Dog Seizures

Witnessing your dog have a seizure is always scary, even if it’s a regular occurrence. Seeing your dog have a seizure for the first time can cause you to panic, so it’s important to understand what seizures are, what causes them, and how to deal with them.

What are seizures in dogs?

Seizures are not a disease in themselves, but a symptom of various possible conditions. They occur when complex chemical changes in nerve cells cause a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain.

As the electric impulses hit different parts of the brain, the effects can vary with each attack, but seizures in your dog are normally instantly recognisable from a combination of any number of these signs:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Inability to stand
  • Seemingly frozen with rigid muscles
  • Shaking or twitching
  • Sudden erratic behavior
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Incontinence

Seizures usually only last between a few seconds and a few minutes (any longer than this and your dog needs urgent medical attention). After the attack your poor pup will be feeling confused and scared, so be sure to offer them lots of cuddles without being too overwhelming.

What causes dog seizures?

There are several possible causes of seizures in dogs, the most common being epilepsy. If you’re dog experiences a seizure it doesn’t necessarily mean they will have another one, but it makes them much more likely to have more in the future.

The main causes of seizures in dogs include:

  • Epilepsy (the most common cause)
  • Eating poison or certain toxic foods
  • Liver disease
  • Imbalanced blood sugar
  • Kidney disease
  • Anaemia
  • Head injuries
  • Encephalitis
  • Strokes
  • Brain Cancer

If your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy, then seizures can usually be managed at home without a trip to the vet every time. However, if your dog has not been diagnosed with a cause for seizures or it is their first seizure, be sure to head straight to the surgery for a diagnosis.

What can trigger a seizure in my dog?

Not all seizures in dogs will be brought on by a particular trigger, some will appear to be totally random. However, especially in cases of seizures caused by epilepsy or poisoning there can be triggers that cause seizures on multiple occasions.

Some potential dog seizure triggers include:

  • Over-tiredness
  • Stress caused by a variety of things such as changes in environment e.g. loud noises, thunderstorms, car rides, vet visits
  • Certain foods, especially foods that are toxic to dogs

You may find it helpful to keep a trigger diary to help your veterinarian and you identify the key triggers for your dog and work out a way of avoiding them.

What should I do if my dog is having a seizure?

Seeing your fur baby having a seizure for the first time can be terrifying but knowing what to expect and what to do when it happens will help ensure both you and your pup get through the incident okay.

  1. Try to stay calm – Most of the time your dog will be unaware that the seizure is happening and will not suffer even if they appear violent.

  2. Move your dog to safety – This means away from anything they might bump themselves on such as walls or furniture.

  3. Stay away from mouth and head – It’s an impulse for dogs to bite and chew whilst having a seizure, and anything in their mouth or near their face could be a target.

  4. Film the seizure – If you can remember to do this it can be incredibly helpful for your vet when diagnosing your dog and prescribing medication. If you cannot film it then at least timing it will be a great help to your veterinarian.

  5. Cool him down – If the seizure lasts longer than 2 minutes your pup might begin to overheat, try to with a fan or cold water on his paws.

After a seizure the safest thing to do is to call your veterinarian and explain what has happened over the phone. They will be able to decide based on your dog’s history whether you should bring your dog in straight away.

If your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy you may have been advised by your veterinarian that it’s not necessary to call in every time, if you have been adequately trained in dealing with the seizures. However, it’s still a good idea to take note of the duration of the seizure and the triggers so that you can notify them of any changes.

Do I need to go to the vet if my dog has a seizure?

If your dog has a diagnosed cause for seizures, such as epilepsy, and they are a regular occurrence, your vet may have advised you that you don’t need to bring your dog in every time an episode occurs.

However, it’s always worth being safe and getting them checked over anyway.

Head straight to the veterinarian if:

  • There is no diagnosed cause for the seizure
  • The dog has hurt themselves
  • The seizure lasted longer than 5 minutes

Witnessing your dog have a seizure can be distressing, even if your dog seems fine afterwards, so we’d always recommend giving the veterinarian surgery a call just to put your mind at ease.

What is the best treatment for dog seizures?

Depending on what has caused the seizure, treatment is usually only begun after the dog has experienced more than one seizure within the space of a month.

The most common medications given to prevent seizures are phenobarbital and potassium bromide. Your veterinarian may also prescribe emergency medication which you can use to reduce the length of an episode once it has started. These include rectal diazepam and levetiracetam pulse therapy.

If the seizure has been brought on by ingestion of poison or toxic foods, treatment may involve an overnight stay with the veterinarian on an IV drip which will cleanse the body of toxins.

When you see your dog having a seizure remember to record as much information as possible (and film the incident if possible) to tell your veterinarian so they can recommend the best possible treatment for your pup.

What dog breeds are most prone to seizures?

Seizures are pretty rare within dogs, so many pooches will luckily never experience one. However, sadly some dog breeds are more prone to seizures, and this risk should be considered when adopting one of the following breeds:

Unfortunately, if a dog experiences a seizure, they are much more likely to have more in the future, so for most dogs they are an ongoing issue which can get expensive. As many insurers don’t cover existing conditions, it’s important to get insured before your dog ever experiences one. Try out our pet insurance quote tool to get free quotes from some of the US and Canada’s top pet insurers.