Canine Seizures, A guide to Epilepsy in Dogs

To witness your dog having a Seizure can be an upsetting and scary experience. Seizures are caused by sudden surges of electricity within the brain (normally in the Cerebral Hemisphere) and normally only last for a few minutes (less than two) with the dog normally collapsing (with the legs rigid and outstretched) proceeded by a period of jerking and strange sudden movements. Although the affected dog will be unconscious it is not uncommon for some dogs (not all) to drool, urinate and in some cases even stop breathing for a short time.

For a short time after the Seizure the affected dog may experience some altered behavior (known as the ‘aura’). This is also common in humans and is often characterized by anxiety, a need for attention (and affection) and restlessness.

The two most common causes of canine Seizures are Distemper and Epilepsy. There are other causes (which you can see in the list on right of the page).

We have listed some First Aid tips (below) on how to treat your pooch (during and after) a Seizure…

– If your dog is experiencing a Seizure you should phone your vet immediately for advice.

– Move any objects or furniture out of the way so that your pooch won’t be injured during the seizure.

– Do not try and stroke or pet your dog during the Seizure as you may get injured. Do not attempt to secure the tongue as this can make things worst (and you may get get your hand bitten).

– As previously mentioned your dog is likely to go through as period of confusion and may even be unresponsive and disorientated after the Seizure has ended. This is the time to put your dog in a quiet, dark room. This is when you are needed – speak quietly and reassuringly to your dog and gently stroke and pet her. Try and keep your pooch as relaxed and calm as possible and offer her a drink of water.

– If the Seizures are lasting longer than five minutes (you should try and time each Seizure from when it starts) you should take your dog to the vet immediately (this is an emergency). If you have a friend who can drive this would be better as it will allow you to restrain your dog whilst your friend drives.

Did you know…? The Brain Cells (known as Neurons) work by communicating with each other through chemical and electrical signals. However, sometimes these cells can become ‘over stimulated’ leading to a surge of electrical activity in the brain resulting in a Seizure.

Did you know…? The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can sometimes appear to ‘imaginary fly catch’. This is thought to be a Petit Mal Seizure.

Epilepsy… (as previously mentioned) is one of the most common causes of canine Seizures. In fact by definition Epilepsy is defined as ‘repeated Seizures’ – it is also one of the most common neurological diseases to affect dogs.

Dogs can either have ‘Symptomatic Epilepsy’ (which means that there is a known cause of the condition) or ‘Idiopathic Epilepsy’ (when the cause is unknown). Although it is important to mention that Idiopathic Epilepsy in dogs is primarily a genetic and inherited condition.

Epilepsy is difficult to diagnose (although if you have purchase your dog from a known breeder you can ask the breeder to check the blood-line and ask if the breeder has bred your dog’s parents with any other dog known to have Epilepsy).

The most common diagnostic method is through a process of elimination (you may have videoed your dog having a Seizure); this will help the Vet determine what exactly is happening during the Seizure (making diagnosis a little easier). Of course if this is your dog’s first Seizure then you are unlikely to want to video the event, however if the fits happen fairly often then you may feel more confident in videoing the Seizure (as it happens).

The Vet may also perform blood tests, check reflexes, coordination and check the medical history to determine if there maybe an underlying health problem that maybe causing the Seizures. The Vet may also perform Spinal Taps, Skull X-rays and an MRI and CT Scan to help diagnosis.

Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide are the most common (and effective) treatments for Epilepsy in dogs.

More causes of Seizures in Dogs…

Foreign toxins are another cause of the condition – this is when your dog or puppy has eaten a foreign object causing the toxins to infect your pooch. Foreign toxins can be ingested via – chocolate, rat poison, insecticides, paint chips and anti freeze.

Heartworms and Hookworms can also gravitate to the brain (Cerebral Vessels) leading to a condition called ‘Worm Fits’ (convulsive seizures).

Trauma to the brain, heatstroke, kidney disease, thyroid problems, high fever, Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), Gastroenteritis and poisoning by Strychnine can all lead to Seizures.


Did you know…? There are some breeds that are more prone to inherited Epilepsy (including), German Shepherds, Beagles, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Poodles and Miniature Schnauzers.

Did you know…? Seizures are more common to affect dogs when they are relaxed or asleep.

References:

Ackerman, L. Owners Guide to Dog Health. 1995.

Bower, J and Youngs, D. 1989. The Health of Your Dog.

Mash, H. 2011. The Holistic Dog: A complete guide to natural health care. The Crowood Press.

Llewellyn, G. 1998. Homeopathic Remedies for Dogs.

Thornton K and Eldredge, D, 2005. The Everything Dog Health Book.

The American Animal Hospital Association Encyclopedia of Dog Health and Care, 1994. Quill. New York.

The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats. 1996. Rodale Press Inc, Emmaus, Pennsylvania.