People: Holger Volk, Rowena Packer, Sarah Hobbs

Epilepsy is the most common chronic neurological brain disease and can be difficult to treat. In people, epilepsy is often accompanied by anxiety, and this may be the case for dogs too. We aim to understand the development of epilepsy and anxiety in dogs, and how they interact.

Who can be involved?

There are two ways to be involved in the IDEAS study, depending on the age of your Border Collie or German Shepherd.

1. Puppy Study
We are recruiting Border Collie and German Shepherd puppies at 6 months of age which are already signed up to the cohort study ‘Generation Pup’. If you have a Border Collie or German Shepherd puppy under 16 weeks of age and would like to take part in IDEAS, but you are not yet signed up to ‘Generation Pup’, please visit: to sign up. We will then contact you once your puppy reaches 6 months old.

2. Adult Study

We are also recruiting 30 adult Border Collies and German Shepherd Dogs, that have been diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy, and a further 30 dogs without epilepsy that are matched by breed, age and sex.
For non-epileptic control dogs, they must have:

  • no history of seizure activity
  • no other neurological or orthopaedic diseases or hearing problems

For dogs with idiopathic epilepsy, they must have:

  • experienced at least 2 seizures that were over 24 hours apart
  • experienced their first seizure between 6 months and 6 years of age
  • had blood and urine tests carried out by your vet that showed no cause for their seizures

N.B. If your epileptic dog does not meet all three criteria, but has had an MRI scan of their brain, please contact the team who will advise as to whether your dog is suitable for inclusion.

What is involved?

Sample collection:
From all dogs recruited in the study, we are planning to collect urine, faecal and buccal (cheek swab), hair and saliva samples. These samples give us information on each dog’s stress hormone levels by measuring cortisol as well insights into their metabolism and gut bacteria.
Sampling kits, along with pre-paid envelopes will be sent to you so these samples can be collected from home at no cost to you.

Behaviour tests:
We will also invite all IDEAS dogs to come to the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) for behavioural testing. Taking part in behaviour testing is compulsory for adult dogs recruited to IDEAS, but optional for puppies.
The behaviour testing will involve you visiting us here at the RVC for your dog to take part in three (hopefully fun!) training tasks. The tasks involve your dog learning to predict where food might be; which can tell us whether your dog is optimistic or pessimistic, as well as observing their responses to certain prerecorded noises. The behaviour tasks will be carried out over the course of half a day in order to give your dog sufficient rest breaks.
The RVC is located in Hertfordshire (postcode AL9 7TA). Your travel costs to visit the RVC will be reimbursed.

If you would like to take part in IDEAS, please fill out this questionnaire to let us know about your dog and we will be in touch:

If you would like further information about any aspect of the study please do not hesitate to ask, and contact Sarah Hobbs via email on Please also feel free to send us an email if you want to receive information about future studies and get updates about our research. Please do state in your email that you are happy to be contacted for both.

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