If you’ve ever had your beloved pet break into a series of spasms and jolts, it can be both frightening and confusing.
Why would they have a seizure to begin with? What causes this?
To help you understand if your dog is in real danger and to better equip you for dealing with these cases, we’ve broken down all you need to know about our canine friends and seizures.
What Kinds of Seizures Do Dogs Have?
The most common is the grand mal, or a full-blown seizure, but that is not the only variety. There are also:
- Generalized seizures, which are relatively short lived (only a few minutes at most) and don’t have the more severe symptoms.
- Focal seizures, which can cause unusual movements in the dog’s body. These usually only last a couple of seconds, but can become generalized.
- And finally, psychomotor seizures, which involve strange behaviour for a couple of minutes before the seizure – from suddenly attacking an imaginary object to chasing their tail when they never have before. It can be tricky to tell psychomotor seizures from normal odd behaviour, but when a dog has such an episode, they will always repeat certain behaviour when it’s about to occur.
Why Do Dogs Have Seizures?
The first thing we should look at is what happens during a seizure.
A seizure comes in three main stages.
First comes the pre-ictal phase, or aura, where the dog may appear nervous, wanting for attention, or be whining and drooling.
This behaviour may last between a few seconds and a few hours, and happens because the dog knows the seizure is coming, similar to a nauseous feeling prior to throwing up.
Known as the ictal phase, this is the actual seizure itself. It can last between a few seconds to around five minutes, and can cause the dog to either become unconscious or just have a change in mental awareness.
If they go through a grand mal, the dog will fully lose consciousness and their muscles will contract spastically and erratically.
The dog will usually fall over and paddle its legs while seeming otherwise paralyzed. In some cases, it can start foaming at the mouth.
If the seizing continues after five minutes, that means it’s a prolonged seizure and is a medical emergency, so quickly make your way to the vet or have them make a house call if possible.
This is the post-ictal phase. At this point, the dog will be suffering from some confusion, drooling, or even temporary blindness, so it would be best if you held the dog close and reassured them until they fully recover.
What To Do When The Seizure Has Ended
The first thing to remember is, while the seizure does look scary, there is no need to panic. The dog is not in pain, but it will be confused, concerned, and disoriented.
The best thing to do is hold them while it happens, or else they could end up actually getting hurt.
Furthermore, it is a good idea to keep watch of them in case of multiple seizures in quick succession, as that could end up resulting in hyperthermia (or increased body temperature), which can result in a whole new set of problems to address.
Next, it is wise to take the dog to your local veterinarian. They will investigate if they’ve ingested anything poisonous, hallucinogenic, or suffered from any injuries to the head.
The vet may also perform blood and urine tests, as well as a physical examination. In rare cases, they may also order an electrocardiogram.
These tests will help to find the source of the problem, including disorders in the kidneys, heart, their electrolyte levels, and their blood sugar.
A heart-worm test can also be performed if the dog is not already taking a preventative.
If the tests are inconclusive, it is advised to get a second opinion depending on how bad the seizures are and how often they occur.
Occasional ones (fewer than once a month) are of little concern unless they begin to occur more often. In that case, insist on a spinal fluid analysis if at all possible.
Here’s a video further explaining what to do if your dog has a seizure.
How Do You Prevent or Treat Seizures in Dogs?
Usually, treatment will begin only after they’ve had more than one seizure a month, a group of seizures all at once, or abnormally long and severe seizures.
If any of these should occur, veterinarians usually prescribe phenobarbital and potassium bromide, though research into other anticonvulsants is still ongoing.
Furthermore, combination therapy is also used for dogs that aren’t terribly responsive to the standard treatments.
Once an anticonvulsant treatment has begun, it must continue as long as the pet is alive. Studies have shown that if the medication is started and then stopped, the dog may have worse and more frequent seizures in the future.
If your dog has a seizure, it’s certainly not good news, but it’s not bad news either.
With medical care, patience, and some knowledge on what’s actually happening, they’ll soon be back to living a full and happy life.
Does your dog have seizures? If so, how do you help?