Just like humans, dogs can suffer from seizures. In fact, seizures are one of the most common neurological conditions found in dogs.
Some people call them a “fit” or a convulsion. During a seizure, a dog suffers a temporary and involuntary disruption to its normal brain function or activity. Often, dogs will experience uncontrollable muscle function during a seizure and may jerk violently.
Epilepsy Causes Multiple Seizures
Although any dog can suffer from a mild seizure, ongoing seizures mean the dog has epilepsy. Epilepsy is a condition that describes multiple seizures. The seizures may be singular or can occur in clusters, with back-to-back attacks.
What Causes Seizures in Dogs?
Owners need to know what causes seizures in dogs. Often, seizures in dogs are either inherited or have no known cause. Idiopathic Epilepsy (meaning no known cause), is the most common seizure disorder in dogs. According to veterinarian scientists, 1 in 20 dogs could have a seizure in their lifetime.
Other possible reasons for seizures include the following.
- Brain Tumors
- Brain Injuries
- Liver Disease
Seizures occur are more likely to occur when the brain suddenly changes activities. Dog owners will see their dogs are more likely to have a seizure when they are excited, eating, falling asleep, or just waking up from sleep.
What Happens to Your Dog During a Seizure?
There are three components to every seizure. As a dog owner, you need to be aware of these components so you can know what to expect when your dog has a seizure.
The Pre-ictal Phase
This phase is often called the aura phase. It is a period of changes in behavior. This period may only last a few seconds and could last hours. Your dog may display strange behavior such as the following, during the pre-ictal phase.
- Dog drooling a lot
It is almost as if the dog knows a seizure is coming. The pre-ictal phase is just like the aura warning before a migraine. Once you are familiar with your dog’s seizure activity, you may be able to recognize right away when he is in the pre-ictal phase.
The Ictal Phase
The Ictal phase is when the seizure occurs. Dogs experience varying degrees of behavior during a seizure. Mild seizures may simply cause the dog to act dazed, lick his lips, shake, or lose body function or consciousness.
Unfortunately, dogs can also suffer grand mal seizures, which are the most severe. Dogs that are having a grand mal seizure will typically fall on their side as if they are paralyzed. They will paddle their legs, and their muscles will jerk uncontrollably.
A dog that is having a grand mal seizure may suddenly draw his head back. He may lose control of his bladder or bowels. Dogs will also often drool uncontrollably during severe seizures .
If your dog’s seizure does not stop within five minutes, this means he is in status epilepticus. This is a prolonged seizure and can sometimes be life-threatening. Dogs who have ongoing seizures of this magnitude need seizure treatment for dogs.
The Post-Ictal Phase
The phase immediately after the seizure can last for varying lengths of time. The severity of the seizure has no correlation with the length of the post-ictal phase. A minor seizure could result in an extended post-ictal phase while the post-ictal phase of a severe seizure could be relatively short. During this phase, your dog may exhibit the following symptoms.
- Temporary Blindness
Is a Dog Seizure Painful or Dangerous?
Seizures are very scary for dog owners because it looks as if their dog is suffering greatly. Contrary to what many believe, even the most violent of seizures do not cause pain to your dog.
It is extremely important to note: Please do not place your hand or any object in your dog’s mouth during a seizure. It is impossible for him to swallow his tongue. If you put your hand in his mouth, you could suffer a serious bite. You could even harm your dog by putting objects in his mouth.
Seizures will not cause your dog to become injured as long as he is in a secure place. As long as your dog is on the floor or ground, and has plenty of space, he is unlikely to fall or knock things over that cause injury.
A single seizure is unlikely to cause any danger to your dog’s health, but multiple or extended seizures can. Cluster seizures tend to raise a dog’s temperature dramatically, resulting in hyperthermia. Unfortunately, hyperthermia leads to more risks.
Understanding Status Epilepticus
As briefly mentioned above, status epilepticus means a dog is going through an extended seizure and needs immediate medical attention. Any seizure that lasts longer than five minutes can be life-threatening. A dog that is in status epilepticus needs intravenous anti-seizure medications right away or he could suffer serious brain damage or death. If your dog is experiencing an extended seizure, seek an emergency vet immediately!
How Can You Determine What Caused Your Dog’s Seizure?
Your dog has had a seizure, now what? How will you know what caused the seizure so you can stop it from happening again?
While it is not always possible to find the cause of a dog seizure disorder, your vet can help. The vet will first take a complete health history of your dog.
The dog will be examined, and bloodwork will be carried out. Your vet will take a urine and fecal sample.
Your dog’s vet may perform an EEG and will check the heart, kidneys, and liver for any signs of problems. In addition to these, your dog’s blood sugar levels and electrolytes will be checked.
If all the tests come back normal, there has been no head trauma, and no exposure to poisons, further testing may be warranted, especially if your dog continues to have seizures. The vet may decide to do a spinal fluid analysis. CT scans and MRIs may also be sought, depending on the results of the spinal tap.
How to Treat Seizures in Dogs
Your vet will likely not explore treatment options until your dog begins having more than one seizure a month. Your dog is likely to need treatment if he experiences cluster seizures, grand mal seizures, or frequent seizures.
There are two medications used to treat seizures in dogs. Your vet may prescribe potassium bromide or phenobarbital for dogs. There are also newer drugs now on the market. Some vets will even try the best CBD oil for dogs and other alternative therapies. Many dogs will need a combination of therapies, depending on the severity of their seizures.
A word of caution: Once a dog begins anticonvulsant therapy, he will need to continue on the medication for life. Dogs that start anticonvulsant therapy and discontinue, often revert back to having seizures. Even healthy dogs with no seizure activity may develop seizures if they take anticonvulsant drugs and abruptly stop. These drugs should only be used under a doctor’s care, and the instructions should be followed exactly. Never stop giving your dog his prescription seizure medication, even if the seizures stop.
Can You Prevent Seizures In Dogs?
If the triggers of your dog’s seizures are known, prevention is more likely. As stated above, many dogs have idiopathic seizures, so it becomes impossible to prevent them for the most part.
Epilepsy in dogs is highly treatable with prescription medication. The following are some steps you can take to help prevent seizure symptoms in dogs.
- Feed your dog a healthy diet of the best organic dog foods.
- Watch feeding your dog carbs and sugars because low blood sugar can lead to seizures.
- Get your dog tested.
- Ask your vet about anticonvulsant therapy.
- Keep your dog as stress-free as possible.
FAQ About Seizures in Dogs
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about epilepsy in dogs. Review the following information to help you understand more about how to help your dog.
1. What can trigger a seizure in a dog?
A dog may have a seizure after being exposed to toxins or poisons, such as caffeine, chocolate, or household chemicals. Diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease can also trigger seizures. Finding the cause of your dog’s seizures will help you know the triggers so they can be avoided.
2. What are the symptoms of a dog having a seizure?
Your dog can experience a range of behaviors when having a seizure, depending on the severity. Your dog is likely to fall over. He may have a dazed look in his eyes. Dogs will also drool and may lose control of their bowels or bladder.
3. What happens after a dog has a seizure?
After your dog has a seizure, he may continue to behave oddly for some time. Dogs may seem disoriented or confused. Your dog may also be very tired and want to lie down. It is important to seek vet treatment if your dog begins having seizures.
4. What to do if your dog is having a seizure?
If your dog is having a seizure, try to move him to a safe area, and keep him protected. Remain calm. If your dog’s seizure extends past five minutes, take him to the emergency vet right away.
Protect Your Dog’s Health
When your dog has a seizure, it can be very scary. Try your best not to panic. Instead, follow the information contained in this article and take appropriate action right away.