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SEIZURES: What it looks like and what you can do when a doctor is not available

There are different types of seizures and different causes. Generalized/Grand mal seizures are the most common. They are also, without a doubt, the most difficult to watch. However, if you understand that generalized seizures present themselves rather predictably, then you can see the signs coming and be a little more prepared.

Common Symptoms include:

  • Excessive drooling

  • Signs of being uncomfortable or needy

  • Stumbling

  • Twitching

  • Urinating/defecating

  • Muscle spasms

  • Rigidity

  • Uncontrollable chewing motion

  • Vocalizing

Dog in midst of a seizure. Disturbing, but important to watch.

While what you can do as a pet parent is limited, there are a few things that will make it easier for you and your pet. The first thing you do is stay calm. Panic only serves to restrict your ability to help your dog. Next, you make sure that your pet cannot accidentally hurt herself by moving her away from other objects. Stay away from the mouth as a dog in seizure may snap the mouth open and closed as part of the seizure activity and you may be bitten.

If possible, remove other animals from the room. Dogs will sometimes attack what they don't understand, so for your safety as well as the dog's, keep the other animals away.

Sometimes the pet will stop breathing for a few seconds or may show labored breathing. Your job is to keep the pet as calm as possible and let the brain reset itself. (Another reason you should remain calm is to keep your pet as calm as possible) A generalized/grand mal seizure will last for at least 2 minutes, sometimes more. One concern with a prolonged seizure is the sudden increase in body temperature. The temperature should not exceed 103 degrees in a canine. Keep in mind that dogs release heat by panting and during a seizure, this is not possible. Therefore, the only option for heat release is through the paw pads. This is where dogs sweat.

If you have access to rubbing alcohol, take a wash cloth saturated with it, and rub the paw pads. This helps drop the temperature. If no rubbing alcohol is available, use cold water. Running a fan on the pet also helps.

As the dog recovers, it is not unusual for her to be uncoordinated and exhausted. Keep your pet in a quiet place to recover where you can watch for any further seizure activity. It can take a pet a couple of days to fully recoup, so if your dog needs to rest, let her do so.

Other types of seizures also occur and do not present as a grand mal. A focal motor or partial seizure may be localized to one part of the body and the twitching limited. This is usually caused by a lesion, scar, or abscess on the brain. Both types of seizures should be reported to your vet.

There are other reasons for seizures and seizure-like activity.

  • A whelping female, for instance, can have a drop in calcium after giving birth, which triggers the seizures.

  • Hypoglycemia is a sudden drop in blood sugar common among tea cup breeds (Yorkies/Chihuahuas/Maltese)

  • Poison can reveal itself in muscle twitching and drooling

  • Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. One symptom may be seizures.

Whatever the cause of the seizure, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. The vet will assess the dog and look for the cause of the seizure. Additional vet procedures may be necessary, particularly if the dogs is not recovering well from the seizure. If no other cause is found, a vet may wait until the 3rd seizure to diagnose the dog as an epileptic.

Epilepsy is a disorder characterizes by recurrent seizures without a known cause such as a brain lesion. We do know that epilepsy is generic and familial because it is most commonly found in the following breeds:

For some reason epilepsy is rare in cats.

An epilepsy diagnosis is made by ruling out everything else. Diagnostic tests that can be done include blood and urine tests, and x-rays. Additional tests may include bile acids, cerebrospinal fluid testing, CT and/or MRI. However, when budget is an issue, many vets will simply begin the pet on a anti-convulsant, such as phenobarbital, after more than one seizure occurs. The pet parent will monitor and report any further seizure activity.

The good news is that epilepsy is generally inexpensive to treat and you can still have many happy years with your dog.

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