What you need to know about Dogs that Have Seizures
Watching your dog have a seizure can be frightening and upsetting. But knowing what might be happening, and what to do (and not to do), can be the key to ensuring the health and safety of your four-legged friend.
What is a seizure?
Simply put, a seizure is an abnormal, uncontrolled burst of electrical activity in the brain, which causes unusual behavior in your pet, ranging from facial twitching to full-body uncontrollable shaking.
What causes seizures?
Seizures can be caused by a variety of reasons, some of which include:
- Eating poison
- Liver disease
- Low or high blood sugar
- Kidney disease
- Electrolyte problems
- Head injury
- Brain cancer
What should I do if my dog has a seizure?
First and most importantly -
do not panic! Although your dog's behavior is unusual during this time, s/he is not experiencing pain during the seizure episode itself. Chances are, it's more traumatic for you than it is for your pet.
Be sure your dog is safe. Try not to handle your dog during the episode. If he is on a couch, near stairs or on the bed surround the area so he does not fall. You can place your hand under his head if he is on a hard surface. Do what you need to ensure his safety, but handle him as little as possible.
Don't pick him up, hold him, or try to put anything in his mouth. (Don't worry - he won't swallow his tongue.)
Once you've ensured your dog's safety, the best thing you can do now is watch and wait. Note the time the seizure started and ended, what was happening to your dog during the seizure and how he responded after the seizure was over. This is all very important and crucial information to provide to your veterinarian.
Most seizures last only a minute or two, but to us humans watching, they seem to last forever. It's better to time it so you can give an accurate representation to your veterinarian.
What happens next?
If your dog has an isolated seizure episode, and it lasts only a minute or two, there's no immediate need to rush to the veterinarian. Of course, you'll want to call their office and let them know. It's likely that they'll want to schedule an evaluation and some bloodwork to see if they can identify any immediate problems. It is rule of thumb that an animal can have one seizure a month without alarm
Oftentimes however, the root cause of seizures is not identified, unless you can link it directly to a specific event, like the ingestion of poison or a head injury as noted above. Chances are, you'll be told that the condition is idiopathic epilepsy, idiopathic meaning it's a disease of unknown origin. The most common result for bostons.
If your dog has back-to-back seizure episodes, more than one seizure in 24 hours, or any single seizure lasting longer than 4-5 minutes, get to the vet ASAP. This is an emergent situation in which your dog may need special care to prevent long-term damage. If your dogs has more than one seizure in a 30 day period see your vet.
Will my dog be OK?
Chances are, Yes. Some dogs live many years, even a great portion of their lives, with some type of seizure disorder. There are a great many medications available to minimize, and sometimes almost eliminate, the frequency of seizures.
MORE TO COME - In next month's newsletter...
We'll talk in more detail about the stages of a seizure episode, different types of seizures, what you can do as a pet parent to help your vet help your pet, available medications and treatments to alleviate seizures, and when to consider seeking out the advice of a veterinary specialist.