Epilepsy in Dogs: Is My Dog at Risk for Seizures?

Seizures don’t just affect those of us who walk on two legs. Our four-legged friends can also suffer from seizures, and if the fits of uncontrollable twitching turn into a pattern, your dog may have epilepsy.

About Canine Seizures
Seizures are uncontrollable outbursts of twitching or shaking which result from surges of electrical activity in your dog’s brain, according to WebMD. They can last anywhere from less than a minute to several minutes. Some causes of seizures in dogs include eating poison, liver disease, a sudden rise or drop in blood sugar, anemia, head injury, stroke and brain cancer.

Signs of an Epileptic Fit

You can usually tell when a dog is having a seizure because of the strange behaviors exhibited. Your dog will likely feel the seizure coming on, and seek out her owner for comfort. After a period of restlessness, whining or hiding, a dog having a seizure will show symptoms like muscle twitching, collapsing, vomiting or foaming at the mouth. Afterward, the dog will experience a period of disorientation ranging from a few minutes to days. She may even be temporarily blind during the recovery period.

Types of Seizures

There are a few different types of seizures. A generalized, or grand mal seizure, is the most common type, in which abnormal electric activity throughout the brain causes the dog to lose consciousness and shake erratically. Conversely, in a focal seizure, the abnormal electrical activity only occurs in one part of the brain, and will likewise cause movements in only one side or part of the body. Sometimes seizures start as focal and then become generalized. A psychomotor seizure takes the form of an odd behavior, such as interacting with an imaginary object or some other apparent hallucination. Whatever the behavior is, the same one will repeat in future seizures. Finally, seizures with no known cause fall under idiopathic epilepsy. They usually occur in dogs six months to six years old, and are most common in Labrador Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Belgian Tervurens and Collies.

What to Do
If you notice your dog having a seizure, remain calm. Avoid contact with her until she has calmed down, but if there is something nearby that may hurt her, be sure to move the object or gently slide her away, taking care to stay away from her mouth. If the seizure lasts more than two minutes, your dog is at risk of overheating. Any longer than five minutes, time to take her to the vet.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Be sure to record observations of your dog’s seizures. If a pattern develops, your vet should be able to identify the type of seizures and administer the appropriate medications. For example, valium may be given intravenously to control prolonged convulsions. And, to regulate future seizures, vets commonly prescribe phenobarbital and potassium bromide. It’s very important to adhere to the dosage recommended by your vet. It’s also recommended to check liver function before giving your dog anti-epileptic medications. While there is no cure for epilepsy, appropriate treatment can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of these frightful fits.