Dog Seizures: Types, Causes and What You Can Do

Dog Seizures: Types, Causes and What You Can Do

Most pet owners probably don’t know this, but dogs can have seizures just like humans. Few things are worse than seeing your usually happy-go-lucky pooch suddenly flop to the ground and tread water that isn’t even there, but for some dogs, this is their reality.

What is a Seizure?

A dog seizure refers to a sudden and abnormal electrical activity in the brain that leads to a variety of physical and behavioral changes in a dog. Seizures in dogs can manifest in different forms and severity levels. During a seizure, a dog may experience convulsions, loss of consciousness, muscle twitching, paddling of limbs, drooling, urination, defecation, and sometimes vocalization.

Types of Seizures in Dogs

Seizures in dogs can be classified into two main categories: focal seizures and generalized seizures. Focal seizures affect a specific area of the brain and may result in localized symptoms, such as twitching of a specific muscle group or repetitive behaviors. On the other hand, generalized seizures involve the entire brain and typically lead to more pronounced and widespread symptoms.

Causes of Dog Seizures

There are several potential causes of seizures in dogs, including epilepsy, infections, head injuries, brain tumors, metabolic disorders, poisoning, and certain medications. If your dog experiences a seizure, it's important to seek veterinary attention to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Seizures can be distressing for both the dog and the owner, but with proper management and veterinary care, many dogs with seizures can lead happy and fulfilling lives.

If your dog has them often, he may have epilepsy or seizure disorder. Abnormal, uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in your dog’s brain cause seizures, affecting how he looks and how he behaves. Seizures can look like a twitch or uncontrollable shaking and can last from less than a minute to several minutes. Some causes of seizures in dogs are preventable, but others are genetic or related to illness.

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Causes of Epileptic Seizures in Dogs

1. Environmental

One of the most common preventable reasons for seizures in dogs is ingesting something poisonous. Obviously, the way to stop this from happening is to keep your dog away from harmful substances. Head injuries can also cause seizures in dogs, which is just another reason to try to avoid accidents of this nature. 

2. Genetic

Certain breeds and family lines of dogs are more likely to develop epileptic seizures than others. It is true for Belgian Tervuren, Shetland sheepdog, beagle, Labrador retriever, golden retriever, keeshond, or vizsla. Other dog breeds more prone to seizures include the Finnish spitz, Bernese mountain dog, Irish wolfhound, and English springer spaniel.

Genetic epilepsy most often appears between 10 months and 3 years of age, but has been known to show up when dogs are as young as six months, or as old as five years. Male dogs are more likely to experience seizures than females.

3. Illness-Related

Liver disease, kidney disease, anemia, encephalitis, strokes, brain cancer, blood pressure that’s too high (or too low), and electrolyte problems can all lead to dogs suffering seizures.

What To Do If Your Dog Has a Seizure

Try to stay calm especially if it's the first time. If your dog is near something that could hurt him, like a piece of furniture or the stairs, gently slide him away. If you can, time it. During a seizure the dog could bite you, so stay away from the head or mouth. Don’t put anything in his mouth. Dogs cannot choke on their tongues.

If the seizure lasts for more than a couple of minutes, your dog is at risk of overheating. Turn a fan on your dog and put cold water on his paws to cool him down. It’s also not uncommon for dogs to urinate or defecate during a seizure. Talk to your dog softly and gently touch him to assure him. Call your vet when the seizure ends.

Are Seizures Dangerous or Potentially Deadly in Dogs?

Seizures themselves are not typically immediately life-threatening to dogs, but they can pose risks depending on the duration and intensity of the seizure activity. Prolonged or severe seizures, known as status epilepticus, can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening if not addressed promptly. This is because prolonged seizures can lead to oxygen deprivation, brain damage, and other complications.

Additionally, during a seizure, there is a risk of physical injury to the dog. Dogs may thrash around, fall, or hit objects, which can result in trauma or fractures. There is also a risk of aspiration pneumonia if the dog inhales saliva or vomit during the seizure.

While the seizure itself may not be immediately deadly, it is crucial to identify and address the underlying cause of the seizures. Some underlying conditions, such as brain tumors or certain infections, can be serious and potentially life-threatening if left untreated.

If your dog experiences seizures, it is important to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and ongoing management to minimize the frequency and severity of seizures and ensure the overall well-being of your dog.

Treating Seizures and Epilipsy in Dogs 

The treatment options for seizures in dogs depend on the underlying cause and the frequency and severity of the seizures. Here are some common approaches to managing seizures in dogs and there are also natural dog seizure remedies:

  1. Anticonvulsant Medications: The primary treatment for seizures in dogs involves the use of anticonvulsant medications. These medications help control and reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. The most commonly prescribed anticonvulsants for dogs include phenobarbital, potassium bromide, and levetiracetam. The specific medication and dosage will be determined by your veterinarian based on your dog's individual needs.

  2. Medication Monitoring and Adjustments: It's important to work closely with your veterinarian to monitor your dog's response to the medication. Blood tests may be required to check the drug levels and make necessary adjustments to the dosage to achieve optimal seizure control while minimizing side effects.

  3. Identifying and Treating Underlying Causes: If seizures are caused by an underlying condition, such as a brain tumor, infection, or metabolic disorder, addressing the primary cause is crucial. This may involve additional diagnostic tests, such as imaging (MRI or CT scans), blood work, or cerebrospinal fluid analysis. Treatment options will vary based on the specific condition.

  4. Dietary Modifications: In some cases, a special diet may be recommended as part of the treatment plan. Certain diets, such as ketogenic diets or diets with specific nutrient compositions, may help reduce seizure frequency in some dogs.

  5. Supportive Care: During and after seizures, it's important to provide a safe and calm environment for your dog. Keep the area free of objects that could cause injury, and do not try to restrain your dog during a seizure. After a seizure, comfort your dog and monitor their recovery. If seizures are severe or prolonged, emergency veterinary care may be necessary.

It's important to note that the treatment of seizures in dogs is individualized, and the approach may vary depending on the specific circumstances and response to treatment. Regular communication and follow-up with your veterinarian are essential to ensure the best possible management of your dog's seizures.