Dog Seizures: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and More
Dogs can have seizure and seizure disorders, just like people. Basically, brain cells use electrical and chemical signals to communicate, which can either activate another neuron or shut off a neuron. Seizures are thought to be caused when there is an imbalance of excitatory and inhibitory signals in the brain.
Dogs, like people, have a normal neurological activity level within the brain that keeps the brain cells from getting too excited, and when too many brain cells are excited at once, a seizure can start up.
The excitement within the brain cells has absolutely nothing to do with your dog getting excited when you come home from school, or work, when he plays, or during any other activity.
Depending on your dog's age, the following medical conditions may be the cause of your dog's seizures. (You will find the list in order of more common to more rare conditions.)
- Under 8 months: Developmental Disorders, Encephalitis or Meningitis, Trauma, Portacaval shunt, Hypoglycemia, Toxins, Intestinal parasites, Idiopathic Epilepsy (rare)
- 8 months to 5 years: Idiopathic Epilepsy (most common), Developmental disorders, Trauma, Encephalitis or meningitis, Acquired hydrocephalus, Neoplasia (tumor), Portacaval shunt, Hypoglycemia, Electrolyte disturbances, Hypothyroidism, Toxins
Over 5 years: Neoplasia (tumor), Degenerative disorders, Vascular disorders, Hypoxia (lack of oxygen in body tissues), Hypoglycemia, Idiopathic Epilepsy, Trauma, Encephalitis or meningitis, Acquired hydrocephalus, Serious Liver disease, Hypocalcemia, Electrolyte disturbances, Hypothyroidism
Dog MRI Scan
Before you can treat a seizure disorder, you need to determine the type of seizures that your dog suffers may be caused by an underlying disease that when treated, may actually treat the seizures.
The different types of seizures include Primary Epileptic Seizures, Secondary Epileptic Seizures, and Reactive Epileptic Seizures. With your vet's help you can help determine what type of seizures that your dog has. Although, there is no test to 100% determine what type of seizures your dog has, your veterinarian can help you determine the type of seizure by how your dog acts during the seizure.
Many times the vet will try to treat other conditions that may be causing the seizures before he actually is able to treat the seizures. For example, if you dog appears to be suffering secondary seizures, your vet may consider an abnormal process in the brain, trauma, tumor, or an infection, or for reactive seizures you vet may consider a metabolic dysfunction, hypothyroidism, low calcium, liver failure, toxins, kidney failure, or an electrolyte imbalance.
You veterinarian will also consider the age of your dog and your dog's breed, as older dogs are more prone to seizure disorders than younger dogs and some breeds are prone to seizure disorders.
Breeds who commonly suffer seizure disorders include:
- Belgian Tervurens
- British Alsatians
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
About 65% of dogs between the ages of 1 year and 5 years suffer from primary epilepsy.
Tests that your vet may consider may include:
- MRI or CT brain scan to rule out brain tumors.
- Spinal Tap to look for infectious diseases, such as distemper.
- Antibody titers to help identify causes of an infection.
- Toxin Tests to determine if there are any toxins or poisons.
Generally, your veterinarian will not prescribe medications unless the seizures persist on a regular, or semi-regular basis. Sometimes your dog may just experience one or two seizures and never any more.
Otherwise, if your dog has persistent seizures, much less persistent severe seizures, your vet can prescribe one of a number of different medications. It's up to you and your vet to narrow down the list, as with any medication there are always potential adverse side effects.
Common seizure medications and their side effects include:
- Phenobarbitol: sedation, loss of coordination, lethargy, depression, weight gain, increased thirst and eating, excessive urination, difficulty balancing, weakness in rear legs, and severe liver disease
- Potassium Bromide: vomiting, depression, lethargy, and drowsiness
- Clorazepate: drowsiness and wobbly gait
- Felbamate: liver toxicity and bone marrow suppression
- Levetiracetam (Keppra): stiff and wobbly gait, vomiting, and salivation
- Zonisamide: high salt levels
Besides medication, you can consider kindling, which is the repeated application of a low-intensity electrical stimulus to the dog's brain. I want to say that kindling is more of an experimental treatment. It is something that you can inquire about...
Guide to Dog Seizures
This is a great book to help you live with your dog. It definitely eased my concerns when my Yorkie started having seizures. The book covers effects of seizures and effect of medications. When my dog started Phenobarbital, I knew to look out for the potential for liver function problems.
You can even consider a natural treatment for dog seizures. There are two more common options:
- PetAlive EaseSure is an all-natural blend of herbs and other homeopathic ingredients that are meant to treat and prevent seizures.
- EaseSure Drops are recommended to use along with your dog's regular seizure medication. Do not discontinue your dog's regular medicines when using EaseSure Drops.
Before you decide on a treatment, you want to figure out the pros and the cons with any of the treatments, whether that is a particular medication, an alternative, or an experimental treatment.
Treat Dog Seizures with Natural Medication
The PetAlive EaseSure can be used by itself or with EaseSure-M. I used just EaseSure-S to help maintain normal electrical balance in the brain. I used this in conjunction with my Phenobarbital, as prescribed by my vet. My Yorkie had seizures for about 10 years, but I found that when using the natural seizure treatment with his medication, I was able to best control and reduce his seizures. It takes a few weeks to really get into your dog's system, but when it does, you'll start to see the reduction of seizures and/or easier seizures for quicker recovery.
How to Care for a Dog That Seizes
During the Seizure
While your dog is having a seizure, you want to stay calm. Most vets believe that the dog is not in pain, so the best thing for you to do is relax and make sure that the dog doesn't hurt himself (i.e. make sure that he won't fall down stairs or hit anything.)
Don't try to restrain your dog, just let him seize. You want to keep your hands away from the dog's mouth because your dog may clench down on his jaws and hurt you.
Some dogs may even attack during a seizure, so you want to keep any other pets away during the seizure.
Remember just stay calm. Talk gently to your dog, especially if the dog is unconscious, as this may help him regain his consciousness. You may even want to consider dimming the lights.
If your dog has a previous history of seizures, your vet may have prescribed a medication to help ease the seizure, definitely have this ready.
After the Seizure
Some dogs may be normal after a seizure, but other dogs may be a bit disoriented.
Common signs you will notice after a seizure include:
- Extreme hunger
- Rare aggression
You may also notice difficulty walking, bumping into to furniture, getting stuck in corners, attempting to eat anything, and a persistent crying or whining.
When your dog regains full consciousness, he may want to pace around, which is normal. Help him find a place and let him just walk it off. Your dog may want to pace for a short period or as long as 24 hours.
Also offer small amounts of food and water, as some dogs may get hungry after having a seizure. The small bits of food may help calm him down.
If your dog's body temperature rose from the seizure, you want to consult your vet so that you can find the best way to lower and balance out your dog's temperature.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.