Dog Seizures: Causes and Treatment
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
It can be a very scary and sad situation when it happens, but at times, some dogs have seizures. As loving pet owners, we want to do all we can for our dogs should an event like this happen. While seizures can be a serious health condition, they are manageable with many dogs and shouldn’t prevent them from living long, healthy lives. In this blog, we will look at why dogs have seizures, the different types and what we can do should your dog suffer one.
What Is a Seizure?
A seizure (sometimes called a convulsion) is an involuntary and temporary disruption of normal brain activity, which can cause erratic and uncontrollable muscle movements. Seizures can fall into two categories: grand mal, a more serious and prolonged episode, and petit mal, a partial, milder type of seizure.
What Causes Seizures In Dogs?
• Idiopathic Primary Epilepsy (Young Dog & Puppy Seizures)
This is the most common form of seizures in dogs. The term idiopathic means that the origin of the seizure is unknown. Idiopathic seizures will often start when a dog is between 6 months and 6 years of age. If your dog suffers seizures on a frequent basis, the good news is that there is medication that can be extremely helpful. Once the animal starts the medication, she will have to visit the vet on a regular basis for bloodwork. Both the metabolic status and the therapeutic blood level of the drug will be monitored to make sure the liver is handling the drug well and the medication level is correct.
• Old Dog Seizures/Disease
Later in life, dogs can have seizures due to liver disease, a brain tumor, or other metabolic issues. If your dog develops one of these conditions, be sure to work with your vet as soon possible to develop a treatment plan.
If your dog is diabetic and her blood sugar drops too low, this can cause a seizure. Diabetic dogs need regular care at the vet to make sure that they are getting the proper amount of insulin or medication. Like people, dogs can live healthy, long lives with diabetes, but the condition must be monitored.
There are a number of things that are toxic to dogs, which can also cause seizures. Chocolate, for example, is one of the most common poisonous substances for dogs. In addition, foods that are sweetened with xylitol, alcohol, onions and garlic are all examples of items that can be toxic to dogs and cause seizures to take place.
What To Do If Your Dog Has a Seizure
Symptoms of a seizure include falling over on the floor, jerking, loss of consciousness, twitching, making paddling motions with the legs and chomping/tongue chewing. Dogs can also lose bladder and bowel control during a seizure. If you believe your dog is having a seizure, try to stay as calm as possible. If your pet is near furniture or other items that she could hit while having the episode, try to gently move her out of the way. Be very careful of your dog’s mouth during a seizure, as snapping is a common occurrence. If the seizure lasts more than a few minutes, your dog could be overheating, so put a fan on her to cool her off or a cold rag on her paws.
Keep in mind that many dog owners mistake other conditions such as fainting, stroke or cardiac disease for seizures, so it is important to take your dog to the vet right away for an evaluation. Seizures can be very scary, but there is a lot that can be done to help your dog with the ailment. The vet may prescribe a medication to control the seizures, and if it is determined that the episodes are caused by disease or other condition, your vet will put together a treatment plan to help to address the underlying issues. Our dogs are very special to us and we want to do all we can so that they can live happy, healthy lives. Don’t take seizures lightly, get into the vet right away.
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