Dog Seizures: Causes & Treatments

Treatment for dog seizures is something we handle daily here at Saint Francis so we wanted to share a little bit about the potential cause of seizures, how we find out what the cause is and then how we treat it.

Causes of dog seizures 

Some causes of seizures in dogs are preventable, but others are genetic or related to illness. Common reasons can be divided into several different categories:

Environmental
One of the most common preventable reasons that dogs have seizures is because they ingest something poisonous. Obviously, the way to stop this from happening is to keep your dog away from harmful substances.

Head injuries can also cause seizures in dogs, which is just another reason to try to avoid accidents of this nature.

Illness-related
Health issues that can lead to dogs suffering seizures include liver disease, kidney disease, anemia, encephalitis, strokes, brain cancer, blood pressure that’s too high (or too low), and electrolyte problems.

Genetic
Certain breeds and family lines of dogs are more likely to develop epileptic seizures than others. Your dog is most likely to suffer from seizures if he or she is a Belgian Tervuren, Shetland sheepdog, beagle, Labrador retriever, golden retriever, keeshond, or vizsla.

Other breeds more prone to seizures include the Finnish spitz, Bernese mountain dog, Irish wolfhound, and English springer spaniel. Genetic epilepsy most often appears between 10 months and 3 years of age, but has been known to show up when dogs are as young as six months, or as old as five years.

Sex
Male dogs are more likely to experience seizures than females.

Timing
This isn’t exactly a cause, but the age at which your dog first experiences a seizure can play a large role in whether or not they will continue, how often you can expect them, and what the outcome will be.

What to watch for
If you’re worried that your dog may have or may develop seizures, there are a number of things to keep your eye on.

Before a seizure
It’s possible your dog may experience a “warning period” called an aura before a seizure actually occurs. During this time, you may notice your dog seems scared, worried, or stressed out or is clinging to you. They might appear dazed and confused, staring out into space. Muscle contractions and visual disturbances can also occur, and they might not be able to control their bowels.

During a seizure
Just as with humans, dogs experiencing a seizure may do things like foam at the mouth, twitch, drool, chomp, collapse, and make paddling motions with their legs. It’s also not uncommon for dogs to urinate or defecate.

After a seizure
Post-seizure, many owners report their dog walking in circles, bumping into things, drooling, and generally being disoriented and wobbly. It’s possible he or she may even be temporarily blind, and you might see blood if they bit themselves during the event. Recovery can be instantaneous or take up to a full day.

How we test for a cause of the seizure

At Saint Francis Veterinary Specialists we will start by doing a full blood panel to see if there are any biomarkers that indicate  a disease or genetic issue. Normally that is all we have to do. If those test come back inconclusive we also will use ultrasound & MRI to look for any potential foreign bodies that could be causing the tumor.

Treatments

In most cases your pets seizures can be treated with oral medicines & a diet change. In many cases they will be restricted from salty treats and we’ll ask that you keep them off of ledges and out of the water.

Tips
Bringing your dog into Saint Francis for treatment for their seizures is incredibly important. Without proper medical treatment, dog seizure symptoms almost always get worse. Conversely, dogs with seizures beginning before the age of 2 tend to respond very well to treatment.

You can expect lab work and an extensive physical exam to determine the cause. Two of the most common ways to treat seizures are with phenobarbital and potassium bromide.

A couple of other things to note are:

 

Length and frequency matter
Get to the vet as soon as possible if your dog experiences multiple seizures in a row  or has one that lasts longer than five minutes. Seizures are SCARY, but as long as the dog is away from the danger of falling they are relatively harmless. If your dog is having a  seizure try to stay calm, keep them safe and pay attention to how long they last.

Keep them cool
Dogs can overheat if they have a long seizure, so put cold water on their paws and turn on a fan to lower their temperature. (Never put water on a dog’s back to help it cool off.)

Stay away from the mouth
First off, dogs having a seizure can unintentionally bite you. Second, they can’t swallow their tongue, so there’s no reason to get near their head.

The most important thing you can do if you’re worried your dog may be suffering from seizures is bring them in  for a consult. This is a serious medical issue and needs to be treated as soon as possible if you want a healthy, happy dog.