Understanding Epilepsy In Dogs

epilepsy in dogs

What is epilepsy in dogs?

Epilepsy in dogs is also referred to as a seizure. Some people also refer to it as a convulsion or fit. It is one of the most common neurological conditions in dogs. It is a temporary involuntary disturbance of normal brain function which usually causes uncontrollable muscle activity. 

What causes epilepsy in dogs?

The most common cause is an inherited disorder called idiopathic epilepsy. Liver disease, kidney failure, brain tumors, brain trauma or toxins can also be the cause. 

Are there different types of seizures in dogs?

Yes, there are four types:

Grand Mal Seizure also called Generalized Seizure – Usually caused by abnormal activity in the brain and may last between a few seconds to a few minutes. 

Focal Seizure – Only affect one side or region of the brain and only one side of a dog would be affected. Sometimes a focal seizure can develop into a grand mal seizure. 

Psychomotor Seizure – Usually a dog does not fall over with this type of seizure. Instead they exhibit behaviors that are not common. For example, biting at the air or chasing their tail without stopping. 

Idiopathic Epilepsy – This name is given to seizures that have no known cause. Some breeds would be Labrador Retriever, German Sheppard, Australian Sheppard, Collie, Border Collie, Belgian Tervuren and Beagle.

What happens during a seizure in dogs?

Seizures Usually Have Three Phases:

Pre-ictal Phase – Dog has altered behavior including hiding, acting nervous or coming to you. The dog may be restless, nervous, whining, shaking or salivating. This can last a few seconds to a few hours. The dog exhibits these behaviors probably because they know something is happening to them. 

Ictal Phase – Behavior can vary during this phase and last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Signs include change in awareness such as a confused look, mild shaking, staring, licking lips, to a complete loss of consciousness and body function. 

If the dog experiences a Grand Mal or Generalized Seizure with a loss of consciousness, the muscles will move uncontrollably and erratically. The dog usually falls over on its side and paddles their legs. Their head often will be pulled back, urination, defecation and salivation can occur. 

If the seizure lasts more than five minutes it is called Status Epilepticus. If this happens you must go to a veterinarian immediately. The dog needs intravenous anticonvulsants to stop the Status Epilepticus. Without the medication the dog may suffer permanent brain damage or possibly die.  

Post-ictal Phase – This is right after the seizure has ended. There is confusion, disorientation, salivation, pacing and restlessness. Temporary blindness can occur. The duration of this phase does not have to do with the severity of the seizure. 

Is a seizure dangerous or cause pain?

No, you just need to make sure the dog is not near anything that can harm it during the seizure since their body may move uncontrollably. 

What are dog seizure triggers?

They include medications that are given to the dog or that they eat accidentally, plants and foods they should not eat, rodenticides and insecticides they are exposed to, illegal drugs ingested and miscellaneous things such as eating playdough or a bee sting. 

What do I do if my dog has a seizure?

epilepsy in dogs

Stay calm and move anything away from your dog that may hurt them. Do not put anything in their mouth. You don’t have to worry about them swallowing their tongue. This is just a myth. 

Most seizures last only one to two minutes. Take note of anything that may have brought on the seizure and what the first signs were. Was there one side of the body affected only? How did your dog behave? Examples include shaking, paddling their legs or chewing. 

Is there a cure or a treatment for my dog?

Usually epilepsy cannot be cured. Medication is often recommended by a veterinarian. The goal is to minimize the frequency and severity of the seizures. 

About The Author

Performance Dog Wheelchairs wants you to know that physical limitations are not the end to mobility. Our purpose is to give others and their dogs the ability to seek new adventures and overcome physical challenges with one of our handicapped dog carts.

We offer a full support dog wheelchair, a dog wheelchair for back legs and the patented SitGo Dog Wheelchair which is also for the hind legs. This is the only one on the market that allows your dog to go from standing to sitting without having to remove it. 

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