Guide For Dog Seizures
Witnessing your dog having a seizure can be a frightening thing. You may not always know how to help, and you can be left with the struggle of trying to keep your dog as calm as possible. However, it's important to know that there are management options for seizures. Arming yourself with plenty of knowledge is a great way to get started.
We're here to help you by providing this helpful guide to what you can do for canine seizures.
What Are Seizures In Dogs?
To put it simply, a seizure is the result of a disturbance in the function of your dog's brain. Due to that disturbance, they tend to include a loss of control over their muscles, resulting in convulsions. This issue is something that plagues around 5% of dogs.
Definition Of Epilepsy And Seizures
A dog seizure can cause convulsions in the body, and can sometimes include things like thought disturbances or other physical symptoms. They are often the result of brain electrical activities that have lost control, resulting in loss of function for your dog. When these seizures happen more than once, it's known as epilepsy.
What Causes Seizures In Dogs?
There are a variety of causes of seizures in dogs.
The following are some of the more common causes:
- Idiopathic epilepsy in dogs
- Kidney failure
- Brain trauma
- Liver disease
- Brain tumor
Seizures can often occur when the activity in your dog's brain as shifting, such as when they become excited.
Risk Of Seizures By Breed
Some breeds are more likely to experience seizures than others. While these breeds have a higher risk, keep in mind that any dog can have seizures.
Breeds at a higher risk include:
- Golden Retrievers
- Belgian Tervuren
- Labrador Retrievers
- Shetland Sheepdogs
Breed isn't the only risk factor to explain why dogs have seizures. There are many others out there that may or may not be curable.
Types Of Dog Seizures
For the most part, there are three major types of seizures that dogs can experience. These include partial/focal seizures with or without secondary generalizations and generalized seizures.
Focal Seizures In Dogs
These seizures occur when a certain hemisphere of the brain experiences abnormal electrical disturbances and activity within the brain. In some cases, your dog will be conscious during the seizure. However, this can depend on the level of complexity the seizure is associated with. If the seizure is more complex, there is less of a chance they will be fully conscious.
Causes for partial seizures can involve the following:
- Head trauma
- Congenital abnormalities
- Brain infections
When diagnosing these seizures, it can help for the vet to be able to determine where the problem started.
Symptoms you may notice with a focal seizure are the following:
- Jerking motions that occur in only one side of the body
- The body of your dog curving towards one side
- A single side of the dog's face twitching
- Your dog turning their head to a single side
- Motion in just a single limb
While focal seizures cause reactions in only certain parts of the body, generalized seizures effect the entire body. It occurs when misfiring takes place in both sides of the brain. While the seizures themselves may only last up to a minute and a half, it can sometimes take a full 24 hours for your dog to recover from the experience.
It's also worth noting that within generalized seizures, there are grand mal, atonic, petit mal, tonic, clonic and mylonic seizures.
Generalized Dog Seizure Symptoms
The symptoms for a generalized seizure tend to be more like we imagine for seizures in general. They include a loss of consciousness as well as twitching and jerking in the entire body. In addition, the dog may move their legs, bark or whine, or urinate or defecate involuntarily. They may also clamp down their jaw.
These seizures can last up to 90 seconds, and the recovery can occur right away or within a full day.
Grand Mal Seizures
Grand Mal seizures in a dog are among the most common within the realm of generalized seizures.
It can be worthwhile to look for the following warning signs that may lead to a Grand Mal seizure:
- Abrupt changes in mood
In many cases, these seizures can be the result of drug toxicity, low blood sugar or salt toxicity.
Other Notable Types of Seizures
This is a particular type of seizure that is worth being aware of for the sake of your dog. Status Epilepticus is when a seizure occurs for more than 5 minutes, and may include multiple seizures occurring one after the other closely together without the dog gaining consciousness between them. Consequently, this is a very serious condition that should be treated right away.
Cluster seizures in dogs is diagnosed when there have been two or more seizures within 24-hours. Some particular dog breeds are more prone to this type of seizure, including breeds such as Border Collies, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. These types of seizures are often treated with emergency prescriptions from a vet.
What To Do During Canine Seizures
The first thing to remember to do is stay calm. While seizures are definitely frightening, your dog isn't typically in pain while it's happening. That said, there's a good chance they are confused or scared, so keeping the area calm is an absolute must.
You'll also want to clear other pets out of the room and dim the lights. Distractions, disturbances and brightness can cause the situation to worsen. Aside from that, it may also help to talk to them in a soothing tone. Overall, keeping their stress at a minimal level is extremely important.
It's a good idea to avoid trying to bring a dog out of a seizure, but instead try to keep them as comfortable as possible until it is over.
Within this phase, you'll start to see you dog's behavior change. They may seem uncomfortable or anxious, or become more moody than normal.
Before the seizure starts, you may notice an increase in your dog's nervous behaviors. They may start to seek out comfort from you, whine, or seem very anxious. To many, it can appear that their dog seems to know something is wrong and is looking for help to get through it.
This is the phase that includes the actual seizure. The seizure itself may only last a few seconds, or your dog may continue jerking or twitching for around five minutes.
The following are symptoms of this phase:
- Passing out
- Losing muscle control
During this phase, make sure to keep everything as calm as possible. Dim the lights, quiet any noises and remove other pets from the immediate area.
Post Ictal Phase
This phase takes place when your dog is coming out of the seizure state. During this time, your dog may be confused, disoriented or anxious. They may lose hearing or vision temporarily, or may not react to your presence. In addition, they may also be very hungry or thirsty. This phase can be quite short, or it may carry on for a day or two.
After a dog seizure, it's best to give your dog plenty of gentle care and make sure they are able to eat, drink and get some rest.
Preventing Dog Seizures
Depending on what is causing your dog to have seizures, you may be able to prevent them quite easily. For example, if you believe they are happening as a result of poisoning, then it's simply a matter of removing items from their reach that you might believe to be the cause.
Such items may include:
- Golf balls
- Paint that is infused with lead
- The foil connected to bottle tops
- Building materials
- Plumbing materials
If you notice that your dog has seizures during particular events, such as thunderstorms, then it's important to keep dogs calm when such events occur. Try talking to them in a soothing voice, or playing soft music.
For those who aren't sure what the cause of their dog's seizure might be, it can help to have them tested by a vet. Your vet will be able to test for tumors, epilepsy, kidney or liver disease that may contribute to the problem. In addition, glucose levels in your dog's blood will be worth keeping an eye on to make sure they are receiving correct nutrition.
Treating Dog Seizures
Generally speaking, if your dog only has a single seizure or has seizures rarely then there isn't a lot to be done in the way of treatment. However, if your dog has more than a single seizure in the span of a month, has seizures one after the other in a cluster or has especially long or severe grand mal seizures, treatment will be necessary.
Cluster seizures in dogs can be especially dangerous, so seek help as quickly as possible.
The good news is that there are a number of anti-seizure medications that can be provided to your dog to help them. However, it is worth noting that if your dog starts taking these medications, they will need to stay on it for the entirety of their life. If they are taken off the medication, they can become much more prone to severe seizures going forward.
Warnings For Conventional Treatments
With any medication, it's important to know the negative aspects as well as the positive ones so that you can weigh out the value logically. Anti-seizure medications can be extremely useful, but they can also leave lasting effects on your dog, particularly with concern to important organs like their kidneys and liver.
The use of these medications often requires monitoring of your dog's organs, because they can end up trading the seizures for severe organ problems including liver disease. It's also worth keeping in mind that these medications may not always work on all the different types of seizures out there.
Conventional Treatment Side Effects
The following are long and short term side effects that can occur with standard anti-seizure medications.
Long term issues for this medication can include fibrosis, hepatic necrosis and liver cirrhosis. Short term effects may include lethargy, coordination loss and weight loss.
When used for the long term, this medication can cause skin reactions, hyperthermia and blood disorders. In the short term, dogs may experience a lack of appetite, vomiting, coordination loss or diarrhea.
Short term side effects of this medication can include anxiety, coordination failures, fatigue and lethargy. In the long term, dogs can suffer from liver damage and anemia. There are also a few phenobarbital alternatives to naturally help manage dog seizures to consider.
Vomiting, hind-end instability and irritability can occur during short term use, while long term use can result in bromide toxicity, which is capable of causing vital organ failure.
Natural Anti-Seizure Options
For pet owners who feel uncomfortable with the side effects of standard anti-seizure, there are a variety of natural options that can help in different ways and to different extents. If you're interested in learning about some different options, then visiting a holistic vet is a great place to start. They can help to get a better view of what might be going on with your pet and how to address it.
For those who are interested in it, acupuncture may be a helpful way to address epilepsy in dogs. What is important to understand about this option is that it does need to be used consistently, which can make it tough for some pet owners to keep up with.
Pet owners can also find that certain kinds of diets can be effective for helping with epilepsy in dogs. Some can find that a ketogenic diet can be a great option for our canine companions. In addition, a raw food diet designed specifically for your dog can be a useful tool in keeping them healthy.
CBD For Dogs
On the natural front, CBD has been making some huge differences in the lives of many pets as well as their owners. This product is fantastic for assisting with everything from anxiety to the symptoms of cancer. It's also an option that includes very few side effects.
CBD For Seizures
In addition to the other purposes it can have, CBD is also a great alternative for relieving seizures in humans and dogs alike. Due to the anti-inflammatory properties as well as calming abilities, it can help dogs to avoid the kinds of mental changes that act as a dog seizure trigger.
Top CBD Products
When it comes to obtaining the best CBD products for your dog, it's a good idea to look for options that are organic. In addition, high quality options will contain negligible amounts of THC at most. Options such as those you can obtain from Innovet, contain no THC at all.
CBD oil for dogs is a great choice because it is incredibly versatile. If your dog is picky or you want something you can use for other types of pets as well, it's a much easier choice. You can easily add a few drops of this oil into their food, or drop it right onto their tongue without too much trouble. CBD oil for dog seizures is extremely useful and limits the nasty side effects they have to experience.
The quick and easy choice that your dog is sure to love comes in the form of CBD dog treats. These treats come in three delicious flavors, ensuring that even the pickiest of dogs will find a flavor they like. You can also find soft treat options for very small dogs, or those with difficulty chewing.
Seizures In Dogs: The Bottom Line
Epilepsy can be a terrifying thing for dogs and pet owners alike. However, it can be useful to know that there are options out there to help your dog to reduce the number of seizures they have. Whether you choose a standard medication or a natural option, it's nice to know the choices are out there.
Knowledge is power when it comes to something like seizures, and understanding what products are useful is key to allowing your dog to live the happiest, healthiest life possible.
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade
Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books and making salted caramel cookies.
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