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Seizures and Convulsions in Dogs

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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.

 

Diagnosis

 

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.

 

Prevention

 

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  12

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  • 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.

    Sincerely,

    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!!!!

  • 11/29/2014 01:13pm

    my doxie was under anesthesia 2 weeks ago for her teeth cleaning, she had little seizures yesterday 2 of them Im wondering if she was under too long she was a very healthy dog until she got her teeth cleaned. COuld this happens?

  • 11/29/2014 01:12pm

    oh goodness so so sorry

  • 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.

  • SamSam
    01/19/2015 03:55am

    I have an 8 year old Bullmastiff that has arthitis and has had a few seizures and we do not know the causes. Tonight she had a really bad one at 2:30am while sleeping. It lasted quite awhile and was the worst one yet. She lost complete control of her bodily functions. After the seizure was over she was disoriented as before, heavy anting and drooling, but then within 30 min. she had 2 more seizures that weree smallerand only lasted a couple min. I have talked to vet before and he is unsure why either. Is it her age? Something I don't want to think about , but if suffering repeatedly from them should she be put to sleep with her age and everything considered?

  • 01/19/2015 09:12am

    Its odd how these dogs are only having seizures when sleeping .Scooby never had a seizure while awake ,until very close to when he died .He only had 3 seizures while awake in his whole time of having them.Nobody could tell me why this might be . I would have thought that if you have these then you will have them at all times , by the time we got to the emergency vets he was usually skipping around as if nothing had happened .One vet went so far as to call me an attention seeking liar! This was after I had taken 2 buses at 1am with Dog in blankets , travelling through very dangerous areas alone wearing coat over pjama to get him to the emergency vet,by the time we arrived he was running around the surgery playing. I was told he likely had a brain tumor ,that was when he was 8-9 years,this was without any proper examination or scan and when I requested a scan I was told that this will be a waste of time.I then asked to see proof of the alleged vetinary's XRAY vision , after all he MUST have such ability to be able to "diagnose" a brain tumor without seeing any sign of illness and not having a scann picture to look at.ANYWAY.....Scooby died at 14 years and 3 months ,we still don't know the "cause" but its highly likely that he had Cushings and Hypocortalism .For example he didnt like to eat every day ,the vet said that this is the case with some "small breed " of dog.I now find that this is highly dangerous , he had ,at an early age a wide variety of signs of the onset of Cushings,the vets suggested Cushings many times but said that there is no treatment ,which is also not true .however ,I gather that there are illnesses that the Mastiff breed is prone to due to how they are bred sometimes there are problems with the head ,best to find a vet or breeder / expert who know the breed well and they can help you find the reason why your Doggy is having these events

  • 02/21/2015 10:36am

    I believe Bull Mastiffs are considered to be seniors when they get close to ten years old, so I'd say your dog is a senior and yes, he could have developed a brain tumor. My vet, here in the USA, says that brain tumors are very common in older dogs. In fact, that's the first thing any vet suspects when presented with a senior dog who suddenly develops seizures "out of the blue".
    .
    I've had 2 dogs (One, a husky-mix 16 yrs old and a small maltese-mix 14 yrs old) who both developed seizures quite suddenly due to a brain tumor. From what I've experienced, the dog is healthy as a horse and then suddenly has a seizure. A few days - or a week later - he'll have another seizure. Then the seizures become more frequent because the tumor is growing. There doesn't seem to be any pain, however.
    .
    My husky mix had to be put down last May, 5 weeks after his first seizure because he was having multiple seizures a day by the 5th week.
    .
    My maltese-mix had her first seizure one week ago and then had one 2 days later. She then had one almost every day this week except for one day. Yesterday she had 3 seizures, so it has now progressed to her having multiple seizures daily. This morning she just had one at 9:45am. I'll have to put her down this week, I can see it coming. Sucks. She's such a sweet little dog. Love her to pieces.
    .
    I'll be home monitoring her condition this weekend. If she has multiple seizures again today, I'll ask my vet to come over and put her down.
    .
    She was a rescue and we've only had her since last June. Her former owners surrendered both her and her elderly brother to a shelter, where both of them were taken in by "Broken Tail Rescue" in Massachusetts. We adopted both of them and are so glad we have had her even for the short time it's been.

  • 28/03/15
    03/27/2015 08:32pm

    My 11 year old German Spitz had a seizure a week ago that lasted about 2-3 minutes. A lot of shaking, eyes rolled back drooling, after she could not walk for around 30 minutes after.
    She is a little different since this seizure she sleeps more than she used to and wants to be cuddled more.
    My vet is taking the wait and see if it happens again approach as my dog Ella is other wise very healthy.
    Do you think she could of had a minor stroke?

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