The situation became rather unpleasant and finally in 2003 I decided to prepare a dossier as evidence of seizures in the breed. Within a few months I gathered around forty pedigrees of Norwich Terriers affected by seizures. Some were accompanied by letters from owners and their vets. One UK export’s pedigree was accompanied with not only the owner’s statement but also a copy of the handwritten notes of the consultant at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, University of Illinois (see “Experiences”). The dog was diagnosed as having epilepsy. The vast majority of pedigrees indicated the hereditary factor. Another prominent stud dog (appearing some generations back in the pedigrees of my own dogs) which had been exported to Scandinavia was put to sleep at two years of age due to severe seizures.
All the information was collated into a dossier and sent to The Kennel Club (the Chief Executive Mrs Rosemary Smart and Dr. J. Sampson – KC geneticist) with copies to various Norwich Terrier Clubs and individuals abroad.
On 9th November 2003 the Norwich Terrier Club held a seminar with a talk on health issues given by Dr. Jeff Sampson of The Kennel Club. His talk was mainly concerned with epilepsy. Following the seminar The Kennel Club arranged with the Animal Health Trust and the Norwich Terrier Club that blood samples from Norwich Terriers would be sent to the AHT for research into the incidence of seizures in the breed.
We appear to have travelled a long way from the heated debate following my letter published in Dog World in November 2000. The genie will not now be put back in the bottle as there are a large number of American and European breeders who will keep the issue alive in the interests of the breed.
Apart from the known/diagnosed epileptic dogs is there another cause for the seizures? I do not know the answer, but if there is then our problems in this numerically small breed are surely doubled. At what point would the “Crampers” suggest that the seizures metamorphose into epilepsy? Surely they are not discounting veterinary and even specialist diagnosis of epileptic dogs?
At this point I should make it absolutely clear that this is not a witch hunt. I have already mentioned that I have bred dogs that have seizures. It would be pointless for me to throw stones as WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME GLASS HOUSE.
One evening, shortly after Ben’s third birthday, I noticed that he appeared to have something wrong with one of his back legs as it was twitching. He seemed concerned and was looking back towards it. This did not last long and I did not give it further thought. A week or so later it happened again, but this time his eyes glazed over, although he appeared to be aware of my presence. His back arched and his rear legs were affected in some way, then he fell over. He seemed to be fighting it. He urinated while this was happening and vomited when the attack was over. He was clearly in distress. At the time I was too concerned to really take in what was happening or to notice how long the attack lasted. I mentioned it to another breeder who told me not to worry: “They all get it, it’s cramp”.
Further seizures occurred over a few weeks and then I was not aware of any for about 14 months. The seizures started again and while infrequent seemed more severe. Some would start with him goose-stepping and then he would fall on his side with his back legs kicking out. Once he kicked with such force against the wall that he flipped over to face the other way.
The most upsetting seizure occurred on 4th June 2005: