Seizures aren’t just for humans – unfortunately, many of our beloved pets suffer from status epilepticus (epilepsy), too. Canine seizures are one of the “silent epidemics” that affect dogs across the world. Seizures aren’t spoken of as often as hip dysplasia or fleas & ticks, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen to your dog. Studies report that Idiopathic epilepsy (the single most common canine seizure disorder) occurs in 0.5 to 5.7 percent of all dogs.
Whether your dog has already experienced an epileptic seizure, you’d like to help prevent them from happening in the first place, or simply be prepared in how to treat dog seizures, it helps to learn as much as you can about canine epilepsy treatment.
Types of Seizures or Epilepsy That Can Affect Dogs
There are several different kinds of seizures and epilepsy that can cause your pet problems:
- “Epilepsy” is a term used to describe recurrent or reoccurring seizures that originate from the brain.
- “Idiopathic epilepsy” describes a form of epilepsy that does not result in brain lesions or damage to the brain.
- “Symptomatic epilepsy” is used to describe primary epilepsy resulting in structural lesions or damage to the brain’s structure.
- “Probably symptomatic epilepsy” is a phrase used in cases of suspected symptomatic epilepsy, where a patient has reoccurring seizures, but where no lesions or brain damage is apparent.
- “Cluster seizure” describes any situation where an animal has more than one seizure in consecutive 24-hour periods.
- “Status epilepticus” involves constant seizures, or activity involving brief periods where there is inactivity, but not complete relief from seizure activity.
Unfortunately, the number of seizures your dog has are linked to neuron damage in his or her brain. This in turn means your pet is more likely to experience seizures again. For research purposes, most experts classify all seizures in one of three ways:
- Generalized seizures impact most of the brain and include both sides.
- Focal seizures impact only a smaller, localized portion of the brain.
- Focal seizures with secondary generalization are seizures that start out in one smaller place but then eventually lead to the rest of the brain seizing.
Just like humans, dogs often get warning signs when a seizure is coming. The warning comes in the form of an aura, not unlike the kind of aura humans with migraines and other neurological disturbances experience. Your dog’s aura will typically make him or her feel and act stressed, scared, or worried. Your pet may also experience muscle and limb contractions, visual disturbances, and even loss of bowel and bladder control. A dog with seizures can also enter into a kind of altered mental status before a seizure hits, so be on the lookout for this and other neurological symptoms.
Why do Canine Seizures Happen? Symptoms of Epilepsy in Dogs
No dogs are immune from the effects of seizures. A canine’s natural curiosity, bad luck, genetic predisposition and other factors can cause canine epilepsy. Other factors, like the patterns a dog’s seizures take, can affect how seizures are experienced in the future. For example, the age at the time of seizure onset influences the likelihood of future seizures, as well as how often and how serious they are.
Here are a few things than can cause dog seizures:
And there are many causes, so if you’re not sure of the cause of your dog’s seizures, seek veterinary advice.
Animals have a “sixth sense” about certain upcoming events, and canine epilepsy is one of them. Many dog owners said their pet sought companionship immediately before seizures. When a seizure strikes, your dog may fall on one side. Other common symptoms include chomping, excessing panting, drooling at the mouth and fluttering eyes. Your dog may also lose bladder or bowel control. The average canine seizure duration is about 2 minutes. If a seizure lasts over 5 minutes, the risk of coma and internal organ damage increase.
Once the seizure is over, your dog may act as if nothing happened. But most post-seizure dogs will display altered behavioral characteristics for 18-24 hours afterwards.
Idiopathic epilepsy is a type of canine seizure with no known or obvious causes. Some particular dog breeds are more susceptible than others with this type of seizure. Border collies, Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Beagles, Belgian Tervurens, and German Shepherds are six breeds that are afflicted with higher rates of idiopathic epilepsy.
Natural Remedies for Seizures in Dogs – Dog Seizure Treatment that Works
As canine epilepsy research continues to mount, it’s becoming increasingly clear that animal nutrition – similar to human dietary habits – can play a vital role in disease prevention and longevity. The nutritional profile of dog food and snacks should ideally contain beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants, which serve as neuroprotectants, reduce inflammation, ward off disease, and optimize nutrient absorption.
Aside from the anti-inflammatory effects, canine dietary habits should also strive to strengthen your dog’s overall immune system function. A robust immunity response is vital in preventing relatively small issues from becoming serious health issues. Researchers are currently working on studies that examine the relationship between immune system health and the onset of seizures.
Naturally, in certain cases your dog may need more intervention. When tumors are the source of seizures in dogs, or when they make them worse, surgery may be necessary. In other animals it may be necessary to control or mitigate against seizures with drugs.
Which types of drugs work to help lessen or prevent your pet’s seizures will depend on several things. Seizures may be controlled by anti-convulsant drugs, anti-epileptic medications, or even corticosteroid drugs. However, the nature of your dog’s seizures, the type of epilepsy the animal has, and existing health history will control what works and what doesn’t. Corticosteroids, for example, should be avoided in cases where your pet is suffering from an infectious diseases.
Managing Your Pet’s Seizures Day to Day
Seizures are best met head on, so early detection and treatment are essential. Several more severe varieties of epilepsy strike younger dogs more often than others, so at the first sign of trouble get your pet a complete examination with a veterinarian. Even if your dog doesn’t have idiopathic or primary epilepsy or another severe variety of epilepsy, this will ensure that your family has the right care plan in place for your pet.
Breeds More Likely to Experience Epilepsy and Seizures
Remember, any age, breed, or temperament of dog can experience seizures. High incidences are seen in Border collies, Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, beagles, Belgian Tervurens, Collies, German Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Golden Retrievers, Keeshonds, Vizslas, Finnish spitz, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Irish Wolfhounds, and English Springer Spaniels.
See our Breed Guide for more details about your dog.
Cannabidiol, Seizures, and the Endocannabinoid System
Cannabis for Intractable Epilepsy by Narda Robinson, DO, DVM
Originally published in the June 2014 issue of Veterinary Practice News – see original text for citations.
Decades of research indicate that CBD yields notable anticonvulsant effects with minimal neurotoxicity. It reliably reduces neuronal activity and seizure severity… CBD affects several endogenous cannabinoid pathways simultaneously, demonstrating a multiplicity of neuropharmacologic mechanisms of action. It works additively and at times synergistically with other anti-epileptic drugs; this allows clinicians to more readily introduce CBD into a seizure patient’s drug regimen without reducing the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals already “on board.”
As it turns out, the nervous, lymphatic and possibly other systems within the body already house cannabinoid receptors, making them already prepared to respond to both phyto- and endo-cannabinoids. regulates neuronal excitability. When it falters, an “endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome” may result, associated not only with seizures but also with the onset of fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine and other maladaptive states…
In fact, many integrative approaches for epilepsy also affect endocannabinoid states, including acupuncture along with certain nutritional supplements, herbal medicines, dietary changes, and, of course, cannabis.
Canna-Pet® for Dog Seizures – Cannabinoid Nutrition
A recent study by Colorado State University found that among those with an opinion, 92% of Canna-Pet® customers reported that our hemp products helped to relieve dog seizures or convulsions a moderate amount or a lot.