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Potassium Bromide for Dogs

Potassium Bromide is a common anticonvulsant medication prescribed by veterinarians for dogs who suffer from epileptic seizures.

A hand holds out a red medication pill to a brown and white dog.

Potassium Bromide is a common anticonvulsant medication prescribed by veterinarians for dogs who suffer from epileptic seizures.

By: Dr. Juli, DVM

Observing a seizure in your four-legged best friend can be stressful and worrisome for pet owners. Numerous underlying causes of seizures in dogs exist, including household toxins, electrolyte imbalances, cancer, infections, or other organ problems. In some cases, the underlying cause cannot be determined, and dogs with these types of seizures are designated as having primary canine epilepsy or idiopathic epilepsy. Dogs with seizures require immediate veterinary care to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

There are a variety of medications used to treat seizures in dogs, including potassium bromide. Understanding how to safely and effectively use this medication will ensure pet parents properly care for their dog’s seizure disorder

A hand holds out a red medication pill to a brown and white dog.

What is Potassium Bromide?

Potassium bromide (KBr) is a prescription anticonvulsant medication that veterinarians commonly prescribe to dogs diagnosed with epileptic seizures. This anti-seizure medication can be used alone (i.e., monotherapy) or, more often, in combination (i.e., polytherapy) with other medications, like phenobarbital, to decrease seizure frequency in dogs effectively.

Dogs with epilepsy have a buildup of the naturally occurring ion chloride (Cl). Chloride ions have various bodily functions, including the conduction of electrical charges throughout the brain and nervous system. However, excess chloride can cause seizures or a sudden surge of electrical activity, leading to involuntary muscle contractions. Potassium bromide is a salt that competes with chloride ions to access brain tissue. Over time, increased bromide levels in the brain will decrease chloride levels, thereby limiting the electrical activity that causes seizures. Many veterinarians will choose to use potassium bromide when phenobarbital is not adequate in controlling a dog’s seizures

Use of Potassium Bromide in Dogs

Potassium bromide should only be given to dogs under the direct supervision of a board-certified veterinarian. This medication is given by mouth and is available in pill or liquid form. Potassium bromide can be administered with or without food; however, it can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) upset, so administering it with a meal is preferred to decrease the chances of GI discomfort.

Because reaching therapeutic blood levels of potassium bromide can take more than three months, many veterinarians will prescribe an initial loading dose to help decrease the time it takes for the medication to achieve an adequate level for seizure control. Additional medications, like diazepam, may be required during the initial treatment to address seizure activity. Potassium bromide should be stored at room temperature and away from direct light.

Like many veterinary medications, KBr referred to as K-BroVet, is used off-label because the FDA has not designated it as approved for this specific use in dogs. However, K-BroVet is produced by an FDA-licensed drug manufacturer and follows FDA manufacturing standards.

Potential Side Effects of Potassium Bromide

Many dogs will experience mild sedation or drowsiness and decreased balance during the first few days or weeks of taking KBr. These mild common side effects generally subside over time. Research has shown a correlation between pancreatitis and some dogs taking KBr.

In these cases, alternative anticonvulsant drugs may be prescribed. Additionally, dogs who are taking too high of a dose are at risk for more severe side effects, similar to a condition called bromism or bromide toxicosis in people. Immediately contact your veterinarian if your dog shows any of the following clinical signs:

  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tremors
  • Decreased or increased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Jaundice (i.e., yellowing of skin or gums)
  • Skin rashes
  • Incoordination
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dazed mentation

Monitoring and Regulating Potassium Bromide Treatment

Dogs prescribed anti-seizure medication must be closely monitored to ensure proper treatment and seizure management. The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) small animal consensus statement on seizure management in dogs recommends checking blood levels of KBr between 6 and 12 weeks after initiating the medication and annually after that, unless breakthrough seizures or toxicity occur.

It’s critical to follow your DVM’s instructions for dosing and monitoring your dog to ensure they receive the proper amount of medication. Regular blood tests allow your veterinarian to adjust dosing and ensure adequate organ function. Because KBr is processed through the kidneys, dogs with underlying kidney disease will likely require lower potassium bromide doses or a different anticonvulsant to manage seizures. Regular blood work monitoring is the only way to measure organ function and therapeutic KBr levels.  

Safety and Drug Interactions

Ensure you inform your veterinarian if you give your dog any medications or supplements. Some medicines, like furosemide or other diuretics, can inhibit therapeutic levels by causing excretion out of the body. Additionally, diet changes, including feeding salty snacks or a low-salt diet, should be avoided in dogs taking KBr because it is a salt-based medication. Dogs who have an increased or decreased salt intake are at risk of altering the therapeutic bromide levels, which can increase seizure risk or occurrence.    

Other Anticonvulsant Therapies

Your dog’s seizure treatment depends on the underlying cause and response to initial therapy. In some cases, a combination of anticonvulsant medications may be required to manage epileptic pups properly. Other commonly used drugs include zonisamide, levetiracetam, gabapentin, and pregabalin. Never attempt to adjust your dog’s medication unless advised by your veterinarian. Incorrect dosing can lead to toxicity or increased seizure activity. Regular veterinary visits will ensure the best chances of proper seizure management. 

Potassium bromide is an effective anticonvulsant medication often combined with other anti-seizure medications. Most epileptic dogs will require life-long treatment, and regular veterinarian care is critical to ensure proper seizure management.

For more information and tips on your dog’s health, check out the Native Pet blog.

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