What Causes Seizures in Dogs
Dog seizures can be caused by trauma, exposure to toxins, brain tumors, genetic abnormalities, issues with the dog’s blood or organs, or a number of other reasons. Other times, seizures may sometimes occur for unknown reasons – called idiopathic.
Types of Seizures in Dogs
There are three types of dog seizures, generally classified by researchers as focal (partial) seizures, generalized (grand mal) seizures, and focal seizures with secondary generalization.
Grand mal seizures in dogs affect both sides of the brain and the entire body. Grand mal seizures can look like involuntary jerking or twitching in all four of the animal’s limbs and include loss of consciousness.
A partial seizure in dogs affects only a small part of the brain and can manifest a couple different ways, but will typically progress to grand mal seizures throughout the dog’s lifetime. When a dog is having a partial seizure, only one limb, side of the body, or just the face will be affected.
What Do Dog Seizures Look Like ?
Once the seizure(s) begin, the dog will fall on its side, become stiff, chomp its jaw, salivate profusely, urinate, defecate, vocalize, and/or paddle with all four limbs. These seizure activities generally last between 30 and 90 seconds. Behavior following the seizure is known as postictal behavior, and includes periods of confusion and disorientation, aimless wandering, compulsive behavior, blindness, pacing, increased thirst (polydipsia) and increased appetite (polyphagia). Recovery following the seizure may be immediate, or it can take up to 24 hours.
Generally, the younger the dog is, the more severe the epilepsy will be. As a rule, when onset is before age 2, the condition responds positively to medication. The more seizures a dog has, the more likely there is to be damage among the neurons in the brain, and the more likely the animal is to seize again.
Dog Seizure Symptoms
Signs of an impending seizure may include a period of warning, an altered mental state where the animal will experience what is called an aura or focal onset. During this time a dog may appear worried, dazed, stressed, or frightened. It may experience visual disturbances, hide, or seek help and attention from its owner. The dog may experience contractions in its limbs or in its muscles, and may have difficulty controlling urination and bowel movements.
Seizures most often occur while the dog is resting or asleep, often at night or in early morning. In addition, most dogs recover by the time you bring the dog to the veterinarian for examination.
Most of the treatment for dogs with epilepsy is outpatient. It is recommended that the dog does not attempt to swim in order to prevent accidental drowning while it undergoes treatment. Be aware that most dogs on long-term antiepileptic tend to gain weight, so monitor your dog’s weight closely and consult your veterinarian for a diet plan if necessary.
In some cases certain medical procedures, including surgery to remove tumors that may contribute to seizures, may be needed. Drugs may help reduce the frequency of seizures for some animals. Some corticosteroid medications, anti-epileptic, and anti-convulsant medications may also help to reduce the frequency of seizures. The type of medications given will depend on the type of epilepsy the animal has, as well as other underlying health conditions the animal has.
For example, steroids are not recommended for animals with infectious diseases, as they can have an adverse effect.