Seeing a dog having a seizure can be a very frightening experience. The most important thing to remember is to remain calm and act quickly. Regardless if you own a dog that is prone to seizures or not, it is very important to be prepared for anything. Therefore, the best thing to do is make sure you are educated on the subject and ready to act if one ever does occur.
What Are Seizures In Dogs?
A canine seizure is caused from the result of quick and abnormal neurological activity. In other words, there is almost an electrical storm taking place in the brain. There are currently up to six types of seizures in dogs that are common.
The six types of seizures are:
- Generalized Seizures,
- Status Epilepticus,
- Petit Mal Seizures,
- Partial Seizures,
- Complex Partial Seizures, and
- Cluster Seizures.
Although, generally the seizures are grouped into one of two groups, either generalized or focal. Generalized seizures visibly affect the entire body and are characterized by full-body stiffness and involuntary, spastic movements. Focal seizures are also known as partial seizures because they are usually isolated to one area of the body.
While the dog is having a seizure, it will typically go through three stages which are the Pre-Ictal Phase, Ictal Phase, and the Post-Ictal Phase. The information below will serve as a guide to dealing with seizures in dogs. There will be information pertaining to the causes, symptoms, and treatments for different types seizures in dogs.
Causes of Dog Seizures
Seizures in dogs can occur for a number of reasons. In order to find the individual cause for your dog’s seizures, a trip to the vet for some specialized tests is probably required. The doctor can conduct specific tests such as blood tests, MRI, CT scan, and a cerebrospinal fluid tap (CSF).
However, there are some underlying disorders that are known to cause seizures. These causes are a reaction to allergy or toxin, malignant or benign brain tumor, developmental or structural abnormality, a viral or bacterial infection, or other systematic illnesses such as thyroid disease or a liver shunt.
One of the most well-known causes of seizures in dogs is caused by Epilepsy. Epileptic seizures vary from dog to dog; however, they may be accompanied by a loss of consciousness or malfunctions in the dog’s muscular or sensory functions. Although researchers believe Epilepsy is caused by a cluster of abnormal brain nerve tissue, but that has yet to be proven. In fact, there is no clear cause for the disorder yet. Other external factors known to increase the risk of developing seizures are Canine Distemper, genetics, head injuries, and Lyme disease.
Symptoms of Seizures
The symptoms of dog seizures may be visible in different ways as the symptoms vary depending on which stage of the seizure the dog is in. Once again, there are three stages that dog having a seizure will go through. The first stage is called the Pre-Ictal stage and the symptoms that accompany this stage are biting, trembling, unresponsiveness, twitching of limbs, and restlessness. During this stage, the dog can begin to act in strange ways, from an almost catatonic state all the way to an aggressive, snappy state.
The second stage is the Ictal stage and is the strongest point of the seizure. During this stage a dog will exhibit symptoms such as paralysis, defecation, urination, salivation, teeth grinding, an extended head, and the largest telltale sign of a seizure and that is the violent thrashing of limbs. This is usually the scariest stage of witnessing a dog having a seizure because it is accompanied by the most serious symptoms.
As the dog begins to go into the Post-Ictal stage, the seizure will begin to come to an end. During this stage, the dog will exhibit symptoms such as excessive thirst or salivation, an increased appetite, loss of sight or hearing, confusion, or disorientation. The final stage can last a few minutes to a couple hours. Here make sure to keep a close eye on the dog because the confusion that follows seizures can make the dog walk into walls, doors, or other objects while they are confused or experiencing a loss of senses.
Steps to Follow If Your Dog Has A Seizure
The most important thing to first remember is not to panic if witnessing a dog having a seizure. Try to remember that the dog most likely does not know what is going on and is not suffering through the seizure. Now, with that said the best thing to do is steer clear of the dog until the episode has passed, but make sure the area surrounding the dog is free of items it can get harmed from. Whatever happens, do not restrain the dog as this can result in injury for you and the animal.
Another important thing to remember is never put hands in the dog’s mouth to keep the dog from “swallowing its tongue”. This may not only result in the hand getting bitten, but it can also put more unnecessary stress on the dog. Since seizures can cause a dog to attempt to bite at others around it, it’s a very good idea to remove small children and other pets from the room. Also keep in mind that a seizure lasting longer than five minutes is an emergency, so a Veterinarian or other health professional should be called immediately.
When looking for a treatment for seizures in dogs, first the cause must be determined. In other words, the treatment will be different for a dog having seizures due to environmental factors compared to one having them because of a viral disease. In the case of environmental factors, they are usually treated with a combination of seizure suppression and removal of the external factor.
On the other hand, if seizures are being caused by a viral disease such as Distemper, not only should treatment begin immediately, but it should also include anti-seizure medication.
Currently, there are several types of medications that are given to treat seizures in dogs, and they are: Felbamate, Phenobarbitol, Levetiracetam, or Chlorazepate; of those, the most common one prescribed to dogs is Phenobarbitol. Conduct plenty of research and ask many questions because certain types of the medication carry extremely serious side-effects. In addition to medication, treatment for canine seizures also includes procedures such as surgery or kindling.
To prevent seizures in dogs, there are several medications and treatments discussed above. However, for a pet that is prone to seizures there is no guaranteed way to prevent them from occurring in pets. Administering regular anti-seizure medications and listening to the advice of the dog’s Veterinarian is the best way to attempt prevention.
In conclusion, seizures in dogs can be very scary experiences to watch. Since there are many reasons seizures can occur, it is important to seek medical attention so a cause can be established. After the proper cause has been determined, it will be much easier to prepare treatment and educate the owner about prevention.