A seizure is a temporary and involuntary disturbance in proper brain functioning and is often called as convulsions or fits. Dog Seizures generally accompany involuntary muscle movements which can be dangerous for dogs since it leads to fuzzy vision, uncontrolled muscle movements etc.
Generally, seizures happen when there is a change in brain function from one activity to another activity like at the start of playing, resting, eating etc.
Epilepsy is repeated episodes of seizures that are either predictable or unpredictable in nature. Epilepsy seizures can happen as a single episode or in the cluster (multiple seizures one after another).
What are the Causes of Dog Seizures?
There can be multiple reasons for dog seizures but following are well known causes:
- Head Trauma
- Brain Cancer
- Kidney Disease
- Liver Disease
- Hereditary – Genetic abnormality
- Low or High Sugar
Phases of Dog Seizures?
A Seizure can be divided into 3 phases:
1) Pre-ictal Phase (aura), is a phase in which a dog can sense something is wrong is shows signs of anxiety-like hide, find his owner, salivate a lot, whining, shaking etc. This phase can last for seconds to hours and it preceded the seizure activity phase.
2) Ictal phase, is a phase in which dog starts showing physical signs of seizure. The signs can be as mild as involuntary shaking, looking at one spot only, licking lips to as strong as fuzzy or no vision, loss of consciousness, muscle spasms all across the body, dog falling on the ground and paddling in air. Urination and Defecation can happen during a seizure. This phase can last few seconds to few minutes, sometimes it goes on from more than 5 minutes and is called status epilepticus or a prolonged seizure. If the dog is in epilepticus phase then the dog parent should contact the doctor immediately and seek help since prolonged seizure can lead to brain damage and hypothermia which can be fatal.
3) Post-ictal phase, is a phase after a seizure activity phase. In this phase, the dog generally experiences confusion, disorientation, salivation, and restlessness. This phase may last from few seconds to few minutes before the dog returns to normalcy.
What are Dog Seizures Symptoms?
Following are the symptoms of dog seizure:
- Licking Lips
- Foaming from mouth
- Paddling in air
- Spasms across body
- Blurry or no vision
- Loss of motor skills or banging on things.
- Catching an invisible thing or chasing his tail
- Staring at a spot
What are Dog Seizures Types?
There are 4 types of seizure in dogs:
- Grand Mal Seizure: This is the most common type of seizures in dogs. In this there is abnormal brain activity throughout the brain. In this type of seizure dog can lose balance and can lose vision till the seizure lasts. This type of seizure can last for few seconds to few minutes.
- Focal Seizure: In this seizure, the abnormal brain function happens in one side of the brain and the signs of seizure generally shows on one side of the body only i.e shaking in one side of body only.This type of seizure can last for few seconds to few minutes. A focal seizure can turn into a grand mal seizure in some cases.
- Psychomotor Seizure: In this seizure, the dog will behave abnormally and might chase an imaginary object or start chasing his tail. It might be difficult to differentiate a funny behavior to a seizure though. This type of seizure can last for few seconds to few minutes.
- Ideopathic Seizures: Seizure are genetically inherited and do not have any cause like dead trauma, poisoning etc. Symptoms of ideopathic seizure can be same as any other seizure and can last till few minutes. Border collies, Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Beagles, Belgian Tervurens, Collies, and German shepherds are the breeds who are prone to have ideopathic seizures.
What should you do if your dog is having a seizure?
Following are the things you should do when your dog is having seizure:
- Remain Calm. Your dog is not in pain since seizure are not painful.
- Time the seizure, if the seizure continues till 5 min or more then it will require emergency help from vet.
- If the seizure ends in 3-5 mins then you should apply cold towel on the neck, back and groin of dog since he might be having hypothermia due to excessive muscle spasms.
- Dogs don’t swallow their tongues during seizure. Keep dog aways from tables, stairs and other areas which can cause injury to dog during seizure. Do not put hand or any object in dog mouth, it might harm the dog and you both.
- Film the seizure for the doctor to view it later.
- Always call the doctor after the seizure episode even if your dog is acting normally now.
- During seizure keep your dog on floor so that chances of your dog injuring himself during a seizure is minimised.
- If more than one seizure happens within 24 hours then you consult a doctor since your dog is having cluster seizures and needs immediate vet help.
How to Diagnose Dog seizures?
If your dog has more than one seizure in a month then the doctor will order for diagnostic evaluations. The doctor will initially try to understand immediate history prior to seizure episodes to rule out external triggers of seizure. Some of the reasons can be:
- Low or High Blood Sugar
- Poisoning i.e xylitol
- Head Trauma
- Liver Health
- Kidney Health
If everything comeout fine then the doctor will ask for an MRI scan to check the structure of brain and check for abnormality in it.
In serious cases, liquid from the spinal cord (lumbar puncture) to detect abnormality in the brain which is causing seizures. In lumbar puncture procedure, fluid surrounding the spinal cord is withdrawn with a needle and examined in a lab.
If nothing is identified then it has to be put in an Ideopathic Seizure category which are due to genetic abnormality and seizure management is generally the way to manage seizures.
How to prevent dog seizures?
In order to prevent seizures you need to eliminate external triggers for dog seizures:
- Keep a check om low or high blood sugar.
- Remove poisonous items from dog reach.
- Protect your dog from head trauma, ask vet to review head trauma if already had.
- Keep a check on liver functioning
- Keep a check on kidney functioning.
- Inform a vet if you see a seizure happening in your dog.
What is the Treatment for Seizures in Dogs?
The vet will conduct diagnostic tests and figure out the root cause of seizures. Post diagnoses the vet will prescribe the treatment to solve underlying condition and seizure management procedure.