Seeing your dog experience a seizure can be frightening, but it's important to know what to do. Here, our Vancouver vets share some symptoms of seizures in dogs and what you can do to help your companion.
Our vets understand that seeing your dog have a seizure can be distressing. However, understanding more about the causes of your dog's seizures and how to respond may help to make the situation a little less stressful for you and your pet.
Seizures in Dogs
A seizure occurs when the cerebral cortex of the brain malfunctions, resulting in a loss of control over their body, they can be very subtle or they can cause violent convulsions. Seizures in dogs can occur once and never occur again, or they can occur repeatedly.
If your dog is experiencing seizures, it may be best for them to be seen by a neurology specialist.
Causes of Seizures in Dogs
There are two types of seizure causes, extracranial and intracranial.
Extracranial causes of seizures originate elsewhere in the body but are still able to affect the dog's brain and cause seizure activity. The most common extracranial causes are hypoglycemia, hypocalcemia, hyperthermia, hypothyroidism, liver disease, or ingested poisons such as caffeine, and chocolate.
Intracranial causes of seizures are diseases that cause either structural or functional changes inside the dog's brain. The most common intracranial causes are genetic epilepsy, trauma to the brain, tumors, nutritional imbalances, autoimmune disease, or infectious diseases such as canine distemper virus (CDV) and rabies.
Signs & Symptoms of Seizures in Dogs
As in humans, there are a variety of types of seizures and their accompanying symptoms. Some symptoms are more noticeable than others.
Partial or focal seizures only affect a distinct region on one side of the brain. Symptoms of focal seizures can include hallucinations that lead the dog to snarl at nothing or bite at the air, hackles standing on end, dilated pupils, or sudden onset of issues with mobility and coordination. These types of seizures can be difficult to recognize and can often be perceived as strange behavior.
Generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain and the most common symptoms are muscle contractions, jerking, or a sudden collapse and loss of consciousness. These types of seizures are more noticeable and will affect both sides of the dog's body.
Partial or focal seizures can progress into generalized seizures. This development is most likely if your dog's initial seizures are not treated. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to your dog's behaviors and symptoms. If your dog begins to show signs of a seizure, try to think back to what the pet was doing right before the seizure began and notify your vet.
Dog Breeds That Are More Prone to Seizures
Some dog breeds that are more at risk of experiencing seizures include:
- Large herding and retriever dogs. German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, Labrador, and Golden Retrievers.
- Herding dogs with the MDR1 gene. Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Longhaired Whippets, as well as Old English and Shetland Sheepdogs.
- Breeds with short, flat noses such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, and English Bulldogs.
- Bull Terriers can have an inherited form of epilepsy that triggers behaviors such as tail chasing, irrational fear, and unprovoked aggression.
When to Contact Your Vet
In most cases, seizures are short and last only a few minutes. With proper treatment, your dog can lead a normal life. That being said, seizures can be a serious health concern and even short seizures could cause brain damage.
If your dog shows signs of having a seizure it's imperative 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.
The Fatality of Dog Seizures
If your dog may be having a seizure due to poison; has had a seizure lasting longer than 3 minutes; or has had multiple seizures in a row, contact your primary veterinarian or emergency vet right away! Seizures lasting for more than 5 minutes could cause serious permanent brain damage.
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.