Seizures are the most frequently reported neurological conditions that appear in dogs. It’s very scary when they first happen. However, if you know how to manage them properly, they won’t affect your dog’s quality of life.
To help your dog with seizures, it is important that you learn what seizures are, what causes them, what are their symptoms, and what to do if your dog is having a seizure. Let’s dive in.
What Are Seizures in Dogs?
Seizures are abnormal, uncontrolled bursts of electrical brain activity, similar to humans. They affect how your pooch behaves and looks, and may lead to uncontrollable shaking, twitching, confusion and other symptoms.
What are the causes of seizures in dogs?
There are many different types of seizures dogs can have. And several aspects can cause them. Some of them are preventable, but others are related to illness or genetics.
The common type of seizures in dogs:
- Generalized, tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures
- Idiopathic epilepsy
- Structural epilepsy
- Reactive seizure
2. Focal Seizures
Possible causes of seizures in dogs
- Certain breeds
- Eating toxins
- Certain health issues: kidney disease, liver disease, and brain tumors
Idiopathic epilepsy and its causes in dogs
The most common cause of seizure in dogs is idiopathic epilepsy. Also known as grand mal epilepsy, which is basically an inherited disorder. It’s still unknown what is the exact cause of this form of seizure.
Genetics may also be the culprit behind idiopathic epilepsy and other forms of seizures. Certain breeds such as German Shepherds, Belgian Tervurens, Labrador Retrievers, English Springer Spaniels or Bernese Mountain are more likely to develop seizure disorders genetically.
According to the studies, a canine’s sex can also cause a seizure. Male dogs more often suffer from seizure than female.
There are some other common causes:
- eating toxins
- high or low blood sugar
- liver disease
- kidney disease
- head injury
- brain tumors
People often think that elder dogs can have seizures more frequently. This is not true. Age doesn’t cause a seizure in dogs, it is always caused by a disease. That’s why it is so important to let your vet identify what kind of seizure your dog has for successful management and treatment.
Structural epilepsy and its causes in dogs
For the other seizures, the cause can be found in the brain while this kind of seizure caused by the blood supply. Including inflammation, trauma, infection, obstructions, developmental problems, degenerative brain diseases or brain tumors. With an MRI and/or a cerebrospinal fluid test it’s can be confirmed easily.
Reactive seizure and its causes in dogs
This kind of seizure usually happens when a temporary problem occurs in brain function. Usually, metabolic changes or poisoning are the main cause.
Focal seizure and its causes in dogs
This kind of seizure happens in one particular region in one half of the brain. The seizure type depends on where exactly the abnormal activity started in the brain and how did it affect the activity of that part of the brain. In most cases there are 3 signs how you may identify of this kind of seizure:
- Episodic movement (rhythmic blinking, repeated muscle contractions, head shaking, facial twitches)
- Autonomic signs (vomiting, dilated pupils, excessive salivation)
- Behavioral signs (anxiety, unexplainable fear, restlessness)
How to identify that your dog is having a seizure?
The symptoms can vary between dogs and can last from seconds to minutes.
Usually, there is a “warning period” to watch out for to see the most signs from your canine. These symptoms consist of anxiety, feer, the shakes, or cling to you when you’re home. Also, a visual disturbance and muscle contractions may happen, or maybe they can’t control their bowels. This period can last from seconds to hours.
Just like with humans, dogs also collapse, chomp, excess drool, foaming at the mouth, or paddling legs. It is also very common if your dog urinates or defecates during the seizure.
If the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes you’ll need immediate medical help and emergency.
When your dog’s seizure ends, you may notice confusion, wobbling, salivation, or disorientation. Temporary blindness can also occur. It’s possible that you’ll see blood because they bite their tongue during the period. Sometimes the owner thinks that the dog can swallow their tongue during the episode. Do not put your fingers or any other object into your dog’s mouth because it will not help them, it can cause injury for both of you. Don’t worry, dogs can’t swallow their tongue, it’s only a myth.
Although a seizure is often an emotional and scary experience, it’s not painful at all. However, after the episode, your pooch may bump into things, feel confused or may be disoriented. It usually takes a few hours to get back to normal for them.
How to help dogs with seizures
If your dog has an unexpected and unexplained seizure, the first thing you should do to take them to your vet immediately, because it can get worst.
After Fido’s seizure ends, take him to the vet to determine the potential causes of the episode.
If the test results come back normal and they are not showing signs of trauma or poisoning, your vet may prescribe medication to keep the seizures under control. If the episodes become more frequent, a CT scan and an MRI can be performed to take a look at the structure of the brain. A spinal fluid analysis can also be helpful too.
When your vet has determined the causes of seizures in your dog, they will give you instructions explaining the treatment. Most of the treatments begin only if:
- a seizure more than once a month
- multiple seizures in one period, such as one episode followed immediately by another
- a puppy suffers from grand mal seizures that are very severe or prolonged during the episode
If your vet decides that your dog needs medication to keep the seizures under control, it has to be lifelong treatment. In this case, make sure to take Fido to the vet regularly.
Your vet may also recommend a specific diet for your dog to help with their seizures.
There are many options that may help you feed a dog with seizures, but this time there are no specific foods made for dogs with seizures. Most veterinarians recommend the ketogenic, raw food or liver support diets. Always pay attention to your vet’s recommendations before you choose the right diet for your pup.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from seizures too. There are various forms of seizures, such as idiopathic epilepsy, structural epilepsy or reactive seizure. They can happen for various reasons, including genetics, sex, and certain medical conditions.
While seizures can be a scary experience for both dogs and pet parents, your dog doesn’t have to suffer. Visit your vet to find the right treatment options for your dog. With the right diet and proper care, you may help your dog to manage this condition and have a happy life for years to come.
About the Author
Judit Mio is a freelance Pet Writer. She loves writing about dogs and hanging out with her 2-year-old dachshund mix. You can find her at juditmio.com.