Seizures In Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Dog seizures are also known as fits or convulsions and are one of the most common neurologic conditions in dogs. Anyone who has witnessed a dog having a seizure will tell you it is a trying time that gives you a sense of helplessness. The only thing you can do for a canine seizure is to ensure that the pet is lying down in an effort to avoid a physical injury.


Dog Seizure Symptoms

When seizures in dogs occur, the canine may become deranged or lose consciousness, all the muscles in the body usually contract, and the animal may defecate, urinate or there may be foaming at the mouth or salivation. Other symptoms of a dog seizure affect the animal’s mental awareness and behaviour and can include the pet not recognizing the owner, running in circles, pacing, hallucinations or unresponsiveness, or in some cases, becoming vicious.

The signs of a dog seizure will occur in three distinct stages. The first stage is the pre-ictal stage where the dog’s behaviour changes and the animal often appears nervous, may try to find the owner, or possibly hide. Other dog seizure symptoms that can occur during this stage include restlessness, whining, salivation, or shaking. This stage can last anywhere from a couple of seconds to a few hours.

The second stage is referred to as the ictal stage. This is the stage that involves the dog having a seizure. At this point, the dog experiences muscle contraction and will usually fall to its side and begin shaking and appear to be paralyzed. The ictal stage of the canine seizure is also the stage where the pet may urinate, defecate or salivate. This phase typically lasts for a few seconds to a few minutes. If the dog’s seizure lasts for longer than 5 minutes, the animal is in a prolonged seizure, also known as status epilepticus.

The final stage of seizures in canines is known as the post-ictal stage. At this point, the pet often appears somewhat dazed and confused. The dog may become restless and begin pacing, or in some cases, even experience a temporary loss of vision. The length of this stage has no relation to the seriousness of the dog’s seizure.

Even though it appears as though the animal is dying, the dog is only bewildered and does not feel any pain during a dog seizure. What to do during this time is to just make sure the dog is lying down in an open area to prevent hurting itself. Hyperthermia can develop in dog seizures that last longer than a few minutes due to an increase in body temperature. If this occurs, then a different set of problems may need to be addressed.


Dog Seizure Causes

There are numerous potential causes of seizures in dogs with the most common cause being epilepsy. Kidney failure, liver disease, brain tumours, and poisoning are just of few of the other possible causes. If your dog had a seizure, the pet should be taken to a veterinarian for an examination to determine the underlying cause.


Diagnosing Seizures in Dogs

Canine seizures are not a disease, but rather a symptom of an already pre-existing condition. When diagnosing dog seizures, a veterinarian will look at the dog’s medical history, perform a physical examination, and probably perform a series of tests to rule out possible causes. Typical tests include EKG, urine, and blood tests. These tests can be used to rule out liver disease, kidney failure, low blood sugar levels, and heart conditions. If the dog isn’t on a monthly heartworm medication, a heartworm test could be performed as well.

If the dog hasn’t been exposed to poisonous or hallucinogenic substances, there is no sign of head injury, and the tests are normal, further lab testing may be needed depending upon how often the seizures occur and their severity. Frequent canine seizures of a more serious nature may require an analysis of the pet’s spinal fluid, a CAT scan, or an MRI.


Dog Seizure Treatment

Typically, dog seizure treatment will only be initiated if the pet has more than one seizure per month, has grand mal seizures, or is experiencing clusters of canine seizures. Veterinarians will often prescribe anticonvulsant medication in these instances such as Diazepam, Potassium Bromide, or Phenobarbitone. Once this treatment is started, the animal must be on it for life. Studies have shown that dogs that have stopped taking anticonvulsant drugs are at a higher risk of having more severe and frequent seizure episodes. This is a concern for any dog that is withdrawn from anticonvulsant medication, not just those that have already experienced seizures. For this reason, an increasing number of veterinarians are now advocating the use of natural canine seizure treatments to deal with seizures in dogs.

Natural Dog Seizure Treatments

Herbal and homoeopathic natural remedies for dog seizures are a safe and effective alternative to anticonvulsants. Common herbs such as Skullcap and Passionflower provide support for the natural balance of the dog’s nervous system. Homoeopathic dog seizure remedies often contain Belladonna, Cuprum mentalism, or Hyoscyamus that also help in maintaining the balance and stability of the pet’s nervous system.