First off, we’ve never had a direct experience with this, thank goodness, but after reading about a fellow blogger who went through a rough weekend with her five year old dog seizing for the first time, it got us thinking.
We don’t know what to do if our dog had a seizure.
We don’t even know what a seizure looks like for a dog.
So, we did a little Googling and put together this primer as much for our readers as for us. #TheMoreYouKnow, right?
Hope you find this useful too!
What Is A Seizure And Are Dog Seizures The Same As Human Seizures?
Physiologically, yes. Dog seizures and human seizures are both abnormal, sudden, uncontrollable bursts of electrical activity in the brain.
What Does A Seizure Look Like In A Dog?
For dogs, there is a typical pattern for how a seizure will progress.
There is usually an ‘aura’ or ‘pre-ictal’ phase where dogs instinctually know something is about to happen. Some dogs will seek comfort and some dogs will retreat and seek solitude. This phase can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.
Just before a seizure, a dog’s body tends to tremble, their eyes glaze over, and they become non-responsive.
During the seizure, the trembling progresses and convulsions begin. Dogs will stiffen and fall over, usually landing on their sides. The jaw may chomp or clamp shut and they can foam at the mouth. Their legs may paddle or stretch out stiffly. They may lose control of their bladder or bowels. Dogs may stop breathing for 10-30 seconds.The seizure typically lasts less than two minutes; anything much longer should be treated as an emergency.
After a seizure, dogs are disoriented and confused and may appear blind, tripping and stumbling into things. This phase can last for up to a few hours.
What To Do
Seizures need to run their course. There’s not much we can do to prevent or lesson a seizure once one has already started. But, we can do our best to remain calm and keep distractions, noise, and visual chaos to a minimum.
It’s best to clear the space around the dog to prevent injury, and keep other dogs and children out of the room. Children will likely be anxious and frightened and non-seizing dogs occasionally see the seizure as a sign of weakness and may try to attack the seizing dog.
Providing comfort to your dog with gentle pats and quiet conversation is the best option. Dogs will be confused coming out of the seizure and will typically look for reassurance after. The best comfort can come from a familiar face, voice, and gentle touch.
Don’t grab their tongue; dogs won’t actually swallow their tongue during a seizure. This is an old wives’ tale.
Do your best to time the seizure. It shouldn’t last much more than a couple of minutes. If it does, or the seizures recur in quick succession, seek veterinary care.
What Causes Seizures In Dogs? The Six Major Causes.
1) Ingesting A Toxin
Antifreeze, pesticides, lead poisoning. These can all lead to seizures. It’s important to consider your dog’s exposure to these compounds, particularly if it’s your dog’s first seizure. For a simple guide to foods that are toxic to dogs, click here.
Distemper is one of the most common causes of infection-related seizures. If your puppy is seizing and hasn’t had his distemper vaccination yet, this could be the cause.
3) Biochemical Issues
An underactive thyroid and low blood sugar levels can trigger seizures in dogs. Medication can lower thyroid levels, so this could be the cause if your dog has started a new medication. Blood sugar analysis can be done by withdrawing blood and analyzing the blood sample.
4) Trauma Or Injury
Accute trauma to the head can result in isolated incidents of seizures in dogs. Seizures related to trauma frequently occur weeks or months after the head injury as a result of scar tissue forming in the brain. This can catch owners by surprise, seeming unrelated to the initial trauma because of the time lag.
Epilepsy is more commonly seen in breeds like Beagles, Boxers, Collies, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Belgian Tervueren, and Keeshonds. If seizures aren’t frequent and don’t last longer than a few minutes, treatment isn’t recommended. If seizures are more frequent (two or more seizures a month), or clustered together without full recovery between, dogs can be started on anticonvulsant medications.
In dogs over five years of age, a seizure can be the first indicator of a brain tumour. They are more common in breeds like Boxers and Doberman Pinschers, but can occur in any breed.
If your dog has a seizure disorder, vaccinations can trigger seizures. If your dog hasn’t seized before, make sure he is only receiving vaccinations that are critical to his health and try to space them days or weeks apart. Some vaccinations have been associated with health problems in dogs in the past, but is rarely a concern today with current vaccines.
Heat stroke can also lead to seizures.
Reactions to bee stings as well as cardiac arrhythmias can be misidentified as seizures. Both can lead to fainting, collapse, or loss of consciousness.
All Of This Summarized In A Quick Take-Away
5 Points To Remember:
- Stay calm
- Provide a clear, safe space for your dog that is free of noise, bright lights, sharp furniture, other dogs, and children
- Comfort your dog with gentle pats and soothing conversation
- Time the seizure
- Let your vet know about the seizure and decide together if additional follow up is necessary. Seizures don’t always point to a dangerous or underlying condition.