It can be distressing to watch your dog have a seizure. Why is your dog having a seizure and what should you do? Below, our Berkeley vets share some facts about seizures in dogs.
At Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital, our vets understand that seeing your pup have a seizure can be distressing for many pet owners. Understanding more about the causes of seizures in dogs and what to do when your dog has one may help to make the situation a little less stressful for you and your pet.
What do seizures look like in dogs?
Seizures in dogs can take many forms, and some are more easily spotted than others.
- Focal Seizures (Partial Seizures) only affect a particular region within one side of the brain. These seizures can be difficult to recognize as seizures because they often seem like nothing more than strange behavior. Symptoms of focal seizures can include, hallucinations (growling at nothing, or biting at the air), fur standing on end, dilated pupils or balance issues.
- Generalized Seizures affect both sides of the brain, meaning that you will likely notice symptoms on both sides of the body and your pet is likely to lose consciousness. While there are a number of different types of generalized seizures some of the most common symptoms are muscle contractions, jerking, or a sudden collapse and loss of consciousness.
- Focal Seizures Evolving Into Generalized Seizures are the most common seizures diagnosed in dogs. If your dog begins having a generalized seizure, try to think back to what the pet was doing right before the seizure began. Were there any strange behaviors or symptoms leading up to the generalized seizure? Be sure to let your vet know the details.
If your dog shows signs of having a seizure it's important to contact your vet to let them know. While not all vets will advise bringing your pet in for an examination, depending on the severity of the seizure, an exam may be recommended.
What causes seizures in dogs?
A seizure occurs when there is faulty electrical activity in your pet's brain, resulting in a loss of control over their body. There are a number of possible underlying causes for your dog's seizure:
- Genetic or idiopathic epilepsy
- Heat Exhaustion
- Nutritional imbalances
- Low blood sugar levels
- Liver disease
- Ingested poisons such as caffeine, chocolate
- Head trauma (such as a road accident)
- Infectious diseases ie: canine distemper virus (CDV) and rabies
Are some dog breeds more prone to having seizures?
Some dog breeds do face an increased risk of having seizures, although it's important to note that not all dogs within these breeds will experience a seizure in their lifetime.
- Herding dogs with the MDR1 gene commonly experience seizures. These breeds include Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Longhaired Whippets, as well as Old English and Shetland Sheepdogs.
- Large herding and retriever dogs may be prone to seizures, including German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, Labradors and Golden Retrievers.
- Breeds with short, flat noses such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, and English Bulldogs can also be more prone to experiencing seizures.
- An inherited form of epilepsy that causes behaviors such as tail chasing, irrational fear, and unprovoked aggression can be seen in some Bull Terriers.
Should I call a vet?
Most seizures are short, lasting less than 3 minutes and with proper treatment, the pet can lead a normal life. However, seizures can be a serious health concern and even short seizures could cause brain damage.
If your dog has a brief seizure (lasting a few seconds to a couple of minutes) then quickly recovers, call your vet to let them know about the seizure. Your vet may suggest that you bring your dog in for an examination or they may simply make a note in your dog's records and ask you to bring your dog in for an examination if it happens again. While many dogs will experience a ‘one off’ seizure, other dogs continue to have seizures throughout their life due to illness or epilepsy.
Contact your vet immediately, or visit the nearest emergency animal hospital, if there is a chance that your dog is having a seizure due to poisoning, if your dog's seizure lasts longer than 3 minutes, or if your dog has more than one seizure in a row! Seizures lasting for more than 5 minutes could cause serious permanent brain damage.
How are seizures in dogs treated?
The treatment for dogs with seizures depends upon the underlying cause. Your vet will run a number of tests to determine the cause of your pup's seizures, if no cause is evident the disease may be diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. Following diagnosis, your vet will work with you to determine the best treatment for your dog's seizures. Treatment may include medications or keeping a seizure diary. In some cases, the primary care vet may recommend that your dog be seen by a veterinary neurology specialist for further diagnostic testing and advanced care.Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.