The short answer is yes, dogs can have seizures. But it is important to know how dogs can have seizures and why. Seizures are often unpredictable in nature, especially if your dog has a seizure disorder. Epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in dogs, which can be greatly influenced by genetics. Commonly called idiopathic epilepsy, this seizure disorder is the most common cause of seizures in dogs. A few different things can influence the likelihood of dogs having a seizure disorder, particularly when looking at a genetic disposition. Viewer discretion is advised. There are videos included in this article that show specific breeds that are having seizures, if you do not want to watch, do not click on them.
Table of Contents
1. Polygenic Inheritance
If multiple alleles are needed to determine the makeup of a specific trait, the chance of developing a seizure disorder would evaluate the risk scales of both parents.
2. Simple Recessive Inheritance
The most common explanation in most seizure disorders, neither parent exhibit traits but have pups with traits. Both the sire and dame need to have the recessive gene to pass it on.
Alternatively, besides epilepsy, a few different things can cause seizure activity in canines, including certain poisons, diabetes, anemia, strokes, or head injuries. One major area for concern is a dog’s confusion after an episode resulting in panic. This panic can result in unintentional dog bites, so it’s important to remain cautious when approaching a seizing dog or animal that has just come out of an episode.
Types of Seizures
Typically, there are three types of seizures with dogs. The first, called a grand mal seizure, affects the electrical activity throughout the brain. These generalized seizures will typically last a few seconds to a few minutes at a time. Seizure activity of this type can cause convulsions and loss of consciousness in the animal.
The other type of seizure is a focal seizure, impacting only part of the brain. These seizures can influence one part of the body instead of the entire body. It’s important to remember that a focal seizure may only last a few seconds, but it can develop into generalized seizures over time.
Finally, a psychomotor seizure impacts a canine’s behavior rather than a physical manifestation. A dog experiencing a psychomotor seizure will have strange or abnormal behavior repeatedly. One example of this would be chasing their tail.
Symptoms of Seizures in Dogs
According to WebMD, seizures in canines look similar to that of humans. Although seizures look very dramatic in nature, it’s important to remember that they’re not actually painful to the dog. Collapsing, muscle twitching, stiffening, and jerking are all common. Likewise, drooling, tongue chewing, foaming at the mouth, and chomping are all seizure symptoms in dogs. After seizing, some dogs may be confused or disoriented. Temporary blindness, walking in circles, and hiding are all common symptoms.
Dog Breeds Most Prone to Seizures
All dog breeds can suffer from seizures throughout their lives. Yet, when it comes to epileptic seizures, certain dog breeds are more susceptible – thanks to genetics.
1. Shetland Sheepdog “Sheltie”
Known for being extremely intelligent, obedient, and efficient at herding animals, the Sheltie is highly bright and eager. An affectionate family dog, this breed can be reserved with outsiders. These canines are often quite vocal, barking a considerable amount, making them excellent watchdogs.
The Shetland Sheepdog between 13 and 16 inches at the shoulder and has a long straight coat. According to the AKC, they are generally healthy dogs but are prone to thyroid disease, eye disease, hip dysplasia, and epilepsy.
2. Saint Bernard
These gentle giants are known for their skillset and saintliness, breeding back to the 19th century. A kind, loving, and gentle temperament, they are eager-to-please and love strangers. They can be slow to train, struggling to grasp concepts quickly. These canines often require 30 minutes of exercise per day, keeping in mind that their coats can lead to overheating in warmer climates.
Considered a large breed dog, these dogs can be quite large and are considered working dogs. They are known for their thick heavy coats and beautiful brown and white markings with darkened spots across the face and ears. Saint Bernard dogs can suffer from obesity, hip dysplasia, entropion (which, according to Canna-Pet, is a condition that causes the dog’s eyelid to roll inward), cataracts, and epilepsy.
Intelligent, confident, and often considered snobby to strangers, the poodle is considered one of the easiest to train. While the Poodle can be a bit protective of their family and territory, their bark can make excellent watchdogs. If untrained, the Poodle can be quite introverted and nippy with others.
The Standard Poodle has a life expectancy of over a decade, making them a dog built for longevity. Normally, they are a healthy breed of dog, although genetics can play a large role in their predisposed conditions. The Poodle does face issues with epilepsy, hip dysplasia, and Addison’s disease.
The beagle was originally bred as a scenthound for hunting, but don’t let their small size confuse you. They are naturally curious and become naturally mischievous at times, occasionally causing trouble or running away. To prevent these behaviors, it’s important to stimulate the pup daily, mentally and physically. Occasionally, beagles can become quite boisterous and will howl or bark. Beagles are not naturally violent dogs, but their independent personality can make them quite difficult to train. In fact, some may outright resist any training efforts.
Naturally tolerant and loving, the Beagle is a great breed for children. They bring a playful and loyal personality, making them a fabulous addition to any family environment. Beagles are prone to several health conditions, making health screening important at an early age. Hip dysplasia, disc disease, inherited autoimmune hypothyroidism, periodontal disease, renal amyloidosis, Chinese Beagle Syndrome (MLS), and Epilepsy are just a few of the common health conditions found with this breed.
5. Golden Retriever
One of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, the Golden Retriever needs no introduction. Loyal, friendly, tolerant, and highly intelligent, this breed is ideal for families. According to Dog Time, the Golden is eager to please his owner and was bred to work with people. To embrace the friendly and good disposition of the Golden, it’s important to socialize the dog from an early age. This includes people, animals, environments, and more. With characteristics like intelligence and obedience, the Golden Retriever is easy to train and will typically excel in training.
As with any breed, the Golden Retriever is not without potential health implications. Cataracts, similar to the human variety, can develop but aren’t a huge concern. For those suffering, a surgical removal is an option. Lyme disease, hypothyroidism, heart disease, ear infections, elbow dysplasia, gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), and epilepsy are all common in this breed.
6. Bernese Mountain Dog
Practically designed for the family home, this breed is gentle and patient with even the smallest family members. A high functioning and hyper-alert dog, these dogs are loyal, family-oriented, affectionate, and protective. In fact, according to Canna-Pet, the Bernese Mountain Dog is the most well-rounded working-class dog.
This canine is a slow-learning breed, often intelligent and docile while remaining lethargic. These dogs are eager-to-please, responding best to praise and positive reinforcement training methods. Due to their heavy bone structure and proneness to joint problems, the Bernese Mountain Dog does well with short bursts of energy, followed by long periods of laziness.
Due to the build of the breed, hip dysplasia is common. The separation and displacement between the thigh bone and hip joint can cause extreme pain, making it difficult to walk. Elbow dysplasia, cancer, progressive retinal atrophy, and epilepsy are also common in the breed.
Although originally bred as a watchdog throughout history, the Keeshond serves best in the companionship role. They prefer to stay in close contact with their owner whenever possible. Affectionate and playful in nature, the Keeshond makes a wonderful companion to virtually any household.
This breed is highly intelligent, making basic commands simplified for training. A Keeshond can easily become bored without proper challenge, so engaging them with training is important. From a physical activity perspective, Keeshonds do not require extensive physical activity. Simple walks or play sessions are sufficient.
The Keeshonds are at risk for specific health conditions, including Addison’s disease (inadequate amount of adrenal hormones), progressive retinal atrophy, patellar luxation (knee slips out of place, causing pain and crippling), and epilepsy.
8. Labrador Retriever
Taking the top spot for the preferred breed in the United States, the Labrador Retriever (often called “Labs” for short) is full of energy and love. Known for their incredible social skills, this breed is extroverted and eager-to-please. This breed is receptive to people, particularly their owner’s energy and attitude.
Their considerable energy and eager attitudes make them highly trainable. Their ability to remain receptive to their trainer makes them the perfect candidate for positive reinforcement training. The Labrador Retriever attaches easily to their “pack” making the family unit their comfort zone.
Typically, Labrador Retrievers live long, healthy lives, but that doesn’t make them invincible. In fact, certain health conditions are genetically disposed to this breed, so it’s important to pay attention to any changes in their health. Hip dysplasia can be a debilitative condition, particularly in high-energy dogs like Labradors. There are pre-screens available that can identify risk factors for this condition down the road.
Osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) is another orthopedic condition affecting the elbows, hips, and shoulders. Cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) are two eye conditions linked to Labrador Retrievers. Finally, epilepsy is another potential health problem found with Labrador Retrievers.
What to Do if You Suspect Your Dog Has Had a Seizure
It’s important to know that seizures are rarely dangerous for dogs. However, if a dog has multiple seizures within a short time frame (called cluster seizures) or the seizure continues for several minutes, the dog’s core temperature can begin to climb. When this happens, the canine is at risk for hyperthermia (overheating).
When a seizure has happened for the first time, it’s important to contact your vet for a proper examination. Certain medical conditions can cause seizures; ruling out any ongoing health issues is a must for long-term care.
Once your vet has been informed, they will begin by collecting all of the animal’s history and identifying any hallucinogenic or poisonous substances. Additionally, they will ask about any trauma to the head or a history of trauma. Typically, the vet will request the dog have urine tests and blood tests.
If the tests return normal, the next steps will be determined by the seizures’ severity and frequency. When a dog has less than one seizure a month, they are likely not worrisome or problematic. Should the intensity or frequency increase, an assessment of spinal fluid may be recommended.
When Does Treatment Begin?
The treatment will depend on the vet’s analysis of the blood, urine, and spinal fluid. When an animal has more than one seizure a month, clusters of seizures, or severe grand mal seizures, the vet may recommend medications to limit seizure activity in the dog. It’s important to know that anticonvulsant medication needs to be given for the life of the pet. If medication is stopped, there is a greater chance of the dog developing more severe seizures in the future. As such, it’s important to talk to your vet about stopping any medication ahead of time.
Although it may seem intimidating, seizures can be intimidating to experience but are often not problematic. Identifying the seizure cause is an important step that shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly if your pet has never had an episode prior. Genetics play a large influence in the development of epilepsy, making it a lifelong condition for the pet and your family. Always ask your breeder for complete medical history whenever possible. If you’re adopting a dog, ask the organization for any prior history of injuries.
Some breeds are more likely to have epilepsy, although it’s never a guarantee. Likewise, breeds without genetic dispositions for seizure disorders can have one (even without a family history). Although seizures may seem terrifying for both the dog and owner, it is absolutely not a death sentence for the pet. With diagnosis, medication, and treatment, your dog can live a happy, healthy, and active lifestyle.