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Dog Seizures: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Dog Seizures: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Written by TeamIdentity

results in involuntary and uncontrollable movement of the muscles.

Dog seizures can be alarming and distressing to a dog owner, especially if this is happening for the first time. About 1 in every twenty dogs will experience a seizure episode in their lifetime.

Therefore, it should not come as a surprise if your beloved furry friend falls under this statistic. Fortunately enough, most dog seizures are not life-threatening, and with a few tips and tricks up your sleeve (outlined in this article), you will be well able to manage the situation safely at home.

What is a Dog Seizure?

A dog seizure, also known as a convulsion or fit, is a disruption in brain activity that results in involuntary and uncontrollable movement of the muscles. There are two types of dog seizures: generalized (grand mal) and focal seizures.

Generalized seizures occur when there is abnormal brain activity affecting all parts of the brain. In this case, the dog may have a full-body convulsion and lose consciousness. This may last for a few minutes. 

In focal seizures, a small part of the brain develops abnormal brain activity leading to unusual movements (tweaks, jerks) in a part or side of the body that last for seconds. Focal seizures can transform into generalized seizures. 

If it is the first time your dog has a psychomotor seizure, you will be forgiven for thinking that the dog is merely playing. The dog may appear to be chasing their tail or another imaginary object. Any odd behavior elicited by your dog should raise the alarm, especially if the behavior seems to be involuntary. Here are some other symptoms that a dog may display when they are having a seizure. 

What Causes Dog Seizures?

Most dog seizures are idiopathic, which means that they may occur without a specific cause. Factors that may trigger a seizure in dogs include the following:

  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Severe anemia
  • Low blood sugar
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Brain trauma
  • Ingesting toxins such as caffeine 
  • Metabolic disease  
  • Rabies
  • Heartworm infection

What Do Seizures Look Like?

Generalized seizures in dogs may be easy to spot as the dog is likely to be having visible convulsions. Localized seizures may be harder to spot as they involve a specific area of the body. In this case, the dog may display the involuntary movement of the affected area. Other symptoms of dog seizures include the following:

  • Howling
  • Jerking
  • Stiffening
  • Muscle twitching
  • Drooling
  • Chomping
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Tongue chewing
  • Paddling legs
  • Pooping or peeing
  • Loss of consciousness

These symptoms can be very frightening if they catch you by surprise. However, being aware of what to expect can make it less scary. If you think that your dog is having a seizure, what should you do?

What To Do If Your Dog Is Having a Seizure

As mentioned earlier, most dogs will be able to survive a seizure attack. However, there are a couple of things that you can do to ensure the safety of your furry friend during this traumatic event. 

  1. Be calm enough to allow you to focus and strategize on your dog’s safety. This can be difficult to do as you watch your pet suffering a seizure, but it will be of great help. It helps to know that your dog is not in pain despite what it may appear to be.
  2. Keep track of time so you can know how long the seizure has lasted. If possible, ask someone to record the seizure episode so that you can share it with the vet later.
  3. Clear the surroundings and remove objects that may injure the dog. Ensure that the dog is in a flat and secure space. Cushion the head in case they are on a hard surface.
  4. It is okay to comfort and reassure your dog as they go through the episode. You can do this by holding, massaging, or soothing the dog.
  5. Prolonged seizures that last for more than 5 minutes may cause hyperthermia which can be dangerous. In this case, you should cool the dog by applying wet towels around the neck, forehead, paws, and groin. By this time, you should also be making preparations for a veterinarian visit. 
  6. It would be best if you always informed your vet anytime your dog has a seizure. It helps to keep a journal to record the frequency, characteristics, and duration of each seizure episode. This will help the vet create an appropriate care plan for the dog. 

Which Dogs Have a Higher Risk for Seizures?

One study showed that male dogs are at a greater risk for developing seizure disorders than their female counterparts. At the same time, older and heavier dogs were more likely to experience seizure disorders.

A different 1996 study showed that bull terriers with compulsive tail-chasing behaviors are at an increased risk of developing seizure disorders. 

How Are Seizures in Dogs Treated?

If your dog happens to land at the vet’s for seizure treatment, the vet will first try to find the underlying cause of the seizure. As mentioned earlier, seizures in dogs can be idiopathic. If the vet rules out any underlying cause, they may prescribe seizure medications such as phenobarbital, diazepam, and zonisamide, among others. They may also ask you to keep a seizure diary. 

Can CBD Help With Dog Seizures?

Seizures are among the primary reasons for which pet owners use CBD oil. Full-spectrum CBD for dogs may relieve seizures in dogs.  

Several studies have demonstrated the anti-seizure properties of CBD. In 2018, the FDA approved a CBD- based drug called Epidiolex to treat intractable childhood seizures. A 2019 study showed that CBD has anti-seizure, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective properties. Pet owners who have tried CBD dog treats and other CBD pet products have also reported reduced seizure episodes. 

As much as the safety profile of medical marijuana has been confirmed and rubber-stamped by WHO, it is always advisable to consult your veterinarian before trying out CBD products. 

References

1.       WebMD: Seizures in dogs; causes, symptoms, and what to do. Retrieved from https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/dog-seizure-disorders#1

2.      FDA 2018: FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy. Retrieved from

3.      Silvestro, S., Mammana, S., Cavalli, E., Bramanti, P., & Mazzon, E. (2019). Use of Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Efficacy and Security in Clinical Trials. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(8), 1459.

4.      Erlen, A., Potschka, H., Volk, H. A., Sauter-Louis, C., & O’Neill, D. G. (2018). Seizure occurrence in dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK: prevalence and risk factors. Journal of veterinary internal medicine, 32(5), 1665–1676.

5.      Dodman, N. H., Knowles, K. E., Shuster, L., Moon-Fanelli, A. A., Tidwell, A. S., & Keen, C. L. (1996). Behavioral changes associated with suspected complex partial seizures in bull terriers. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 208(5), 688–691.

Photo by Cristian Castillo on Unsplash

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