Do you think you’d be able to tell if your dog is having a seizure? It may seem like it’d be obvious if you were witness to it, but depending on the symptoms your dog presents, seizure may not be the first thing that crosses your mind.
Regardless, any type of unusual behavior can be unsettling for pet owners and is a good reason to have your veterinarian’s number handy in case of emergency. When your dog is having a seizure, the brain is not functioning properly.
Your pet doesn’t have control over his limbs or bodily functions and may throw up or defecate. On the surface, it could look like your pet is experiencing hyperactivity or may be acting abnormally, but there are specific signs to look for to tell if your dog is having a seizure.
Common symptoms of dog seizures include jerking, twitching, drooling, foaming at the mouth, and loss of consciousness. Your dog may fall over depending on the severity of the seizure or lose consciousness altogether.
If these symptoms don’t all happen at once, it may be difficult to predict a seizure or realize that’s what’s happening. After all, dogs drooling is hardly uncommon. But keep an eye out for behavior that’s out of the ordinary as well as drastic mood shifts in your pet. Since dogs can’t communicate with words, it’s even more important to be mindful of their actions.
You may not always have your dog in plain sight throughout the day, which means they could suffer seizures without you being around. It could happen when you’re at work, when they’re outside, or even if they’re in the next room. It may take a few hours for them to recover, so if you notice your pet is disoriented, acting sluggish or groggy, or see any other kinds of shift in outward appearance, it doesn’t hurt to set an appointment with your veterinarian.
Types and Causes of Seizures in Dogs
If your dog is having a seizure, it can be due to a variety of reasons. It doesn’t necessarily mean your pet is epileptic. It could be a resulting factor of liver disease, kidney disease, low electrolytes, a head injury, or brain cancer; all of which are serious diagnoses on their own. Other factors that can contribute to seizures are:
- Bad reactions to food or medication
- A drastic change in temperature in environment
- Contact with other unfamiliar animals
It’s hard to tell what directly causes seizures in dogs, but there are tests your veterinarian can run to cancel out certain causes. Since you’re most likely not around your dog all day, every day, it can be challenging to know for certain if your pet has ingested something toxic, has had an encounter with another animal, or has been under duress of any kind. Write down what you do know for days leading up to the seizure and time after, so you can create a fuller picture of the situation.
There are also different types of dog seizures to be aware of as well. A generalized, or grand mal, seizure is the most common among dogs, which can lead to loss of consciousness and/or convulsions. These can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.
Symptoms of focal seizures may only affect one part of the body or an isolated limb. With a grand mal seizure, your dog may not have functioning in any of its legs, but as this name suggests, there is usually one centralized point with a focal seizure.
Another variant is called a psychomotor seizure, which is also known to last a few minutes. If your dog experiences this, he may begin to chase his tail or chase after an imaginary object.
This type of seizure may be a little harder to detect than others. Antsy dogs chase their tails if they have an itch or simply because that’s part of their normal behavior. It’s not automatically indicative that something is wrong. But if you notice this repeated behavior often, you may want to speak to your veterinarian about your concerns on the next visit.
Finally, seizures that occur in younger dogs, usually canines between the ages of 6 months and 6 years old, may be the result of idiopathic epilepsy. This condition is more prominent in certain breeds, including:
Dog seizures can happen at any time to any breed. No matter which category of seizure your dog suffers from, it’s no fun for them or for you as their pet owner. It’s not a condition you can magically make disappear, which can be frustrating, especially if your dog appears to be in pain or discomfort of any kind. However, don’t be discouraged because there is treatment available to help minimize the frequency and avoid the chance of future seizures altogether.
If you have witnessed your dog having a seizure, make sure to take down as much information as possible for what happened before, during, and after the episode to share with your veterinarian. Also, know there is only a limited amount of action you can take to make sure pet is as safe as possible.
How Dog Epilepsy Is Diagnosed
If your dog is experiencing frequent seizures, epilepsy may be the culprit. There’s not a way to test for this specifically, but your veterinarian can test against it. In other words, there are ways to cancel out other causes.
In addition to a full medical exam, your veterinarian may run a CT or MRI scan to check the activity in the brain. You’ll want to provide a full history of your pet’s health, including recent behavior related to any seizures and the activity leading up to them. Be prepared to answer a variety of questions regarding your pet’s health, such as:
- Has your dog been in contact with anything poisonous?
- Does your dog have a history of seizures? If so, how long and how often do they occur?
- What kind of behavioral changes have you noticed in your pet?
- Does your dog indicate pain on one side of their body over the other?
- Is your pet suddenly lethargic or alternatively, overly excitable?
Change in behavior is how our pets tell us something is wrong. For those who have had their dogs for years and years, behavioral patterns are like second nature. If something were wrong, it would be immediately obvious and you would be able to seek help right away.
But for newer pet owners, you may still be getting used to the day-to-day routine of your pets and while you may sense something is off, it can be tough to gauge how serious the problem really is.
Additionally, your dog may not experience all the mentioned symptoms – making it harder to tell if your dog is having a seizure or has recently had one. But if you feel like something might be wrong, set an appointment to see your veterinarian. Learn about treatment options sooner rather than later. If nothing else, it will give you peace of mind for you and your pet.
What to Do If Your Dog Is Having a Seizure
Seeing your pet in any discomfort or pain can be hard to witness and watching them have a seizure can be downright scary. It’s important to remain as calm as possible; not only for yourself, but for your dog, too.
If they are experiencing a seizure, they don’t have control over their limbs and may lose partial or all consciousness. This can be frightening for a dog, even if the seizure lasts only a couple of seconds.
Make sure your dog has a clear path if they are having a seizure. Your first instinct may be to jump in and calm them down, but gauge the situation to see what the safest option is. When a seizure lasts longer than a few minutes, take them in for emergency care.
The longer a seizure continues, the higher your pet’s internal temperature can get and he may have trouble breathing. Call the veterinary clinic while you’re on your way, so they know to expect you and can be prepared when you arrive.
Often, dog seizures will last only a second or two and then your pet will seem “back to normal.” Make sure they have plenty of food and water available to them. Also, don’t introduce any new activity or agitating situations while they recover.
It could take several hours for them to stop acting distracted or disoriented. And, until you see the veterinarian, there’s no way to completely tell what, if any, internal damage may have been done.
Treatment for Dog Seizures
Although there may not be a way to fully stop your dog’s seizures, especially if they’ve been diagnosed with epilepsy, there are ways to keep the condition under control and prevent seizures as much as possible.
Your veterinarian may decide medication is the best form of treatment depending on your dog’s medical history, current health, breed, and age. Not all dogs respond favorably to medicine, so share any allergies, past adverse reactions, or other information that illustrates your dog’s full medical history.
An emergency pet doctor may not be the same as your regular veterinarian, so he may not know your pet’s condition or have information about past visits. It may also be harder for your dog to take medicine orally, so ask for other recommendations if this is the case.
Some pet owners may not think medication is the route to go or may want to use it as a last resort. Any medication should be prescribed by a veterinarian and not bought over the counter. There are also alternative and homeopathic options available as well.
Homeopathic remedies may include belladonna, bufo, potassium bromade, or silica. Acupuncture may be an option as this long-practiced Eastern medicine has proven to provide positive results in both humans and animals. Hemp nutrition may be an alternative to consider as well as an organic option.
When considering all natural remedies, your dog may still have allergic or adverse reactions to certain ingredients, so make sure to monitor his behavior whenever you make any changes to their diet or medication.
Before starting any treatment at all, confer with your veterinarian because he or she will make the best recommendations possible from a medical standpoint based on your pet’s specific condition.
Prevention and Care for Your Pet
You’re not going to “cure” seizures in your dog. But you can take necessary steps to prevent them from occurring as frequently. Get on a regular treatment plan and adjust medications, diets, and other lifestyle habits to better adapt to your dog’s health.
When you take your dog to daycare or leave them in the care of a neighbor or friend, make sure to let them know your pet has special needs and advise of the signs to look for if your dog is having a seizure.
Your pet may have his own unique tic or characteristic that indicates he may soon experience a seizure. The more information, the better when putting your pet into the care of others. Also, make sure you leave emergency veterinarian contact information and a list of current medications or any special diet your pet is on.
You might be used to handling your pet’s behavior, but others may not know what to do. By providing as much information as possible in advance, the better care your dog will receive.
If your pet is facing problems with seizures, it’s also a good time to look into other aspects of your pet’s health and see where improvement can be made. Are they eating a proper diet? Are they getting enough exercise and water? Have they been showing other signs of health problems that may come with aging?
Preventative care is the best plan of action in order to stop more serious conditions in the future. It’s tough to see your pet deal with problems, but it’s all part of being a pet owner and having your dog as part of the family. The good news is you can control their environment and make your home as comforting and peaceful as possible for them.
- “Convulsions and Seizures in Dogs.” PetMD, Accessed 14 March 2017. www.petmd.com/dog/emergency/common-emergencies/e_dg_seizures_convulsions.
- Huston, Lorie. “Helpful Care Tips for When Your Dog or Cat Is Having Seizures.” The Spruce Pets, Accessed 14 March 2017. www.thesprucepets.com/if-your-pet-is-having-seizures-3384733.
- “How to Recognize and Handle Dog Seizures.” Cesar’s Way, 3 May 2017, Accessed 14 March 2017. www.cesarsway.com/dog-care/health-and-care-issues/how-to-recognize-and-handle-dog-seizures.
- “Epilepsy in Dogs.” The Kennel Club, Accessed 14 March 2017. www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health/for-owners/epilepsy/.
- “Dog Seizures: When to Worry, When to Wait.” Pets Best Insurance, 7 June 2018, Accessed 14 March 2017. www.petsbest.com/blog/dog-seizures-when-to-worry-when-to-wait/.