Epileptic seizures in dogs occur due to electrical storms in different areas of the brain – this can cause a full, or partial seizure in the dog. A seizure can last anywhere from thirty to ninety seconds and can be very traumatic for your dog to experience. It’s important that you stay with him and reassure him during the seizure, then seek medical treatment immediately afterward.
There are different types of seizures, and according to research, some can be fatal.
What symptoms should you be looking for? Do canine seizures look similar to those in humans? Actually, yes. The symptoms you should be looking for include:
- Falling to the ground
- Uncontrollable muscle spasms
- Inability to control the bladder
Immediately after having a seizure your dog will likely be disoriented and dazed. After consulting with your veterinarian and confirming that it’s okay to do so, offer food and water. His energy levels will be severely depleted and will likely be looking for nourishment.
There are different science-based treatments for dog's epileptic seizure condition, and I'll discuss some of the more popular and effective ones later down in this article.
Whether this is your dog's first seizure or you just haven't sought treatment yet, it's imperative that you bring him in to visit your veterinarian. It could be just a one-time thing, but the likelihood of a seizure being a symptom of a severe health condition is also pretty good.
Epileptic Seizures in Dogs
symptoms and treatments
What is an epileptic seizure in dogs?
Studies show that epileptic seizures in dogs is the most common neurological problem in canines, and the key to treating them is proper diagnosis and medical history records.
Referred to as either epileptic fits or epileptic seizures, this is a neurological disorder that causes the dog to convulse do to abnormally high electrical activity in the brain. There are many reactions that your pet can have to this electrical activity. Two types of seizure most common – those that affect the entire body and those that affect only a certain area.
Idiopathic Epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in canines. This condition is often inherited, but the root cause is still unknown. Genetic is an alternate name for idiopathic epilepsy. Another name for idiopathic epilepsy is Primary.
If your dog suffers from this type, it’s worth searching for all of these names to read all of the research, and treatments available. Other names for idiopathic epilepsy include Inherited and True.
The technical term for a full body seizure is Grand Mal. Ordinarily, upon seizing, the afflicted dog will fall to his side and suffer from involuntary muscle spasms and twitches in all four of his limbs. Depending on the severity of the seizure he may also urinate, and defecate.
Unfortunately, dogs that are first diagnosed with epilepsy and suffering from partial seizures, will likely have the condition progress and turn into Grand Mal within their lifetime
How long do they last?
A seizure can last between thirty and ninety seconds. While this may seem like nothing, for the animal seizing and owner watching it can be an incredibly traumatic period of time. When you're in the moment, it can seem as though it’s lasting a lifetime.
Although traumatic and confusing, epileptic seizures in dogs won’t cause pain to the animal. The only way that he can sustain an injury would be if he were to fall and hurt himself while in the process of seizing.
The more frequently that your dog suffers from seizures, the more likely that he is to have even more in the future. This is because as the brain suffers from a seizure, damage is taking place within the brain itself.
The brain goes through quite a trauma during a seizure. Post seizure, your dog will suffer from disorientation and confusion. Incoherent wandering, bumping into objects, extreme thirst and hunger are all common symptoms.
What dogs can suffer from epileptic seizures?
Younger canines are often the ones that suffer from the worst epileptic seizures in dogs. Having said that, if the condition is diagnosed in the first year or two, (before too much damage has occurred to the neurons of the brain) your dog has a far better chance of taking to treatment and responding well to anti-seizure medication.
If your dog suffers from seizures, you can minimize his risk by keeping an eye out for signs of an impending seizure. By making sure that he’s in a safe area where he can’t hurt himself, you can save him from further injury to his body and brain. Look out for signs of distress, confusion and a glazed over look in the eye of your pet.
Dogs are exceptional at detecting and alerting to impending seizures in the role as a seizure service dog. Therefore, they can often anticipate their own seizures and attempt to seek help from their owner.
Other than seeking medical help, the best way that you can deal with a seizure itself is to stay by your dog's side. Make him as comfortable as possible during the seizure.
Your dog might not be able to tell you so, but seizures are a frightening experience for him. Having you by his side will help him to feel safe and less anxious during and after the episode.
Many breeds of dog are genetically predisposed to epilepsy. Others may suffer from this condition due to brain tumors or injury.
The breeds that are most commonly known to suffer from epilepsy include:
- Golden Retrievers
- Shetland Sheepdogs
- Hungarian Vizslas
- Belgian Tervurens
Common symptoms of epileptic seizures in dogs
The most common symptom of epilepsy is, of course, a seizure itself. Symptoms of the seizure could include:
- Muscle spasms
- Uncontrollable drooling
- Inability to control their bladder
- Loss of consciousness
- Biting, and snapping of the mouth
- Foaming at the mouth
Non seizure related symptoms can include:
- Mental abnormalities
- Difficulty breathing
Testing for epileptic seizures in dogs
Your veterinarian will rely on your assistance to determine the type of medication and dosage that will be required.
As you spend the most time with your pooch, you’ll need to keep track of the type of seizure (whole body seizures or partial), length of time that elapses during each and the frequency in which they occur.
If you are worried that your dog may have suffered from a seizure, phone your veterinarian and discuss the next steps.
Common misdiagnosis of dog's epileptic seizures
Just because your dog has suffered from a seizure, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is suffering from epilepsy. Many other reasons exist that may cause fits, including:
- Severe anemia
- Brain tumour
- Head injury
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Liver disease
RECOMMENDED: How To Get A Service Dog for Anxiety or Depression
Epileptic support dogs for humans
We’ve all heard of epilepsy in humans, but did you know that dogs can now help to minimize the risk to epileptic individuals?
That’s right – seizure alert dogs are specially trained canines that can sense an imminent seizure. They work to alert their owner (or a parent, in the case of a child) of an upcoming seizure.
Some dogs are trained to break the fall of their owner, getting between their owner and the floor upon collapse to minimize injury. Certain dogs have even been trained to press pre-programmed buttons in their owners home to call for medical assistance. If that isn’t mind-blowing, then I don’t know what is!
Seizure dogs saving their owners
Poppy is a two-year old Labrador who lives in Northern Ireland with her owner Shannon who suffers from Epilepsy. Thanks to Poppy and her amazing accuracy of alerting her best friend to oncoming seizures, Shannon has been able to lie down and safely wait it out.
Going above and beyond the call of duty, Poppy waits with her owner. The dog is clearly concerned for her welfare whilst she suffers from a seizure. Yet still, she takes it in her stride and always, without fail, does what she was trained to do.
This kind of dedication, and loyalty does make you think. If our dogs will do this for us, so to should we be there for them in their time of need. Seeking immediate medical help and assuring them during the seizure itself.
Prevention of epileptic seizures in dogs
There are so many potential causes of epileptic seizures in dogs. Only once the cause of the seizure has been found are we able to make a plan of action with our veterinarian.
Many owners have seen success in changing their dog’s diet and exercise regime.
The only real way that we have to prevent further epilepsy is to never breed a dog with a history of epilepsy. This is one of the many reasons why it is so important to ensure you're adopting a dog from a reputable breeder.
RELATED: Can Humans Get Worms from Dogs?
Home treatment for epileptic seizures
Feeding a nutritious, high quality diet that ensures a level blood sugar level can be the first step in bringing down the volume of seizures. Feeding small, frequent meals and partaking in moderate exercise will benefit your dog even further.
It’s important to keep stress levels to a minimum as this may trigger a seizure. One of the easiest ways to do this is to stick to a feeding routine.
How veterinarians treat seizures in dogs
As well as prescribing an anti-seizure medication, your veterinarian will likely be more than happy to assist and advise on lifestyle choices that will help your four-legged friend suffer less.
Many anti-seizure medication exist, and the correct one for your dog does depend on a number of factors. Your veterinarian will work closely with you to determine which will be best to alleviate your dog’s specific symptoms. Full recovery isn’t yet possible, and dogs with epilepsy will require lifelong medication.
Epileptic seizures in dogs are most often caused due to genetics. By raising awareness of this issue and encouraging responsible breeding practices, we can help to decrease the instances of this traumatic condition.
When looking to purchase a dog, make sure that you do your research. Always ask the breeder to see the medical history of both of the parents.
If you’re talking with a reputable breeder with nothing to hide, they will have no problem in showing you a full medical history. In some cases, the breeder will encourage you to talk with current owners of their past litters.