significantly.

Even on this increased dosage, however, Hines began a gulping episode last night. It proved to be the most intense that he’s had since starting on his medication, as well as the longest — lasting nearly 14 hours. Accompanied by intense vomiting and obvious bloating and discomfort, we were in the all-too-familiar position of feeling scared, frustrated, and helpless as we watched him suffer through it.

At the time of this writing, I wish I had advice to share for others who may be in the same position as us, but alas we are still looking for guidance. Our next course of action, however, will be to stop taking our issues to Hines’s normal vet, and instead seek out a neurology specialist.

Until then, best of luck to all other sufferers. You have our sympathy. As always, feel free to post questions, concerns, and especially advice in the comments.

Update to the update: After doubling Hines’s Zonisamide dosage he has returned to healthy times!

35 Responses

  1. Nancy Mure

    Hey there! My golden retreiver has the same exact gulping condition and bloat since he’s a pup. He is not on medication. He has been on a raw diet since birth though. and when he has these seizures, I give him lemon balm which calms the nervous system fast! Works like a charm every time with no side effects. You can get lemon balm tincture at amazon by Nature’s Way or Herb pharm I squeeze a dropper full or two into a a small piece of banana and feed it to him. Within five minutes, Val’s calm as can be. Try it for 12 bucks, you will be disappointed. In fact, you’ll be amazed at the results. What’s more you won’t have to give those meds anymore. Good luck!

    Reply
  2. Peg

    My 4 yr old Golden does the gulping thing. And just wants grass. She never throws up. I asked our vet about gulping and she said Annie is nauseous and doesn’t want to throw up. How can I find out if they are seizures ? Will bland diet help. I just lost my 6 yo Golden(sudden) death. I am just petrified. Help.

    Reply
    • Jason Kammerdiener

      Hi Peg,

      I think there are ways that you can have neurological testing done to determine absolutely whether seizures are an issue. We did not go that far, however. We simply talked with our veterinarian and mutually decided that we wanted to try treatment with an anti-seizure medication called Zonisamide. It is affordable (his prescription costs us about $29 a month), and much milder for him than older anti-seizure medications like phenobarbital. When the medication worked for us, we could safely assume the original issue was in fact partial seizures.

      I’d recommend sharing this post with your veterinarian to start a conversation about whether the same approach might work for you.

      Best of luck,
      Jason

      Reply
    • Sheri

      Our 9 year old Golden has had those gulping problems for years.. I just thought it was seasonal allergies causing mucous to drain in the back of her throats causing her throat or itch. I would put on an elizabthan collar (so she would not eat weird stuff) She had eaten anything she could get her mouth on.. blankets ,grass etc. obsessively. This past September we experienced our first grand maul seizure. It was followed by another one in January and then in February. We took our Caramel to get an MRI.. she was diagnosed with a forebrain tumor. Caramel is now on Zonisamide for 2 weeks thus far. She had another seizure earlier this evening. We are trying everything possible to make sure she has the best quality of life. Does anyone have any similar issues?

      Reply
  3. Amelia Kramer

    You should really look into Cerenia. Our dog has these episodes and the vet is stumped. Cerenia is used for motion sickness in dogs. When we first experienced this with our 1 yr old dog, Jax, obviously we had no idea what was going on and it didn’t help that it was 1am. After over an hour of going through this gulping/licking episode, licking the floor we finally went to the emergency vet. They gave him fluids since he had vomited, and in the fluid was a mixture of meds, one being Cerenia. You can get it from your vet in a 4 pack, around $20. They are not preventative, but they work in 10-20 minutes and his episode is gone. While we are still searching for a cause of this, we have at least found a drug to help calm him down. We have tried antacids, benadryl, changing foods and nothing has worked. His episodes are random. I highly encourage people to look into this amazing drug!

    Reply
  4. Ashley

    Our pup Rollie seems to be having the same exact problem! Here is a link to the video: https://vimeo.com/183531534

    We too know the pain of staying up all night with him, cleaning up vomit, seeing the pain and discomfort in his eyes, and not being able to do anything about it. And the thousands of dollars spent on vet bills with vets tell us “oh it’s just hiccups…”

    We had no idea when we adopted him (almost 2 years ago now) that he had this issue, but we quickly found out about a week after we brought him home. We have tried all of the above including treatments for allergies, acid reflux, gastrointestinal issues, fast eating, esophageal issues, etc..

    Are you still on the seizure medication? We may bring this up at our next vet visit. Do you know if there are any major side effects?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jason Kammerdiener

      I know this reply is months late, and for that I do apologize. Hines is still on seizure medication, and doing well. His episodes are significantly farther apart, and significantly less intense.

      With Zonisamide we have not really seen any side effects. He was briefly on phenobarbital as well, and that is a much rougher medication. He is no longer on that, and does very well with the Zonisamide.

      Reply
  5. Nina

    Hello! I am so relieved to find your video, finally I have some sense of my dogs behaviour I adopted 6 months ago. My dog Lilly started with the same episode. The fly snapping then the vomiting and eat everything.., she has done it few times in the past 6 months we had her. With yes numerous vet visits in between, my dog Lilly will still smack her lips, grind her teeth, lick her lips especially when she is trying to fall asleep. Is yours doing this? Lilly was also diagnosed with large tonsils and strep throat, everytime she swallows I can hear it. They said it might be her large tonsils or neurological as well, I have an appointment with specialized on the 20th. Maybe the loud swallow is also part of this? These episodes sure are scary and I felt so alone in this with nobody knowing or having any answered until I found your video and can relate. Thank you! Hi to Hines from Florida

    Reply
  6. sai ganapathy

    My dog roadie facing same problem. He will take his toungue out out in jerks. Then cough loudly as if something is stuck. This occurs in episode.
    I want to share video if possible to c if its same. Letme knw how?

    Reply
    • Jason Kammerdiener

      I’m sorry to hear about Roadie. My best recommendation for sharing a video would be to upload the video to a free service like Youtube or Vimeo so that you can post the link here in the comments.

      Best of luck,
      Jason

      Reply
  7. Jeff Martin

    Jason

    Does he vomit during the episodes? My boy wont get through them on his own, I have to take him to the vet for a shot to ease the nausea or it just wont stop. They say its IBD and have been treating him according to that diagnosis, but Im skeptical. Hes better now but he cant have toys and Ive seen it come on from seemingly nowhere. These days he will have bouts of a couple days where he vomits with no gulping episode around midday but otherwise hes totally fine. Im beyond frustrated.

    Reply
    • Jason Kammerdiener

      Jeff,

      Sorry for the delay in my response. Yes, Hines’s episodes often involved vomiting, and always involved nausea (as evidenced by his attempts to eat grass, or in its absence, just about anything in view). He has never really exhibited spontaneous nausea without the gulping though, so that does seem to be a difference.

      Reply
  8. Anna

    Hi, Jason – your story, although unfortunate for you and Hines, gave me SO much relief that I and my 4-year-old beagle weren’t the only ones suffering from this! Countless times I’ve been to the vet with no success: just to try switching her food again, or trying home remedies for bloat and upset stomach. If we found something that helped, it only helped temporarily.

    This last time I went to the vet, I had your story in mind, and I shared it with my vet. He kept saying “I never would have thought of seizure medication.” Hines’s case describes my Ally’s case to a T, and I left the vet that day with instruction to switch food one more time, and if that didn’t help, he prescribed her phenobarbital…and ONLY phenobarbital (I don’t think he had access to zonisamide?). I haven’t gotten the medication yet, because my dog seems to be doing a little bit better, but not 100%.

    The one thing I find odd – that I wanted to ask you – is that my dog’s symptoms ONLY come at night, and ONLY during the winter/cold months. She’s fine all spring, summer, and fall…but once winter hits, her gulping episodes begin. When did Hines have issues? I know your first bout with it was during the night…but did you notice any pattern in the weather or time of day when his issues returned?

    Once again, thank you for posting – I’m so relieved that I don’t suffer in this alone, or have to worry that I’M doing something wrong. Just trying to take care of my furry four-legged family members! 🙂

    Anna

    Reply
    • Jason Kammerdiener

      Anna,

      Sincere apologies for the delay in my response. His issues definitely arose during the night when they first set in. Since we started medicating him it is a bit hard to say if there is a pattern, as the episodes are currently few and far between. Nevertheless, I do have a distinct impression that they set in during the late evening, most often. It typically seems to be that we are preparing for bed, or just got in bed, and all of a sudden we hear the dreaded noise, and bargain over who gets the privilege of sitting up with him to make sure he doesn’t eat something harmful.

      Have you had any success controlling your pup’s issues since your original post?

      Reply
  9. Peter

    Jason,

    My Australian Shepherd, Penny, has these exact same seizures. Right now she’s only on Phenobarbital and that seems to keep it in check pretty well. I have a couple of questions/comments:

    1) I think you mentioned food might have something to do with it? Penny’s first episode started when I tried switching food. Here 2nd round of episodes started after she got a treat from a pet store.

    2) Do you/did you give Hines any medication with Ivermectin in it? (Trifexis, Comfortis, etc) I’ve read this can cause seizures in dogs that have the MDR1 Gene Mutation. See here for some more info: http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/multidrug-sensitivity-what-you-need-to-know

    Reply
    • Jason Kammerdiener

      Hi Peter — sorry for the delayed response. I don’t have any hard evidence that Hines’s episodes are impacted by diet, but we did get the sense that it plays into it somehow. We initially started treating the issue as dietary, and switched him to a prescription food. That actually seemed to reduce the episode frequency for some time, though it gradually grew worse again. On another occasion, when Hines was pretty stable on his seizure meds, we tried switching from a sensitive stomach food to a slightly less expensive regular adult formula. A couple days in to that attempt he had an episode. It could have been purely coincidental, but we never tried again to find out!

      Regarding Ivermectin, Hines has never been on that, but it’s an interesting find that it can cause issues for some dogs. Hopefully that information will help another reader at some point!

      How is Penny doing these days? Have you thought about moving to Zonisamide, or discussed it with your vet? It isn’t quite as harsh a drug as the pheno is.

      Reply
  10. Jm

    Hi,
    I have a lab with this same issue. Did you finally get some success with both the Zonisamide and Pheno? Right now my dog is just on Pheno, but still has frequent episodes. We were thinking of adding the Zonisamide.

    Reply
    • Jason Kammerdiener

      We do seem to be having success right now with a low dosage of pheno, plus Zonisamide. Obviously every case is different, but it certainly seems like something worth exploring with your vet.

      Reply
      • Gretchen

        Jason, my dog has been having the same gulping and licking issues also. They always start right before she goes into a grand mal seizure. We have tried a lot of different seizure medicines, and the only ones that seem to help are Phenobarbital and Zonisamide. I know that you started him on Zonisamide and it worked for a while, and then you had to increase his dose. What dosage is he on now? I am wondering because these two medications seem to be not working as well recently, and am looking into increasing the dosages. Thanks!
        Gretchen

        Reply
      • Reyna

        Hello I have a dog that is also on pheno and potassium bromide for about two and a half years now and my dog was doing OK in the beginning but the seizures are now coming back with cluster seizures they just prescribed zinomoside to add. About 2 weeks ago I also started adding CBD oil which I noticed has helped him with tremors. I’m just afraid to start him on another prescription and was looking for a research on the new drug they want me to add I just don’t want him to be like a zombie because that is how she’s acting a little bit right now

        Reply
  11. Lori

    Hi Jason,

    Sorry to hear about your dog having this condition. My dog suffered from the exact same symptoms as your dog. It’s hard to believe that so many dogs suffer from this and the veterinarians have no clue as to what is causing the episodes. With my dog, they speculated that it was either seizures, bloat, or a swallowing disorder. I’m glad to see that the medications are working for him. I wish you two the best. I will forever wonder what it was my dog had and if it was in fact seizures.

    Lori

    Reply
  12. Debbie

    Hi Jason,

    I hope Hines is doing well. My lab mix Daisy also has attacks every so often. When she has an attack she will eat everything in sight. She has eaten a large piece of a door mat, curtains off of windows and huge holes in quilts. It scares me that one day she will eat something that will kill her. When I first adopted her I thought the chewing was puppy stuff until I saw it happening. It is so pathetic to watch. It really brakes my heart. I sat up with her many a night holding her head up so she couldn’t chew anything. I started giving her small pieces of bread while she is having an attack. It seems to help a little. Any way, it is certainly better than eating doormats. I was thinking that she was having stomach issues because she doesn’t drink enough water. She doesn’t drink a lot and she just developed a fear of her water bowl. I have no idea what brought that on. So now I have been putting water in her dry food. She hasn’t had an episode since I started adding the water to her food. It’s been about 2 months since her last episode. I have my fingers crossed that it won’t happen again but I know that it is probably just a matter of time. Next time she has one I am going to ask the vet about seizure medication.

    I want to thank you so much for posting. It helps to know that their are others dealing with the same thing. I pray that we all find a way to help our best friends.

    Debbie

    Reply
    • Jason Kammerdiener

      Hi Debbie,

      Thanks for sharing. I absolutely understand the helpless feeling of holding your dog’s head up as they try to eat everything in sight. I wanted to share our eventual strategy with you in the hopes it can make things a little easier to bear if or when the episodes return.

      When Hines had episodes, we wanted to feel like we were offering comfort and help by holding his head up and staying with him. By the end of his sometimes days-long episodes, however, we were just grouchy, snappy, nearly hopeless, and he was no better for the “comfort” we provided. Nevertheless, preventing your dog from eating harmful, potentially fatal, household objects is definitely very important.

      We eventually had to realize that staying up all night with Hines, holding his head up, really wasn’t the best way to do things. What we now do with Hines when he has episodes is put him in his crate/cage. Unfortunately, it has to be without his bed, blanket, etc., as he would eat anything of that nature that went in with him. Despite how cruel it feels to do (as it seems it must be dreadfully uncomfortable) we just keep reminding ourselves that it is for his own good. A few hours of uncomfortable seating is definitely a better option than eating a wad of string to tangle in his gut.

      We mitigate the discomfort by ensuring that his crate is very spacious, with room to stretch out, and by taking him out for snuggle sessions, walks etc. By bringing the crate into play though, we don’t have to be 100% consumed by the episodes, which makes them easier to bear.

      It’s certainly a tough barrier to overcome — that sense that you are somehow being neglectful — but in the end, ensuring that your pup is in a safe space during a potentially dangerous episode can only be considered an act of love.

      Reply
      • Janet McPeak

        Hello, my lab mix Flynnie has been doing something similar for about a year. His first attack consisted of licking the floor frantically combined with vomiting (about 10 times). The bout lasted about 2 hrs. In the next two succeeding bouts, I put him in his crate so he wouldn’t ingest carpet fibers, dirt, etc. from licking the floor. The bouts lasted about 2 hrs again, with no vomiting, which I attributed to being in the crate and not being able to ingest anything. Then he had some smaller attacks lasting about 40 min ea. Then a long 6-7 mo. with no attacks until he had his teeth cleaned and was put under. The next day he had 2 grand mal seizures, and I belatedly learned that the drug ketamine used to bring dogs out of anesthesia has been known to cause seizures. The vet then put him on phenolbarbitol, and said it could be month before levels built up sufficiently to stop seizures and that I could see some more before that happened. In the month since then, he has had 3 more attacks, each lasting 2 hrs, and in the middle of each one he appears to get really angry – and his facial expression changes. So at that point I’m glad he’s in his crate for fear he might act aggressively toward me. After 2 hrs, things quiet down, and his expression returns to normal. I take him out, let him relieve himself, and we go to bed. All of the 2 hr long seizures began around 8 pm at night. I have tried diverting him when I thought a seizure was coming on and I think I may have kept him from having a few by doing so. I have tried walking him during the seizure, but as soon as he quits the seizure has resumed. Next time I’m going to try playing ball with him to see if that stops the seizure. I have also put ice packs on his back after reading something about that on the internet and I think I may have kept one seizure from happening by doing that. He has had one 5 second fly-biting episode.
        I mentioned zonisamide to my vet and in a few weeks we will try moving him onto that drug, at least partially. I have been reading tonight about people curing their dogs from this with diet. Have you changed Hines’ diet? I also worry that vaccinations and heart worm treatment may contribute to this. Has Hines had vaccinations? Good luck, I can’t believe you lived through 48 hr seizures, I thought I would have an anxiety attack after just 2 hrs. Best, Janet

        Reply
        • Jason Kammerdiener

          Hi Janet,

          I can’t say definitively that diet is a contributing factor to Hines’s seizures, but it does seem like it may be a contributing factor. Before we started treating the episodes as seizures we began giving him prescription food for sensitive stomachs, thinking that it was a gastro issue. It seemed to help for a bit, but then he went back to regular episodes.

          Once we found that the seizure medications were working we took him off the prescription food to a regular “over the counter” food for sensitive stomachs to reduce costs. That transition went smoothly. His food was still pretty expensive, so we tried another food transition after some time to a standard food for adult dogs. That transition did NOT go smoothly. Within about a week Hines had his first episode in months. It could have been coincidental, but we didn’t want to risk it. We put him back on his food for sensitive stomachs and we are content to keep him there!

          Reply
  13. Emilie

    Hi Jason,

    I’m sorry to hear that Hines has stopped responding to the medication-hopefully the higher dosage will do the trick.

    I have a 2.5 yr old pointer mix who had the first of these episodes two nights ago. He looks nearly identical to Hines in your initial video. In the fit he managed to eat part of a towel and a bit of a toy.

    When I took him to the vet they thought that the eating of the foreign bodies might be causing this gulping but I didn’t agree and for the most part he’s passed all the foreign bodies but he is continuing to gulp.

    I wanted to know how you got the seizure diagnosis? Did the vet run bloodwork/do scans or did you all agree to just try Zonisamide and see what happened?

    I really want to get Pepper a prescription for Zonisamide but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on unnecessary tests, etc.

    Thanks for your help and I hope Hines is feeling better.

    -Emilie

    Reply
    • Jason Kammerdiener

      So sorry to hear that Pepper is struggling. I’ve been meaning to provide a new update on Hines, who seems to be back to his normal self with his new medication levels, which feature a combination of Zonisamide and phenobarbital.

      With Hines, we were simply able to convince the vet to try Zonisamide on Hines after we had failed at treating him with GI approaches for over a year. When we showed the vet a video on Youtube of a dog doing exactly what Hines was doing, and saw in the description that they were having success treating it with seizure medications, she agreed to give it a shot. Technically, we have never truly proved that Hines is in fact suffering from seizures — the fact that he has responded well to the treatment is our only indicator.

      My guess is that your vet is likely to object to trying anything related to seizures without harder proof because this problem seems so “obviously” GI-related. And I obviously can’t tell you that the problem is neurological either. But if you really think the problem looks the same as what you read here, and what you see in Hines’s video, I’d try showing these resources to your vet.

      And if you’re not confident in the direction your vet is taking things: change vets. The lives of our furry friends is too short to waste time working with a doctor we don’t feel confident is helping.

      Reply
  14. Julie

    Was checking in to see your boy is doing. I started my dog on Zonesimide after reading your story as she suffers the same seizures. So far she’s done really well on it but it’s only been less than two months. Today however she has been having a lot of episodes on and off all day. She’s also been playing hard today with a buddy so not sure if there is any connection. Please feel free to drop me an email if you have an update. julie.devany@gmail.com. Thank you!

    Reply
    • kyle

      Hi Julie my dog hagrid has the same issues as your dog and jasons. For what ever reason he only has it when the temperature outside is warm. From November to march he will not have a single episode. Well a couple weeks ago when the weather heated up hagrid started his Thing. I’ve been to 2 vets both of which have no idea what is going on. I’ve tried all the medications the vets gave him but no results. Does your dog do the gulping all year round or is it seasonal? also does your dog ever eat grass or plants? I’m wondering if that has anything to do with it as my dog eats grass from time to time. Thanks a lot and best of luck.

      Kyle
      Kyleviereck@gmail.com

      Reply
  15. Catherine Lockey

    Hi Jason,
    I am so so sorry to hear this. Is Hines still with you? What did the neurologist say? Please us know – even if it’s sad. We need to know.

    Reply
  16. Andy Nash

    So sorry to hear about your dog’s episodes recurring. Our pup has also just started to relapse after going nearly 5 months without any episodes. Nothing as severe as what Hines is experiencing though, and not as bad as his worst episodes from the spring. We haven’t changed his Zonisamide dose yet, but we will consult with our neurologists soon. We are also considering a GI workup to see if there is anything else wrong, given his sensitive stomach.

    Reply
  17. sanda

    One girl said that on phenobarbital her dog is good since march. Maybe try with that? Also everyone dont give your dogs epileptic drug just like that because that can also be gastro or some organ desease. First check for that.. And you ask about pheno for hines

    Reply
  18. Shira

    Hi Jakson,

    Im so sorry to hear about Hines is not more ok with the medication. I have a golden retriever with the same atacks and the only thing they found is mild lynphoplasmacytic chronic gastritis (biopsy done). I have to say that the scope was ok but when bipsy was performed it was the surprise.
    Ive spent the last two years searching for other gulpers and I am in the point that this is a kind of IBD that wax and wane

    Ive found a Beagle who manage it with hidrolized kibble and steroids…

    But every dog is different and responds diferent and a treatment that is ok today is not tomorrow…

    Good luck

    Reply
  19. kyle

    I’m sorry to hear about your pal. I wrote you a while back about my german shepherd hagrid. I didn’t take him to the vet because his symptoms subsided. But here I am again tonight the third night in a row dealing with it. I really don’t want to take him to a vet until I know more about what is going on. I did take him about a year ago and they just gave him anti nausea medication. I was thinking that maybe if we all can talk about what is happening at the time of the incidents that maybe we can figure something out. Like in my case it literally only happens when I’m upstairs working on my computer with my headphones on at night. It’s really strange because it never happens downstairs in the living at night. Like only when it’s quiet and I’m focused on something. It’s weird to think that something that I’m doing may somehow be contributing to it but at this point what the hell else could it be you know. I feed him good food and never rawhides or bones. He does however eat feces and grass during the day which has always bothered me despite that a fact that the vets say it normal.
    I really don’t know what else it could be but I’ll keep you updated and maybe we can find a solution together somehow. Thanks for posting

    Reply

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