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Seizures and Convulsions in Dogs



Convulsions and seizures cause the dog's body muscles to contract and relax rapidly. Although they are not typically life threatening, the dog will lose control of its body, which can be frightening. In many cases, it is difficulty to determine their underlying cause, but frequent recurrences are normally termed as epilepsy.


What To Watch For


Loss of body control such as twitching, accidental elimination, dizziness, vomiting, and aimless pacing are all common indicators of seizures. After the episode, your dog may be disoriented for some time (called “post-ictal” period). In recurring cases, you will witness a change in the dog's behavior; you may even be able to predict the seizure (called “pre-ictal” period).


Primary Cause


There are many reasons a dog may have convulsions, from low blood sugar levels to liver disease, poor circulation of the brain to a calcium deficiency. Brain tumors can even lead to convulsions and seizures.


In dogs 8 years old or younger, epilepsy is a common cause of seizures. And though an underlying cause has yet to be identified, epileptic seizures do respond well to treatment in most cases. Small breed puppies commonly suffer from low blood sugar, which is a another cause of seizures.


Immediate Care


Normally it is safe to approach a dog that is seizing -- that is, unless you live in an area where rabies is prevalent and you are unsure if the animal has been vaccinated. Other important tips:


  1. Do not panic.
  2. Focus on the dog's needs, as it is unlikely that the seizure is life-threatening.
  3. Note the time of the seizure and the dog's activities prior to the attack
  4. Avoid putting your hands near the dog’s mouth unless absolutely necessary. Dogs do sometimes choke on their tongues, though it is very unusual, often occurring in breeds with flat faces like Pugs and Boston Terriers.
  5. If the convulsions are mild, try getting the dog’s attention. This can prevent things from getting worse.


If a full seizure is in effect:


  1. Pull the dog away from anything that might harm him.
  2. Get a blanket or towel and wait about a minute. If the seizure continues, wrap the dog in the blanket or surround him with cushions to protect him.
  3. When the seizure stops, unwrap the dog. This helps to prevent him from going into hyperthermia.
  4. If the seizure stops within four minutes, dim the lights (or pull the curtains) and make the room as silent as possible. In addition, keep other animals away and speak soothingly to the dog.
  5. If the seizure goes on for more than four minutes, take the dog to the vet immediately. Do not wrap her tightly in a blanket during the journey, as this may lead to hyperthermia.




Your veterinarian can perform several tests to help ascertain the cause of seizures, including CBC, chemistry panel, liver function test, and advance imaging of the brain (i.e., CT or MRI scans). However, it is helpful if you note when the attack occurred, the duration of the seizure, and what the dog was doing prior to the incident.




Most forms of prevention will depend upon the frequency and underlying cause of the seizures. Your veterinarian may prescribe medication(s) or, if there is a behavioral cause (loud surroundings, etc.) to the seizures, he or she may teach you techniques for avoiding such triggers or direct you to a behavioral specialist.


Dietary management may also be recommended for small breed puppies suffering from seizures due to hypoglycemia. These meals will typically consist of food that is high in protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates.


Image via Shutterstock

Comments  6

Leave Comment
  • Pru
    06/07/2014 03:44pm

    Sorry , what do you mean "not fatal" ???? My Scooby had a seizure on Monday evening and was dead in seconds....

  • 06/09/2014 11:03am

    Dear Pru,

    We are truly sorry for your loss and sincerely hope Scooby did not suffer any pain.

    What this article states is that seizures in dogs are not typically life threatening, though they may injure themselves during the event. However, some of the underlying causes to seizures such as a stroke unfortunately can cause fatalities in dogs. This is why it's so important that people go to their veterinarians in the event their dog has a seizure.

    Again, we sympathize for your loss.


    petMD Staff

  • 08/22/2014 07:49pm

    Scooby was suffering from ACECITES ,I am in the UK ,we were not offered any diuretic treatment,also he suffered a ruptured scrotum ,the fluid built up and the skin split.We went to the PDSA and they just said they didnt like us so we should go home and deal with it .Anyway it repaired its self , he then some months later was still not well ,we went to vets ,the reply was maybe he can have cancer ,maybe he has a virus oh and we think he has Cushings but we havent the stuff to do the test......yadah yadah......anyway ,WE THINK HE HAS CUSHINGS,they gave him Prednisone....he died...I wish I went with him...British Vetinary Practice SUCKS..it is PRIMITIVE!!!!

  • Constipation vs Seizures
    08/21/2014 10:43pm

    My shitzu/maltese is having bouts where lies on his side and soils himself. he doesnt want to come out of his cage and we have to make him go outside. Someone told me this could be the cause of constipation. Are the two quite similar as far as symtoms go?

  • 08/22/2014 07:35pm

    Problems when lying on the side can relate to Congestive Heart Failure I think ,although I live in Britain where the care is primitive ,and so I brought Scooby to the vet but they are unclear as to what is the problem ,that proved fatal ,but I learn from the American websites that if the dog has congenitive heart failure,I AM NOT SAYING YOUR DOG HAS THIS , then laying on the side can cause this ,also if he has this he should not lay this way.

  • 08/22/2014 07:39pm

    I also say CHF ,this could be early alert ,because of the alleged appathy and not wanting to move,I am not the vet ,so better if he/she will comment.

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