Dog Seizures: What Triggers Seizures in Dogs?

Dog seizures are scary, not just for the dog that’s actually experiencing the seizure, but also for you, the owner. This is especially true if you witness your dog having a seizure, which is one of the most frightening experiences you can have as a pet owner. Much of this fear comes from the unknown.

Things that might run through your mind include: Why is my dog having a seizure? What is the severity of seizures? Is my dog going to be okay? And what is making my dog have this seizure?

What Causes Dog Seizures?

Dog seizures are caused by many differing reasons. Most commonly, dog seizures are caused by seizure disorders, like idiopathic epilepsy, which is typically inherited, but the cause is usually unknown. Epileptic seizures in dogs are characterized as repeated episodes of seizures. The severity of epilepsy depends on the type of epileptic seizures. For example, dog cluster seizures, defined as a dog who experiences multiple seizures in a 24 hour period can be very dangerous. Other common causes of seizures include issues with your dog’s health such as eating poison, liver disease, low or high blood sugar, kidney disease, electrolyte problems, Anemia, head injury, Encephalitis, strokes and brain cancer.

Seizures commonly occur when the canine’s brain has a change in activity, which can occur through stimulation from the environment, things around the house, foods, medications and of course, stress.

Affected dogs can appear to be completely normal between seizures, so one question that is typically on every pet owner’s mind is: What causes seizures in dogs? While seizures seem to occur spontaneously, many factors have been identified as possible dog seizure triggers.

But naturally, the answer (like with most canine medical conditions) is never simple, there are plenty of causes that may potentially trigger a seizure including environment, things around the house, foods, medications and of course, stress.

What is a trigger of dog seizures?

Simply put, a trigger is the source of your dog’s seizure. It is the factor, inside or outside of the dog’s body, that causes a seizure to occur. There are plenty of potential seizure triggers including the environment, things around the house, foods, medications and of course, stress. The trigger can often be difficult to identify, but in order for something to qualify as a trigger, it has to have happened within 30 hours of your dog’s seizure. The only exception to this is vaccinations, which can trigger a seizure up to 45 days after administration.

In an effort to reduce the chances of your dog having a seizure, you can try to avoid the things mentioned below.

Environmental Triggers of Dog Seizures

Your dog’s environment can play a large role in seizure episodes. While a dog’s environment involves your home as well, this section will focus on the potential environmental triggers your dog may encounter outside.

Dogs love to be outside. From walks to the dog park, to just sitting out in the backyard, the outdoors will be a big part of your dog’s life. Unfortunately, there are many things found outdoors that can potentially trigger a seizure in dogs.

Think about your own yard and garden and neighborhood. You and your neighbors may use lawn treatments and fertilizers to get that plush, green lawn of your dreams. And while they might be great for your yard, these products may contain toxins harmful to your dog, and can even trigger a seizure. Herbicides and insecticides are other chemicals often used around the yard that can be potential triggers of seizures in dogs.

Other risk factors found in the yard, such as cedar shavings, can also be harmful to your dog. In addition, many flowers and plants are poisonous to dogs, which can also cause a seizure. The ASPCA has provided a list of plants that are toxic to dogs.

What you can do: For your own home, try to only use lawn and yard products that are animal-friendly, to ensure that you don’t trigger your own dog’s seizure with these potentially harmful products. There are plenty of yard and garden treatment products that are dog-friendly, and it should be easy to find on the label.

Take a look at the list of toxic plants and make sure you don’t have any in your yard. Eliminating these harmful toxins by discontinuing the use of dangerous products and removing harmful plants can eliminate one potential trigger of seizures in dogs from your dog’s environment.

A couple of other environmental factors that can trigger seizures will be less in your control, but you can try to avoid them nonetheless. Barometric pressure changes and extreme heat or cold are thought to be potential triggers.

Other potential environmental triggers include bee and wasp venom and toad poisoning. It’s easy enough to say “avoid bees and toads” but not realistic, so just be aware if you see them and try to remove your dog from a potentially bad situation.

Triggers of Dog Seizures Around Your Home

Your dog’s environment involves more than just what’s outside — it also includes your home. Dogs, like humans, are both physically and emotionally sensitive creatures. Something like photosensitivity can trigger a seizure in dogs just like it can in humans. Photosensitivity refers to flashing or bright lights.

Other factors considered household items that can potentially trigger seizures in dogs include scented candles, perfumes, loud music, and cigarette smoke. Popular household products are also potential triggers. These include Pine Sol or any other cleaners with pine oil, kerosene, camphor, eucalyptus, borax or boric acid, deck and wall stains, polyurethane fumes, paint fumes and Swiffer chemicals.

What you can do: Since none of the items listed above are absolutely necessary to maintain a home, you can choose to eliminate them entirely from your dog’s environment. Otherwise, try and keep them to a minimum, or remove the dog from the area when you use one of the harmful products or items.

Try not to use any products with strong aromas around your dog and don’t do home projects with your dog nearby. Dogs are curious creatures and are bound to get into whatever it is that you are working on or working with.

Pine, in particular, can be quite toxic to dogs and can cause seizures, so be sure not to use pine scented or infused cleaners. Also, if you get a real tree, come Christmas time, don’t let your dog drink the water out of the bottom of the tree. It takes a little extra effort but can be well worth it if it helps prevent your dog from having a seizure.

Foods That Can Trigger Dog Seizures

The trigger of your dog’s seizures can also boil down to something as every day as his diet. What your dog eats can absolutely be a potential trigger of a seizure. For instance, having a diet too high in sodium can lead to salt toxicity, which can cause seizures and pancreatitis. This is especially true for dogs that take potassium bromide as an anticonvulsant.

Food allergies are also common triggers of seizures in dogs, brought on by processed, low-grade dog foods. The chemicals, preservatives, and emulsifiers contained in some of these foods can be harmful to your dog. There are also particular foods and herbs that can potentially trigger a seizure.

Fruits, including tomatoes and carrots, can actually trigger a seizure in some dogs. Certain dairy products, like cheese (particularly if it is moldy), cottage cheese and milk are also danger foods. Unclean or uncooked pork products can be problematic as well as turkey. These can each be found in tainted pet food.

Certain spices, such as rosemary, sage, fennel and saffron can also be potential seizure triggers. Walnuts are generally thought of as harmful to dogs, and caffeine can also be a trigger.  Foods or treats with ethoxyquin, BHA or BHT of foods with MSG can also be potential triggers. MSG is often referred to in food products as “natural flavoring” or “smoke flavoring,” etc.

Even dog products like uncleansed rawhide treats and pig’s ear or feet can potentially cause a seizure to occur. Several commercially produced dog chews are bleached. Flavored chews will often have some of the chemical additives listed above.