Watching your dog have a seizure, especially if it’s something that’s never happened before, is an incredibly frightening thing for any dog lover. Whether their entire body is shaking, or just one limb, you’ll undoubtedly feel helpless and unsure of what to do. Being armed with the knowledge of how to spot seizures in dogs, as well as what to do when it happens, can give you some control over the situation and hopefully, some calm too.
How to spot seizures in dogs:
Just before going into seizure, dogs can seem unsteady and confused. They may trip and fall, or stare off into space. Once the seizure comes, dogs will become unconscious and fall to the floor where they will twitch, and often look like they’re treading water. This is the type of seizure that affects the entire body. Other types of seizures are more localized, affecting only one or two parts of the dog’s body. Both types of seizures can last anywhere from under a minute to several minutes. After a seizure, dogs might disoriented, look shaky while walking, and might bump into their surroundings.
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Causes of Seizures in Dogs
Seizures are caused by abnormal, uncontrolled bursts of electricity activity in a dog’s brain. If this happens often, causing the dog to seizure on a regular basis, it’s known as epilepsy.
Other causes of seizures can include:
- Ingesting poison
- Liver disease
- Blood sugar that is either too high or too low
- Kidney disease
- Electrolyte problems
- Head injury
- Brain Cancer
Symptoms of Seizures in Dogs
There are a number of different symptoms associated with seizures, and most of them are nearly impossible to miss. They include:
- Tightening or stiffening of the body
- Twitching of muscles
- Loss of consciousness
- Foaming at the mouth
- May relieve themselves during a seizure
Types of Seizures in Dogs
Seizures in pets can typically be categorized into four different types.
- Grand mal seizure, also called generalized seizures: With this type of seizure the dog will lose consciousness and start to convulse. With grand mal seizures, the abnormal electrical activity occurs throughout the entire brain, which is why they affect the entire body.
- Focal seizures: With this type of seizure, abnormal electrical activity is found in only part of the brain, which is why only one limb or one side of the body will seizure. Focal seizures can begin in just one area or one side, but they can turn into generalized seizures. A focal seizure can last as little as just a few seconds.
- Psychomotor seizures: This might be the only type of seizure that’s difficult to detect in dogs. Dogs experiencing this type of seizure won’t twitch or paddle their arms and legs, but they will show very odd behavior, such as chasing their tail or attacking an object that’s not there. One of the ways to differentiate this type of seizure from silly behavior is that the dog will do the same thing each and every time they seizure.
- Idiopathic epilepsy: These are seizures that have unknown causes and they typically occur in dogs between the ages of 6 months and 6 years old. Although any dog can experience a seizure, idiopathic epilepsy is more commonly seen in Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, beagles, Belgian Tervurens, collies, and German shepherds.
What to Do if Your Dog is Having a Seizure
It is very frightening to see your dog having a seizure but if you want to help them, you’re going to need to remain calm. First assess the situation, namely the area your dog is currently in. If he’s near anything that could hurt him, such as a staircase, gently slide them away. Stay with the dog, making sure that they’re safe the entire time, and ride the seizure out with them. If possible, time the seizure so you can later tell the vet how long it lasted.
It’s natural to want to pet your dog and speak to them to help comfort them during the seizure, and it’s a perfectly fine thing to do. Be sure however, that you keep away from their mouth and their face. Unlike people, dogs will not choke on their tongue during seizure so you don’t need to worry about turning their head. And if you are near their face, they could inadvertently bite you at some point during the seizure.
If the seizure lasts for more than just a few minutes, turn a fan on and put cold water on his paws to keep him cool. Long seizures can cause the dog to overheat, and that could ultimately lead to brain damage. If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, or if the dog has several seizures in a row while unconscious, take the dog to the vet as soon as possible. The vet may give him Valium through an IV to stop the seizure. Even if the seizure lasts only a few seconds, be sure to call the vet as soon as it’s over.
Treatment for Seizures in Dogs
Once you’ve taken your dog to the vet after they’ve had a seizure, the vet will want to perform a thorough physical exam as well as take some lab work. All of this will help them determine the cause of the seizures.
There are different medicines your vet can prescribe for dogs that are having seizures. One of those are phenobarbital, which need to be taken twice a day. Over time however, phenobarbital can cause extensive damage to the liver when it’s taken for a long period of time. For this reason, dogs taking phenobarbital must have blood tests taken every six months.
Potassium bromide is another anti-seizure medication that can be prescribed by your vet. Because it doesn’t make its way to the liver, it can be a much better option for pets that will need to be on medication for a long time, especially puppies.
Seeing a dog having a seizure can be one of the most frightening things for dog owners, and at the time it can seem like the very worst thing that could happen. Truthfully however, seizures in dogs are much more common than people think and there’s often a very simple explanation for the cause of it. And although it’s frightening, remaining calm is one of the most important things you can do if your dog starts to seizure. This is not only so you can keep calm, but also so that you have the capacity to remember what to do, as well as what to tell the vet after the seizure is over. Remember that seizures last only a few minutes and in no time at all, your dog will be back to their happy and healthy old self.
I've been a dog lover since the day I was born but it's the current four legged love of my life, Phoebe who inspired me to create the Munch.Zone.
We moved together from Israel to New York in 2013, love hiking together, and never pass up a trip to the dog park. Watching her over the years sparked so many questions about dog behavior and health needs, and it wasn't always easy to find answers. Thus, the Munch.Zone was born.
On any given day you'll find me watching Netflix originals, eating popcorn, and thinking about how to get into house flipping.