For most dog parents, their pooch’s health is of utmost importance. Seeing any abnormal behavior regarding their health can be distressing if you are unaware of exactly what it is and the causes. Seizures in dogs can catch some dog owners by the ear if it’s their first time witnessing this condition in their dog.
What is Epilepsy in Dogs?
Seizure is one of the most common neurological disorders found in dogs. It is a condition accompanied by symptoms such as a fit and convulsion because of temporary involuntary electrical brain activity. It’s a mental disorder and can have known as well as unknown causes.
Knowing why dogs have seizures, the symptoms of seizures, and the action plan when your dog has a seizure is important as a dog parent to provide them the necessary care they need during that time and to know when to take the help of a vet. This guide will elaborate on all the important points related to epilepsy in canines.
What Causes Seizures in Dogs?
If, as a dog owner, you are wondering about the seizure causes, you would be surprised to know that the most common reason for seizures in a dog is Idiopathic epilepsy which is an inherited disorder. So far, there are no known causes. Sometimes pre-existing health conditions can also cause seizures. Here are some of the health issues that lead to seizures in your canines:
- Liver disease
- Kidney failure
- Brain tumor
- Head trauma
- Poison ingestion
- Low or high blood sugar levels
- Electrolyte problem
Symptoms of Dog Seizure
Knowing when your dog is showing symptoms of seizure is extremely important to help them suitably. The most common dog seizure symptoms may look like some of these behaviors and physical clues:
- Running in circles or chasing their tail
- Falling on things or the floor instead of lying down,
- Attack or bark at imaginary things
- Stiff legs or other limbs
- Losing consciousness
- Peeing and pooping uncontrollably because of muscle spasm
- Staring in space for long periods
A typical seizure consists of three phases; accordingly, the symptoms will differ. These phases are:
Before a Seizure
The Preictal phase starts a few seconds to a few hours before the actual seizure activity starts. Your dog may behave unusually by showing these symptoms:
- May become nervous and restless
- Whine more than usual
- Abnormal shaking or salivating
During the Seizure
The ictal phase is when the actual seizure occurs. It can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. It affects your dog in ways like changing their mental awareness- staring blankly into space, not looking at you or not being able to recognize you, involuntary shaking of muscles, froth from the mouth, and loss of consciousness.
If the dog experiences a generalized seizure, the full brain activity might get impacted. As a result, the dog may lose consciousness, may fall on its side, and involuntarily move its body erratically.
The post-ictal phase comprises the period after the end of the seizure. Your dog may show confusion, salivate abnormally, look disorientated or even have temporary blindness.
Types of Dog Seizures
Now that you know what is epilepsy in dogs it is time to know the types. There are several types of dog seizures, and they are classified based on which part of the brain and body they impact during seizing and the symptoms in your canine.
Grand Mal Seizure
The most common type is a generalized seizure, also known as a Grand mal seizure in dogs. It lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes. It impacts the whole brain parts and may render your dog unconscious and cause convulsions.
During the focal seizure , only a part of the brain is impacted by abnormal electric activity. Focal seizure only affects one side of the body, or there is an unusual movement like twitching and padding on only one limb. Focal seizure in dogs generally last a few seconds. A seizure can start as a focal seizure and become generalized.
The third type is psychomotor seizure which causes abnormal behavior in a dog. Your dog may stare into space, start attacking imaginary objects, chase its tail, and move in circles. Psychomotor seizures may last a few minutes. It may be hard to tell when your dog has a psychomotor seizure as you may think they are just acting silly and not having an issue. The psychomotor seizure symptoms is to look for, that they will repeat the same odd behavior every time they have a psychotic seizure.
Idiopathic epilepsy in dogs, is the most common type of seizure, happens without known reasons. Dogs from 6 months to 6 years of age are more prone to Idiopathic epilepsy.
What to Do When a Dog has a Seizure?
Seeing your dog having seizure episode is a terrible thing. If you think your dog is showing symptoms of a seizure, don’t panic or cry, a seizure may look bad, but your dog is not in a painful situation. Seizures are not painful but can adversely affect your dog’s brain if they come frequently and last more than 3 minutes or if your dog has cluster seizure episodes.
Here are a few things you should know what to do when a dog has a seizure?
- Don’t pet your dog by touching them near its mouth or head as it may not be in their senses and might bite you. You can soothe them with a calm and soft voice.
- Remove all the objects near them that have a chance of harming them if they fall over them. The best place is flat ground.
- Don’t put any object or your hand in their mouth. It may seem that your dog is choking when they have a seizure, but it can never choke on its tongue.
- As dogs have a huge tendency to bite during a seizing episode, putting your hand in a dog’s mouth is dangerous. Also, your dogs’ mouths can get injured by the object you put in their mouth.
- Try to note down the symptoms and the duration of the seizure. If the seizure episode lasts more than 3 minutes, your dog’s body temperature has a high chance of shooting up. Cool it down with a fan, or use wet towels for your dog’s paws.
- You should get on a call with the vet after the seizure lifts. Cluster seizure in dogs are for more than 5 minutes and becomes unconscious, so take them to the vet immediately.
Treatment for Dog Seizures
Seizures, like most health conditions, are treatable. Before starting any treatment or seizure meds for dogs, the vet will thoroughly examine your dog to check for other health issues which might be the reason behind the seizure. They may order some lab tests and, in some conditions, an MRI scan. Seizures can be treated with medicines, natural remedies, and alternate therapies like acupuncture. Potassium Bromide and Phenobarbital for dogs are the two most commonly used medicines to treat seizures in dogs. The dosage and frequency would differ from case to case.
The vet may change the dosage and the medicine depending on the outcome. One needs to be patient while administrating any treatment for dog seizures. Anticonvulsant drugs must never be discontinued without a vet’s consultation, as they are usually given for life. Once discontinued, your dog is more prone to getting seizure attacks with even greater severity. Sometimes a diet change can reduce the seizure’s frequency and potency like a diet consisting of medium-chain fatty acids as a fat source has been shown to reduce seizures in some dogs.
Dog Breeds Prone to Seizures
Are there any dog breeds that are at higher risk of epilepsy than others? Yes, some breeds have higher chances of having seizures than others. As we know, there are two types of epilepsy:
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Reasons are unknown and most likely come from a genetic system.
Symptomatic Epilepsy: The reasons may be traced to previous health issues and trauma.
Idiopathic epilepsy, as defined, has reasons related to genetics. Some breeds are likely to inherit these disorders from their parents or ancestors. Some of these dog breeds prone to seizures are:
- Belgian Tervuren
- Labrador Retrievers
- Golden Retriever
- Border Collies
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Australian Shepherds
- German Shepherds
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Saint Bernard
When to Call a Vet?
If your dog has a seizure for the first time, you should call the vet and inform him for record purposes after the seizure has lifted. Seizure episodes that last more than 5 minutes and render your dog unconscious need immediate vet attention. As prolonged seizures can overheat a dog’s body, causing breathing problems and may even damage the dog’s brain.
Your dog’s vet will check the dog for previous health issues to know the reason for the seizure. They may put them on medication to prevent and lessen the seizure frequency. Always consult the vet before changing or stopping any seizure medications they have administered. Tell them about side effects if you have noticed any in your pooch while they are on medicines.
No dog owner likes the sight of their dog having a seizure episode. And surely, some breeds have a genetic disadvantage when inheriting epilepsy. It should never discourage people from adopting a particular breed. You must check your dog’s medical history to know what causes seizures in dogs, if they can have a symptomatic seizure so that you can provide suitable care if they happen to have a seizure in future.