What You Need To Know About Dog Seizures

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
As one of the most frequently reported neurological conditions in dogs, pet parents need to know the causes, symptoms and treatments of canine seizures.

Nothing is worse for a pet parent than watching your dog go through a seizure without being able to stop it. Seizures can happen unexpectedly and for a variety of reasons, so how do you prepare for them? All pet parents should know the basics about dog seizures including their causes, what a seizure looks like, and what to do if your dog has one.

Causes of Seizures in Dogs

A one-time seizure might be caused by a variety of things, but recurring seizures are typically indicative of an medical problem. A seizure is most likely to occur when your dog’s level of brain activity changes – that is why seizures are most commonly seen when a dog gets excited or around the time that he falls asleep or wakes from sleeping. In between seizures, the dog may act completely normal.

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Epilepsy is a seizure disorder characterized by repeated episodes of seizures. These seizures may occur singly or in succession and they might occur at regular intervals or they can be entirely unpredictable. Idiopathic epilepsy is an inherited condition in dogs, the cause of which is unknown. Other medical conditions which might induce seizures include kidney failure, liver disease, brain trauma or tumors, and poisoning.

What Does a Seizure Look Like?

Seizures can vary in duration and severity but every seizure consists of three parts: the pre-ictal phase, the ictal phase, and the post-ictal phase. During the pre-ictal phase your dog may exhibit signs of altered behavior – he might be nervous, shaking, restless, or drooling. This phase can last for as little as a few seconds or as long as a few hours. The ictal phase is the phase during which the seizure actually occurs and it may last anywhere between a few seconds and five minutes. Your dog will typically lose consciousness during a seizure but it is possible to have “absence” seizures characterized by a change in mental awareness (hallucinations). A grand mal seizure is characterized by a complete loss of consciousness during which all of the muscles of the body contract erratically. During a grand mal seizure your dog may fall over and peddle his legs – drooling, urination, and defecation may also occur. After the ictal phase, your dog will go into the post-ictal phase during which he will appear confused and disoriented; this phase varies in duration.

Related: Study Finds High-Pitched Noises Set Off Seizures In Cats

What to do if Your Dog Has a Seizure

If your dog had a seizure before, you may recognize the pre-ictal signs leading up to an actual seizure. You can’t do anything to stop the seizure once it starts, but there are a few things you can do to help protect your dog from harming himself. Stay away from the dog’s mouth to avoid being bitten but, if it is safe to do so, move your dog away from furniture and surrounding objects. Do not put anything in your dog’s mouth – he will not bite his tongue. After the seizure, monitor your dog closely and reassure him with your voice and by petting him gently; if you remain calm it will help your dog to feel calm. If you can, record the duration of the seizure to report to your vet. Any seizure lasting longer than five minutes is considered extremely dangerous and you should seek emergency veterinary care for your dog for anticonvulsants to stop the seizure.

Seizures, no matter what the cause, can vary greatly in severity, so talk to your veterinarian about whether your dog needs to be put on a treatment plan. In cases of canine epilepsy, anticonvulsant medications may help to prevent seizures. Once the medication is started, however, it must be given for life so make sure you are prepared to follow through with the treatment plan if your veterinarian recommends it.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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