Diet and seizures

A diet that supports the neurological system is not a substitute for veterinary intervention and medication (if required) but it may have several benefits to cats and dogs suffering from seizures.

Why might the Arden Grange products have benefits?
  1. They are made without gluten, so include no wheat, oats, barley, rye or unspecified cereal blends. Gluten may stimulate the opioid receptors in the brain, which could increase the susceptibility to seizures in animals predisposed to them. More research is needed, but studies of Border terriers with a condition called canine epileptoid cramping syndrome found that these dogs had higher levels of gluten antibodies compared to normal Border terriers (Lowrie et al, 2015). In people, a condition called gluten ataxia has been identified, which involves an autoimmune attack on the cerebellum - the part of the brain that controls motor functions.

  2. They supply minerals which are easily absorbed. Magnesium, zinc and calcium deficiencies may reduce seizure thresholds. Minerals work very closely with one another, and an excess of one can lead to deficiencies of another and vice versa.

  3. The dry products contain krill, which is an excellent source of EPA and DHA. These essential Omega-3 fatty acids help maintain the structure and function of the cellular and subcellular membranes, as well as support growth of blood vessels and nerves.

  4. They contain antioxidant vitamins, minerals and plant extracts. Research has suggested that oxidative stress resulting from excessive free-radical release is likely implicated in the initiation and progression of epilepsy (Shin et al, 2011). Antioxidants help to protect the body from free radical  damage.

  5. The products are made to fixed formulae and designed to promote a steady release of energy. Seizures alter the metabolism of glucose, so a diet that helps to avoid glucose peaks and troughs as far as possible is desirable.  

  6. They are hypoallergenic. The Arden Grange recipes contain no wheat (as previously discussed), nor do they contain any soya or dairy products - which some parents report as a suspected trigger of their children’s seizures. Again, further research is needed, but is sensible to avoid the more common allergens affecting cats and dogs which include wheat, soya and dairy products. Allergies contribute to metabolic stress, and although rare in dogs and cats, severe food allergies can cause anaphylactic reactions which sometimes result in seizures.

  7. The salt levels are not overly high (most products fall within the mildly or moderately restricted sodium category when the level is calculated in mg/100kcals of metabolisable energy). This is especially important for animals taking potassium bromide as an anticonvulsant.

Is a grain-free diet important for cats and dogs with seizures?

Grain-free diets are often chosen on the basis that most are made from better quality ingredients than those containing unspecified ingredients such as unspecified cereals and meat/animal derivatives. They can also be very beneficial if an animal is suspected to be allergic or intolerant to one or more grains, but the exact culprit/s haven’t been pin-pointed. It may be wise to avoid wheat and its close relations, but rice and maize (as found in many of the Arden Grange canine recipes) do not contain glutenin and gliadin (the storage proteins that form gluten). Unless your pet is known or suspected to be allergic or intolerant, these ingredients do not need to be excluded. Remember that dogs and cats can be allergic or intolerant to the meat/fish source in their diet too as well as non-grain carbohydrate ingredients, so if your vet suspects dietary allergies are exacerbating seizures, a product with both a novel protein and carbohydrate source (i.e. ones the pet has not eaten previously) may be recommended.

Grains are sometimes broadly blacklisted because they contain a substance called phytic acid which can bind to minerals in the gut before they are absorbed. Wheat bran, rice bran, wheat germ and wild rice have the most phytic acid of the grains (ranging from 1-9g/100g of uncooked ingredient). White potatoes only contain around 1g or less, as does white rice. Sweet potato contains little to none. Phytic acid has been demonised as an anti-nutrient, but it normally only represents a problem in vegetarian diets where most of the phosphorous is present in bound phytate form. The Arden Grange recipes include plenty of ingredients from animal sources which are rich in bioavailable minerals and protein. Animal protein may enhance the absorption of zinc, iron, and copper, and the cooking process breaks down a significant amount of the phytate from the plant sources. A moderate intake of phytic acid is not harmful, and it has antioxidant properties as well as a potential ability to bind heavy metals helping reduce accumulation to harmful levels within the body.

For dogs who do require a grain-free product, our Sensitive (white fish and potato) range may be suitable. Our Adult Pork & Rice and Premium are maize-free (they include rice). Our feline range is all grain-free.

Does rosemary extract cause or exacerbate seizures?

Linda Case M.S has investigated and refuted any connection between rosemary extract used as a preservative in pet food and seizures. She says that the claim originated from a small study by Burkhard et al in 1999 implicating some types of essential oils used in aromatherapy as triggers for epileptic seizures in people. However, the patients were actually treated with eucalyptus and camphor oils (derived from distilling the bark of camphor laurel trees); not rosemary oil/extract. Confusion has likely arisen because camphor is also present in rosemary plants. However, the extracts used as preservatives are deodorised (i.e. the camphor is removed). There is currently no published scientific data that demonstrates any association between food grade rosemary extract and seizure disorder. The deodorised preparations of rosemary extract used in food are far removed from aromatherapy oils that are inhaled or massaged and are not suitable for internal consumption.

It has been claimed that rosemary can cause intestinal irritation and cramping, thus representing a possible risk during pregnancy. However, this also pertains to aromatherapy oils. Rosemary extracts have received recognition as being safe and effective antioxidants [Scott-Thomas, 2010].

Which of the Arden Grange range is best for an epileptic cat or dog?

Selection of the most suitable product depends on your pet’s age, activity level, appetite, weight status, current diet and any other considerations unique to the individual such as other health conditions that might require special dietary management.

As with any pet under medical care, we advise that you ask your vet’s professional opinion as to the suitability of the diet. This is exceptionally important if your pet is taking phenobarbital because nutrient proportions can influence how long the medication remains in the body. Sudden changes, or a change from one product to a dramatically different one, can result in the animal being under or over-dosed.

Dietary chloride levels are significant for animals taking bromide, because an increase in chloride means bromide is excreted more quickly. Chloride content is very variable, and changing from a low chloride diet to a significantly higher one could cause breakthrough seizures. This highlights the importance of keeping your vet in the loop if you are planning to change your epileptic pet’s menu, and doing so gradually and very watchfully. In the event of any problems, a blood test may be necessary to compare the drug levels to previous results.

Arden Grange Performance

For a reasonably active dog of a healthy weight,  Arden Grange Performance  could be a good option since it contains a number of extra nutrients that may be beneficial. These include:

  • Taurine – which plays a critical role in the function of the nervous system. Taurine deficiency is recognised as a cause of seizures in people, cats and dogs. In addition to its specific benefits to the brain, it also affects blood sugar levels (implicated in seizures) and assists in the body's proper use of minerals (especially magnesium, zinc and copper). Taurine also plays an important role in cardiac function.

  • L-carnitine – which is important for brain (and heart) function. In human patients with seizures, decreased plasma carnitine levels have been detected, which can be due to a pre-existing deficiency or the effect of anticonvulsants.

  • Quercetin, green tea and grape seed extract – which have powerful antioxidant properties. These natural free radical scavengers and bioflavonoid complexes are rapidly absorbed and distributed throughout the body.
Shop the products mentioned in this fact sheet

Lowrie, M., Garden, O., Hadjivassiliou, M., Harvey, R., Sanders, D., Powell, R. and Garosi, L. (2015). The Clinical and Serological Effect of a Gluten-Free Diet in Border Terriers with Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 29(6), pp.1564-1568.

Shin, E., Jeong, J., Chung, Y., Kim, W., Ko, K., Bach, J., Hong, J., Yoneda, Y. and Kim, H. (2011). Role of oxidative stress in epileptic seizures. Neurochemistry International, 59(2), pp.122-137.

Scott-Thomas, C. (2010). Rosemary extracts get final EU approval for food preservation. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 May 2018].