Veterinary neurology experts collaborate to publish consensus statements in pets with epilepsy

A group of international veterinarians and scientists have joined forces to form the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force (IVETF), with the goal to improve research in canine and feline epilepsy. In this blog we discover why the IVETF came about and how creating a set of guidelines will hopefully improve research in this field.

In a recent BMC Veterinary Research blog we discussed how epilepsy is one of the most common diseases encountered in veterinary practice. Although the true prevalence of epilepsy in dogs is unknown, it is estimated that approximately every 130th dog presenting in a veterinary practice will suffer from this disease – quite staggering when you think how busy your veterinary waiting room generally is on a daily basis.

However, despite how commonly it occurs, it has been identified that the quality of reporting in canine epileptic research needs to improve. Problems in reporting occur primarily because researchers have been using different terminologies, classifications and definitions to describe this disease in animals, making it very difficult to draw comparisons between research studies in this field.

In our previous blog several recommendations were put forward to overcome these issues, including taking inspiration from international task forces such as the International League Against Epilepsy to create a set of standards and guidelines for researchers to adhere to.

I have no doubt that this work will lead to better care for our patients with epilepsy

Prof Holger Volk
Royal Veterinary College, London

Therefore, an international body of veterinarians and scientists known collectively as the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force (IVETF), have come together to set out a unified and standardized set of guidelines for the research , diagnosis and treatment of canine and feline epilepsy for the first time ever in veterinary medicine. These papers also outline a number of recommendations and classifications on all aspects of feline and canine epilepsy.

Professor Holger Volk (Royal Veterinary College, London), who is the Section Editor for the Neurology and Neuroscience section in BMC Veterinary Research, established and chaired the IVETF in 2014. He is understandably extremely proud of the IVETF’s collaboration saying that “I feel very privileged, humbled and honoured to have worked and learned from all these highly skilled, knowledgeable and prestigious colleagues. I have no doubt that this work will lead to better care for our patients with epilepsy”.

Matiasek et al. - Figure 6 -
Planning of occipitotemporal canine brain dissection in three steps.
Matiasek et al. - Figure 6 -

The main objective of the IVETF was to create a common language in the area of companion pet epilepsy, and to establish a framework and standards for future trials. Therefore, these consensus papers provide a logical ‘chain of care’, from the animal’s breeder and owner through the first opinion practitioner to the neurology specialist and neuroscientist. Each statement aims to be a ‘user friendly’, pragmatic, reliable and valid tool that benefits all of these groups.

BMC Veterinary Research Associate Editor, Professor Andrea Fischer (University of Munich) is also excited about her contribution as part of the IVETF and discussed how she feels these papers will really make a difference in the field of veterinary neurology. She added, “The future of veterinary neurology lies in conducting multi-centre studies throughout the World focusing on investigation of genetics, pathophysiology, and treatment of epilepsy. Thus, a unified language and clear description of breed-specific epilepsy syndromes is urgently needed.”

These papers also highlight how effective collaboration between human and veterinary disciplines can be, which groups such as the One Health Initiative argue is a must if we are to bridge the gap between the medical and veterinary worlds and advance scientific research. It was therefore important to the IVETF that they included and/or consulted with both veterinary and human neurologists and neuroscientists, practioners, neuropharmacologists and neuropathologists to share their extensive knowledge whilst creating the consensus papers. It is the first time this many veterinary neurology clinicians and neuroscientists have formally agreed on the key aspects of canine and feline epilepsy.

The IVETF have agreed on the following seven consensus statements which marks the successful start to this group’s work. It is the hope that each statement will help advance the field of canine and feline epilepsy and ultimately lead to better care of our beloved companions suffering from this disease.

  1. International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force consensus report on epilepsy definition, classification and terminology in companion animals
  2. International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force Consensus Proposal: Diagnostic approach to epilepsy in dogs
  3. International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force current understanding of idiopathic epilepsy of genetic or suspected genetic origin in purebred dogs
  4. International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force consensus proposal: Medical treatment of canine epilepsy in Europe
  5. International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force Consensus Proposal: Outcome of therapeutic interventions in canine and feline epilepsy
  6. International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force recommendations for a veterinary epilepsy-specific MRI protocol
  7. International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force recommendations for systematic sampling and processing of brains from epileptic dogs and cats
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