The Dog Owners Guide To Canine Seizures

Canine seizures can be caused by a number of different factors including epilepsy (more on this later), tumors, trauma and even through poisoning.

The actual seizure is caused when a dog’s brain is exposed to a sudden burst of electrical activity – this activity can also spread to other areas including the ‘mid-brain’. The most common area of the dog’s brain to experience this burst of electrical activity is in an area referred to as the ‘cerebral hemispheres’.

Symptoms Of Canine Seizures

A dog’s behavior may alter after experiencing a grand mal seizure – this is often referred to as the ‘aura’. The symptoms a dog may experience during this stage may include anxiety and restlessness. A dog may also cry out, seek seclusion or demand affection. The most common symptoms a dog will exhibit during an actual seizure (which will last about 2 minutes) may include your dog falling to the floor unconscious with the legs becoming rigid. An affected dog may even stop breathing for up to thirty seconds.

The next stage in the seizure will involve the legs starting to jerk – your dog might also start chewing, drooling and may even urinate or defecate. The whole experience is very frightening for the dog and of course the owner.

As previously mentioned most canine seizures will last less than a couple of minutes but the symptoms post seizure can involve a dog appearing blind and stumbling into furniture, walls or anything that gets in the way. A Grand Mal seizure is often associated with a dog suffering from Epilepsy.

Another type of seizure that can affect dogs is called a Focal Motor or Partial seizure – these normally only affect one area of the body with twitching or jerking a common symptom. This type of seizure is often associated with brain lesions, scars, tumors and abscesses.

Video Of Dog Having A Mild Seizure

NOTE: There are many more videos on YouTube showing dogs having seizures of various intensity. We didn’t want to share the more intense ones here, but they are readily available with a basic search.

What are the causes of canine seizures?

This condition can be caused by heat stroke, kidney failure, strokes, liver failure, brain injury, encephalitis, abscesses and poisoning. You should take great care of a dog that has had a trauma to the head as concusion can cause seizures weeks after the accident – this is due to a build up of scar tissue in the brain.

Canine seizures can also occur weeks after a dog has experienced enchepalitis (known as encephalic seizures). Another cause of the condition can include Distemper with an attack causing head shaking, blinking, foaming at the mouth, chomping and tongue chewing. A dog may have a dazed look after a seizure associated with Distemper.

Six week old puppies can also experience seizures after being vaccinated against some serious health conditions – and although rare it can occur with the distemper parvovirus vaccine. It is very uncommon for a puppy to have a seizure with newer vaccines.

Some females can develop seizures if their blood calcium levels fall after whelping. Another cause of the condition can include a sudden drop in blood sugar (known as hypoglycemia). This can occur in dogs that have been overdosed on Insulin or puppies that have not been fed well. Another cause of hypoglycemia in puppies is through Cardiopulmonary syndrome.

Canine seizures can also be caused through poisoning including Strychnine, Antifreeze, insecticides and even chocolate. Although not actually a seizure bee stings may cause frenzied barking which can be followed by collapse and fainting. Another health problem that causes similar symptoms (but is not actually a seizure) are the symptoms caused by cardiac arrhythmias.

What is the treatment for canine seizures?

The treatment for this condition should involve you making sure that the area around your dog is free from clutter or anything that your dog can knock his or her head or body on during a seizure. During a seizure do not disturb your dog as this can trigger another one. A dog is not capable of swallowing his or her tongue so do not try and wedge anything in the mouth or try and pull on the tongue.

Take note when the seizure starts and ends and then call your vet so that an accurate diagnosis can be made. Any seizure that lasts more than five minutes (known as Status Epilepticus Seizures or Cluster Seizures) are a medical emergency. The vet will need to stop them through medication to stop brain damage or death. The medication used may include Valium through intravenous injection or anticonvulsants).

Epilepsy in dogs

is a nervous disease which can be inherited – for example some breeds are more prone to the condition including Collies, Poodles, Keeshonds, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, St Bernards, Irish Setters, Cocker Spaniels and Schnauzers. Known as a ‘Seizure Disorder’ Epilepsy can be Idiopathic or Acquired.

Acquired Epilepsy has a known cause for example it might be caused by a build-up of scar tissue in the brain or through damage to the brain through injury.

Idiopathic Epilepsy has no known cause but is normally as a result of an in imbalance in the chemicals that help to transmit electrical impulses within the dog’s brain.

Canine seizures (Gran Mal) will normally start from the age of six months up to five years of age. For a dog to be diagnosed as suffering from Epilepsy the symptoms need to have been ongoing for some time and recurrent on nature with similar symptoms. To help diagnosis the vet will often speak with the owner and ask for a log of when the seizures started, how long they lasted and the symptoms that the dog showed.

Some epileptic seizures will go through the recognised three stages i.e. the ‘aura’, Grand Mal seizure and Post Seizure but some may not – for example some dogs can have epileptic seizures when they are asleep. The symptoms may not always be typical – for example rather than having a full blown attack the dog might display odd or unusual behavior including barking, chewing, staring into space or attempting to snap at objects.

Diagnosis and treatment for dogs with seizures

Diagnosis can be achieved through an ECG, Spinal Tap (where spinal tap cerebrospinal fluid is examined), X-rays, MRI and through a CT scan.

The treatment for canine seizures caused by Epilepsy is normally through antiepileptic drugs (although they are not always effective). The best treatment to reduce the amount of seizures and increasing the time between each attack can include a drug called phenobarbital (although this can make a dog sleepy and they can also become tolerant of the drug). Phenobarbital can also cause other nasty side effects including liver damage. Another drug used to treat the condition is Potassium Bromide although this too can cause liver damage.

If the epilepsy cannot be controlled through these medications then Clonazepam, Valproic acid or Clorazepate can be prescribed. These will also need to be closely monitored to stop toxic build up and to also see how the seizures respond to the treatment.

Acupuncture and changes in your dog’s diet can have some beneficial effect on canine seizures and a dog experiencing epilepsy.

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