Dog Seizures: What Every Pet Owner Should Know

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / December 18, 2017

Nothing is as unsettling as seeing your usually blithe pooch have a dog seizure, whether subtle or severe. Your four-legged friend may arch its neck extensively, swing its legs uncontrollably, or tauten its mouth in torment. However, as alarming as it may look, there are measures you could take to prevent and treat a dog seizure. If you want the rundown on dog seizures, read on!

What is a Dog Seizure Disorder and What Causes It?

dog seizures

Scientifically known as “ictus”, a canine seizure is a short-term derangement of normal cognitive function, accompanied by muscle activity that cannot be controlled. Isolated seizures are not epileptic. However, a cluster seizure may be termed so, even though this may not be the only cause. In a nutshell, these seizures are the chemical changes that occur in a dog brain, resulting in a temporary surge of abnormal electrical activity.

dog seizures

Convulsions occur if your pooch has had a stroke, experiences low blood sugar, has been poisoned, or is anemic. It may also occur as a result of renal failure, liver disease, or hypertension. Knocks to your dog’s brain, or brain neoplasms may also play a role here. Therefore, it’s imperative to always take you dog to the veterinarian if you suspect any head injuries. Fits may also be caused by encephalitis. This is where dog brain tissue becomes inflamed. This is normally caused by viral infections. In an acute instance, the virus attacks dog brain cells directly. Your dog may also be susceptible to para-infectious encephalitis. Here your fur baby’s spinal cord may become infected, post exposure.

The Different Types of Seizures

dog seizures brain

The most common type of dog seizure is the grand mal seizure, also known as a tonic-clonic seizure.  This is a form of idiopathic epilepsy. According to WebMD, idiopathic epilepsy is a generalized primary epilepsy, and your furry friend may start to convulse or lose consciousness. Grand mal fits may last for seconds, or minutes. Another type here is psychomotor seizure activity, where your pooch displays strange behavior like chasing its tail, or attacking something imaginary. These dog seizures may also last up to a few minutes.

According to WebMD, a focal or partial seizure occurs when there are abnormal electrical impulses on just one side of your dog’s head. This may cause abnormal twitching on one side of the body, or in one leg. This secondary epilepsy may occur for just seconds. Then there are idiopathic epilepsy fits, which can occur in young pets. This kind is usually just prevalent among certain breeds like the German shepherd, golden retriever, and Belgian tervuren.

Dog Seizure Symtomsdog seizures symptoms

According to VCA Hospitals, seizure activity occurs in three phases. The pre-ictal phase is associated with altered behavior, which may last up to several hours. Signs may include excessive salivation, uncontrollable shaking, and your pooch may be unusually jumpy.

The ictal phase in canine epilepsy could last for seconds, or minutes and comprises the actual epileptic seizure. Here your dog may experience hallucinations or lose consciousness. His or her muscles may also twitch, and your pooch may flail its legs in mid-air and stiffen its mouth. Your pooch may experience uncontrolled bowel movements or urinate. He may also be in status epilepticus if symptoms last for longer than five minutes. Status epilepticus occurs when there are several seizures in close succession and may lead to brain damage, if left untreated.

The post-ictal period in dog epilepsy is associated with disorientation and nervousness. Your furry friend may pace excessively here.

What Dog Seizures Feels Like and How to Comfort Your Epileptic Dog

dog seizures treatment

Witnessing your fur baby’s convulsions can be alarming, and you may be wondering what does a seizure feel like. As horrifying as it may look, you can take comfort in the fact that seizures are not painful. The only instance where your dog may feel pain is if he or she falls onto objects lying on the floor. It’s therefore imperative to remove any potentially harmful objects your dog may fall onto, or over. Also, isolated seizures comprising epileptic symptoms, are rarely ever dangerous.

As a devoted pet parent, there are ways to comfort your fur kid according to Dog Health News, even though you may not be able to stop the seizure.  Seizure control is most effective when you remain calm. You may  want to call your vet, in the event your dog experiences status epilepticus. If you suspect your dog has weakened to the point of falling, wrap him or her in a blanket, and take your fur bundle to a safe area. Try to avoid external disturbances at all costs, by reducing excessive noise and turning off the radio and television. You should also keep the room as dark as possible. Remember to never place anything in your pooch’s mouth.

How to Prevent Dog Seizures

If you suspect poisoning, try to remove any potentially toxic products from your home. These may include golf balls, foil attached to bottle tops, batteries, lead-infused paint, plumbing or building materials, or linoleum.

Feelings of dread attached to thunderstorms could also trigger isolated seizures, so try to calm your pooch with soothing music or sweet talk during a storm. Lightning and dogs have never been friends, so distracting them by turning on all your lights could help prevent seizures.

Opt to have your dog lab tested for epilepsy regularly so you can monitor, and treat your pet effectively.  You could also ask your veterinarian to check for early-stage brain tumors via a CT scan, and have them surgically removed. This is especially vital for the breeds that are more prone to have seizures.

Regular checks with your veterinarian are crucial to rule out any liver or kidney disease, or low blood glucose levels. You should also ensure that your dog’s diet comprises adequate sugars and carbohydrates, if they are hypoglycemic.

Epilepsy & Seizure Treatment

Consult your veterinarian for a prescription for anti-seizure medication. Avoid placing medication in a dog mouth, as your dog’s jaw may shut, or he may choke. Some well-known seizure medication includes potassium bromide, phenobarbital, Zonisamide, Levetiracetam extended release treatment, and K-BroVet chewable tablets. As with most pharmaceuticals, extended use could affect liver health, so have your dog checked regularly.

According to PetMD,  natural remedy treatment could include acupuncture, dog food therapy, CBD oil, or Chinese herbal formulas. Food therapy here involves introducing and using high-quality food as potent medication. According to Dr. Rachel Barrack, a veterinary who promotes natural remedies for seizures in dogs, ketogenic diets low in carbohydrates and high in fats, are beneficial for treating seizures.

Epilepsy treatment could include supplementing your pooch’s diet with vitamins to promote optimal health, as a pet seizure is sometimes caused by lifestyle diseases. Essential fatty acids found in specific dog vitamins are especially important for boosting dog brain health. You could also try pushing softly on your dog’s eyelids when closed during a seizure alert. When you do this, you apply gentle pressure to the vagus nerve, a control center for involuntary movement in the brain. Another option would be to adopt a seizure response dog. This service dog would assist during convulsions.

So there you have it – the rundown on seizures and how to prevent and treat it. As scary as they may seem, remember that seizures are not painful for your pooch. Even more comforting is that with proper preventative measures, regular check-ups, and treament, your fur baby can live a long happy life.

About The Author:

Melanie Fourie is a prolific writer, editor, content creator, photographer, and brand journalist. She’s appeared in Oprah magazine, as well as publications like MasterCard and the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, amongst others. An ardent animal lover, she’s also filled with wanderlust and has a penchant for travelling and exploring worldwide cultures. You can follow her on Twitter here!

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About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for