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Understanding Dog Seizures and What to Do

Dog seizures, or canine epilepsy, are incredibly distressing for both pets and their parents. Epilepsy, commonly known as seizures, is a sudden involuntary behavior caused by a neurological abnormality. Pets can becomes stiff, convulse and behave erratically, or may appear dazed and confused, or twitch only a small area of their body.

Common Seizure Causes

Canine seizure can be caused by a variety of disturbances. The main trigger is an abnormality inside the brain. In a normal canine brain, there is a balance between two bio-electrical impulses: the excitatory and the inhibitory activities. A problem occurs when the former overpowers the latter in one area of the brain’s hemisphere. Sometimes this abnormal electrical activity spreads out and affects other cerebral areas.

This can result in seizures. An affected animal can appear fine before and after having a seizure, or may appear disoriented or just ‘not quite themselves’. The duration of an attack varies with each dog. This is influenced by genetics, diseases, toxins, trauma, and other undetermined factors. Attacks are often also a lot more common during feeding time, moments of excitement, playing time, etc.

Dogs that are susceptible to seizures may have inherited the condition, or suffer disease such as hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, anemia, strokes, organ problems. Toxins such as lead, organophosphates, strychnine, and ethylene glycol can also disturb the body’s metabolism and activities in the central nervous system.

Dog Seizure Symptoms

An aura is a time frame of an altered behavior. This comes before a seizure attack. During this period, the dog begins to exhibit peculiar behavioral patterns. Craving for attention, feeling anxious, restlessness, or seeking isolation may be observed. Shaking, disorientation, drooling, foaming, chewing, chomping, full or partial body tremors or twitches can also occur. Dogs can also lose control of their bladder or rectum and urinate and defecate.  

It is important to note that other diseases can also cause similar signs, such as cardiac and respiratory issues, which can make dogs collapse, or breathe rapidly.

Dog Seizure Treatment

It’s important to stay calm when attending to an animal that you may have a seizure. Sit with them in a darkened room and speak to them in a calm, reassuring voice. If the seizure continues after a couple of minutes, dogs may risk overheating. Cool them down by either using a fan or by placing cold water or ice on their paws.

If this situation lasts more than a couple of minutes or happens multiple times in a row, call a vet immediately. Long seizures can increase the animal’s body temperature and further constrict breathing. This may increase the risk of acquiring brain damage. Seizure may be treated with medication in order to decrease the frequency of their occurrence. It’s important to talk to your veterinarian about options.

There are four common types of seizures:

·       Status epilepticus lasts longer than five minutes. The brain is heavily hit by a series of seizures making the pet unable to regain consciousness between attacks.

·       Major motor seizures or grand mal causes the dog to scream, lose consciousness, limb extension and rigidity

·       Partial motor seizures or petit mal attacks only a specific muscle group. Staring into space and random eye movements are some its symptoms.

·       Cluster seizures are rows of attacks occurring in a short period (within 24 hours).


Canine epilepsy is a stressful condition, but with the right response and medical treatment, it can be controlled. You can call Vet Pronto at (415) 237-6419 to learn more.

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