Dogs are known to be man’s best friend. They are one of the most loyal companions and make a great addition to the family. When we witness our canine companions convulsing from seizures, this can be a scary experience for most dog owners. So the questions arise, what to do if you think your dog has seizures? Or what to do if your dog has seizures for the first time?
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Seeing our beloved pet having a seizure for the first time, might tempt you to rush to the vet, but the emergency is only required if the seizures last more than 5 minutes or has 2 or more episodes in a 24 period.
If your dog having a seizure, follow these steps to help her safely through it.
- Keep calm. Leave your dog alone and let him handle the seizure.
- Clear the pet’s surrounding space. Remove anything that might injure your dog (Furniture, chairs, etc)
- Time or take a video if possible (To tell your veterinarian for post-seizure diagnosis and treatment)
How Would You Define A Dog Seizure?
Seizures are a temporary involuntary disturbance of normal brain function and can last a few seconds to a few minutes. The brain comprises many neurons that communicate with each other called neurotransmitters. Seizures in dogs occur when there is an imbalance or temporary involuntary disturbance of normal brain function.
Symptoms Of Dog Seizures
- Running in circles
- Falling to the floor immediately, instead of laying down as usual
- Stiff muscles
- Going completely unconscious
- Jerking body movements
- Urinating or defecating uncontrollably
What Causes Seizures In Dogs?
Excessive excitement in the brain that results in seizures can occur for the following reasons.
Reactive seizures are the adverse effect of any metabolic disease or toxic exposure (which affects a dog’s healthy brain). Diagnosis is made through tests such as bloodwork and history.
Symptomatic seizures Brain disease, including brain tumors, strokes, inflammation, or infections. These can be diagnosed by a brain imaging test (MRI)
Unknown/idiopathic seizures. This category includes genetic epilepsy, the most common cause of seizures in dogs. This diagnosis is made except for the above two types. Only genetics can help in diagnosing this type of seizure.
Canines less than six months of age, brain infections, toxic exposure, metabolic conditions such as liver failure, and congenital brain disorders are most common.
In at least 25 dog breeds, an inheritance basis for epilepsy has been documented so far. Idiopathic epilepsy, exact causes are unknown is the most common for dogs seizures.
Other causes include brain infection or diseases like tumors and strokes, toxic exposure, metabolic conditions such as liver failure, and congenital brain disorders that can contribute to epilepsy or seizures.
However, there are exemptions to this rule. The only way to define the cause of seizures is through your veterinarian’s diagnostic procedures.
What Are The Symptoms Of Seizures?
There are three stages of possession in dogs:
- Pre-ictal (or aura) phase: A few minutes before the actual seizure, there may be a period of altered behavior called Aura. It’s not always recognizable, but many owners report that their dog may appear restless, whine or shake, seek attention, or bark just before having a seizure.
- Ictus phase: This is the seizure itself. Can generally last 2-3 minutes, but your dog may have a longer seizure. During this phase, the dog may appear absent or lose consciousness, fall over and cause his body and leg to jerk uncontrollably. They sometimes urinate, defecate or salivate during the seizure. Prolong seizure, lasting over 5 minutes is considered an emergency. Contact a vet immediately.
- Postictal phase: After the seizure, many dogs may appear disorientated. It can last from minutes to hours. The most commonly reported symptoms are behavioral changes, restlessness, confusion, or temporary blindness.
Seizures can look traumatic and painful for dogs, but most harm and injuries are sustained during falls or flailing against objects in their vicinity during a seizure.
How To Help Your Dog When They Have A Seizure?
To help your dog while having a seizure, you must keep his surroundings as safe and quiet as possible. Remove nearby hazards and block stairways for their safety. Remain calm, and let your pet handle the situation. Your pet will likely be unaware of his surroundings and his behavior during and after a seizure.
It also applies to cats that suffer from seizures, but dogs, in particular, can be agitated, irritable, and even blind when having seizures. If you are witnessing your dog having a seizure for the first time, write down or take a video of the event to show your veterinarian can be very helpful.
Does My Pet Need To See The Vet Immediately After The Seizure?
It is never easy to see your dog having a seizure or, to best help your dog, your vet will want to know his medical history to determine the cause and discuss treatment options.
Idiopathic epilepsy, the most common cause of seizures in dogs is rarely life-threatening. But cluster seizures (multiple seizures in 24 hours) or grand mal seizures that are prolonged (lasting more than 5 minutes) Urgent care is required, notify your veterinarian immediately to discuss medical and treatment options.
Why Did My Dog Have A Seizure, And How Do You Tell – Alternative Causes
So far, the most common cause of seizures in dogs is idiopathic epilepsy seizures (as we discussed above), an inherited disorder, with the exact cause to be unknown.
Alternative causes of seizures are less common. These include:
- Infectious disease
- Metabolic diseases
- Brain tumours
Often, but not always, the dogs with one of these other reasons for seizures will show different symptoms, such as a change in behavior, drowsiness or lethargy, dizziness, being stuck in a corner, abnormal gait, or difficulty walking.
An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) with a thorough physical examination and complete lab work will help diagnose idiopathic epilepsy accurately and look for any potential underlying causes.
What To Do If Your Diabetic Dog Has A Seizure?
If your diabetic pet is unconscious or has seizures, this is a medical emergency. Contact your veterinarian immediately.
What To Do If The Old Dog Has A Seizure For The First Time?
If it is the first time that your old dog has had a seizure or if the seizure has lasted longer than usual, call your doctor right away and consult them. Follow the doctor’s advice. If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with epilepsy, he or she may also be given anti-seizure medication.
How Do I Know If The Dog Is Having A Seizure?
Several types of seizures can affect dogs with various symptoms. In the preictal phase, dogs will typically behave differently. They might seem nervous, hide or stay very close to you.
They can stiffen up, have muscle twitching, lose consciousness, drool, foam at the mouth, or appear restless or dazed. These behavioral changes can happen right before the seizure or up to several hours prior to it.
Dogs will collapse to the side and stiffen up, growl, crawl, or shake and twitch uncontrollably. Never stick your hand in your dog’s mouth during a seizure, you could inadvertently get bitten and seriously injured. Dogs can lose control of their bladder and will sometimes poo or pee during the seizure.
Afterward, your dog may be disoriented, dazed, or seem unsteady and confused. They may try to walk and bump into things. These symptoms will usually resolve itself within an hour.
At What Point Should I Take The Dog To The Vet If My Dog Is Having A Seizure?
Isolated seizures are rarely life-threatening and are the most common generalized seizure for dogs. If your canine friend is having a seizure for the first time, It’s a good idea to document their symptoms, date, time, and length of any seizures. This will help your vet determine the cause and discuss treatment options.
Seizures that are considered real emergencies include:
- Cluster seizures: This occurs when there are two or more visits in 24 hours.
- Status epilepticus: This is a seizure activity that lasts for more than five minutes.
In these instances, urgent care is required. Contact your veterinary immediately.
What Else Do I Need To Recognize About Having A Pet That Has Seizures?
Your pets may have seizures when you are not at home. Take precautions to keep your pet safe at home when you are away if he has a history. For instance, if you have staircases in your household, use a baby gate to keep your pets away from them.
If prescribed medication, watch for side-effects
Anti-seizure medication has many side effects. Some side effects are temporary and may improve within 10 to 14 days. Others can last longer. If your dog has adverse side effects, such as lethargy, difficulty walking, behavioral changes, notify your veterinarian.
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It’s distressing when your dog has seizures, help by document the event, write down the date and time, or even better, video if possible. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine the cause, and try to help you manage them.