Canine seizures are a common and potentially serious issue for a large number of dogs.
Dogs can be affected by seizures in different ways, and there are several diagnosable conditions involving seizures as a symptom.
Let’s go through the different types of seizures in dogs – what they look like, what causes them, and what owners can do to treat canine seizures and care for their dogs’ health.
Common causes of seizures in dogs
Seizures are a relatively common neurological disorder in dogs, and can be a cause of concern for pet owners. Seizures can range in severity and duration, and may be caused by a variety of factors, including underlying medical conditions, genetic predisposition, exposure to toxins, or even unknown causes. The most common causes are:
- Genetics: Generalized epilepsy, the most common seizure in dogs, is a neurological disorder that is believed to be genetic and causes recurrent seizures without an underlying cause.
- Brain tumors: Tumors in the brain can cause seizures, especially in older dogs. These tumors can be primary (originating in the brain) or secondary (spreading from other parts of the body).
- Infections: Certain viral, bacterial, or fungal infections can cause seizures in dogs. These include distemper, encephalitis, and meningitis.
- Metabolic disorders: Conditions that affect the dog’s metabolism, such as low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), liver disease, or kidney failure, can lead to seizures.
- Poisoning: Ingesting toxic substances, such as insecticides, medications, or household chemicals, can cause seizures.
- Trauma: Head injuries or other types of physical trauma can result in seizures in dogs.
- Congenital abnormalities: Some dogs may have congenital abnormalities that can cause seizures, such as hydrocephalus or brain malformations.
Types of seizures in dogs
These are the most common type of seizures in dogs and involve the entire brain. Generalized seizures can cause the dog to fall over, become stiff, and experience convulsions. They may also lose consciousness and exhibit abnormal behaviors such as salivating, urinating, or defecating.
Focal seizures, also known as partial seizures, involve only a specific area of the brain. These seizures may cause abnormal movements or behaviors in one part of the body, such as twitching in the face or leg.
This is a medical emergency that occurs when a seizure lasts for more than five minutes or when the dog has multiple seizures without regaining consciousness in between. Status epilepticus can cause brain damage or even be fatal if left untreated.
Cluster seizures refer to a series of seizures that occur in a short period of time, typically within 24 hours.
Psychomotor seizures involve abnormal behaviors such as excessive licking or biting, fly-catching, or tail-chasing. These behaviors can occur without convulsions or loss of consciousness.
Common medications for treating canine seizures
There are several medications that are commonly used to manage seizures in dogs with epilepsy. The most commonly prescribed medications for canine epilepsy include:
Phenobarbital: This is one of the oldest and most widely used medications for controlling seizures in dogs. It works by increasing the threshold at which seizures are triggered in the brain. Phenobarbital is a long-acting medication that is usually given twice a day.
Potassium bromide: This medication is used as an alternative to phenobarbital or in combination with it. It works by reducing the electrical activity in the brain that triggers seizures. Potassium bromide is usually given once or twice a day.
Levetiracetam: This medication is a newer drug that is often used in combination with other medications to control seizures in dogs. It works by inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters that are involved in seizures. Levetiracetam is given two to three times a day.
Zonisamide: This is another newer medication that is used in combination with other drugs to control seizures in dogs. It works by blocking calcium and sodium channels in the brain that are involved in the generation of seizures. Zonisamide is usually given once or twice a day.
CBD oil: While still in its early research stages, CBD as a treatment for dogs with seizures has shown potential. In a 2019 study published in the journal ‘Pet Behavior Science’ found that CBD oil reduced the frequency and severity of seizures in 89% of the dogs studied, with no adverse effects reported. However, as with any medication it is important to speak with your veterinarian first. If they give the go ahead, we recommend checking out this review article cbdoilfordogs.com/best-cbd-oil-for-dogs/seizures/.
In the end, the right medication will depend on the individual dog’s needs and responses to the medication. Your veterinarian will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your dog’s specific needs and monitor your dog’s progress to adjust the dosage or medication as needed.
What to do when your dog is having a seizure
If your dog just had a seizure, it is important to remain calm and take the following steps:
Keep your dog safe: During a seizure, dogs can injure themselves by falling or hitting objects. Move any nearby objects that could be harmful to your dog and gently guide them to a safe area.
Time the seizure: Note the time when the seizure begins and how long it lasts. Seizures can feel like they last a long time, but they usually last only a few minutes.
Do not restrain your dog: It is important to let the seizure run its course and not try to restrain or hold your dog down, as this can increase the risk of injury.
Monitor your dog: After the seizure, monitor your dog closely and note any changes in behavior or signs of illness. Seizures can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, and it is important to seek veterinary care to determine the cause of the seizure and appropriate treatment.
Contact your veterinarian: If this is your dog’s first seizure or if the seizure lasts longer than five minutes or if your dog has multiple seizures within 24 hours, contact your veterinarian immediately. They may recommend bringing your dog in for an examination or may provide guidance on how to manage the seizure.
Seizures in dogs can be a frightening and concerning experience for pet owners. However, by understanding the different types and causes of seizures, as well as the various treatment options available, pet owners can take proactive steps to manage the condition and provide their furry friends with the best possible care.
While there is no surefire way to prevent seizures in dogs, proper management and treatment can help minimize the frequency and severity of seizures, while also improving the overall quality of life for affected dogs.