What Causes Seizures In Dogs? Symptoms And Treatment

Has your dog fallen to the floor and started having a seizure, but you have no idea why? This can be a traumatizing experience for both you and your dog; however, knowing the possible causes of seizures is an excellent starting point to help your dog and potentially remove the trigger.

Seizures are the most common neurological condition experienced by dogs. They are caused by varying factors, including stress, liver disease, head trauma, and epilepsy. Other causes of seizures are toxins and your dog’s genetics.

We will be discussing these causes in greater detail, along with their symptoms and possible treatment for your dog when they experience a seizure.

What Can Trigger A Seizure In A Dog?

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Stress

Like us, dogs experience stress due to various reasons. Fatigue is a common physical stressor experienced by dogs, which causes them to have seizures. This often occurs when your dog’s body alternates between its wake and sleep cycle at night or in the morning.

Dogs are highly photosensitive, hence a seizure could be triggered by camera flashes, lightning, or even bright television lights. Other causes of stress include separation anxietysudden routine changes, and thunderstorms.

Common signs to identify whether your dog is stressed or not, include growlingshakingexcessive drooling, and pacing.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological condition commonly associated with the recurrence of seizures There are three different categories of epilepsy which include symptomatic epilepsy, idiopathic epilepsy, and epilepsy with unknown causes.

Symptomatic epilepsy, also known as structural epilepsy, is caused by damage to the brain. The damage to the brain changes the structure of your dog’s brain, which results in abnormal neurological functions such as seizures.

Idiopathic epilepsy is considered to be an inherited form of epilepsy. Dogs who are affected by idiopathic epilepsy would not have any brain structural abnormalities. Therefore, idiopathic epilepsy has no identifiable cause and is categorized as a hereditary condition.

Cases of epilepsy with unknown causes are not hereditary and are commonly considered to have a structural cause. However, researchers have not been able to pinpoint the structural cause yet.

Common symptoms of epilepsy are stiff muscles, excessive drooling, convulsions, fainting, and biting.

Head Trauma

Head trauma occurs when your dog sustains a serious knock to the head. The impact causes damage not only to your dog’s skull but also their brain, which can be fatal if not treated accordingly.

Brain swelling caused by head trauma often leads to seizures and epilepsy. Epilepsy resulting from head trauma can be categorized as structural epilepsy.

The symptoms of head trauma include ear and nose bleeding, lethargy, paralysis, dilating pupils, fainting, and seizures. When your dog sustains a serious knock to the head, you should take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible so that they can be examined.

Toxins

Dog toxins include certain food items that we regularly eat and enjoy, certain medications, and insecticides. These toxin food items and substances can have varying consequences, such as upset stomachs, general discomfort, seizures, or even death.

Toxins that can cause your dog to have seizures include caffeine, xylitol, dark chocolate, ethanol, and mushrooms. Toxic medication includes metronidazole, ibuprofen, phenylbutazone, and amphetamines.

You should always keep these substances and food items away from your dog. However, it may be difficult to constantly monitor your dog’s actions, so here are some symptoms to look out for: seizures, vomiting, heaving, diarrhea, and excessive drooling.

High Blood Sugar Levels

If your dog’s blood sugar levels exceed the normal range of 75 mg to 120 mg, they will be diagnosed with high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can have various causes, such as diabetes, pancreatitis, or simply eating something that is excessively sweet.

Temporary cases of high blood sugar levels typically do not cause serious symptoms because sugar levels generally fluctuate, however, if your dog’s blood sugar level is a more permanent case, your dog will exhibit various symptoms which include seizures.

Other symptoms of high blood sugar levels include hyperactivity, cataracts, extreme weight fluctuations, urinary tract infections, increased appetite, and red eyes.

Liver Disease

The liver is responsible for digestion and removing toxins from the body. When your dog has liver disease, the liver’s functionality is impaired which means that it will have an impact on more than just the liver.

Liver disease can have natural causes such as aging, but it can also be induced by infections in the area, ingestion of some herbs or plants, heartworms, and diabetes. The symptoms of liver disease include seizures, loss of appetite, vomiting, ascites, and confusion.

Depending on its cause, liver disease can be treated by changing your dog’s diet and ensuring that they consume all the nutrients that they need. It can also be treated through antibiotics or surgery.

What Is The Treatment For Seizures?

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Seizures tend to shorten your dog’s lifespan. For dogs suffering from epilepsy, it is reported that 40% to 60% of them with epileptic episodes have an average lifespan of 8 years. On the other hand, for dogs suffering from epilepsy but without any epileptic episodes, their average lifespan stands at 11 years.

However, you can ensure that your dog lives as long and as happily as possible by changing their diet, introducing supplements to their regiment, and ensuring that they take their anti-epileptic medication.

Diet Change

The food that your dog eats does affect the frequency of their seizures. Their diet also affects how well effective their medication is. Your veterinarian will prescribe a diet that is suited for your dog.

However, you should not change your dog’s diet too suddenly. A sudden diet change can cause stress and result in further seizures. You should gradually ease your dog into their new diet to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by the sudden change.

Supplements

Some veterinarians recommend introducing supplements such as vitamin E melatonin, and taurine to your dog’s diet. These supplements are believed to reduce the frequency of seizures and boost your dog’s overall health.

However, you should consult your veterinarian before adding these supplements to your dog’s diet.

Anti-Epileptic Drugs

If your dog’s seizures are a result of epilepsy, then your veterinarian may prescribe anti-epileptic drugs. The most common anti-epileptic drugs are potassium bromide and phenobarbital. These drugs aim to reduce the frequency and severity of your dog’s seizures.

Potassium bromide is often prescribed to dogs who are unresponsive to phenobarbital. It can also be prescribed along with phenobarbital to be taken in conjunction by some dogs.

Although anti-epileptic drugs are an effective way to treat seizures, they do come with side effects. These side effects include weakness, vomiting, lethargy, drooling, weight fluctuations, and overall behavioral changes.

Fortunately, these side effects tend to last for a few weeks, thereafter your dog should feel better. If the side effects persist, you should consult your veterinarian.

What To Do If Your Dog Has A Seizure?

The most important thing to do when your dog is having a seizure is to remain calm. You should time their seizure and get hold of your veterinarian if it is your dog’s first seizure or their seizure lasts longer than 2 minutes.

Remain Calm

A seizure can be as terrifying for you as it is for your dog. However, if you panic at the moment, your dog will also panic and will simply worsen the situation. You need to remain calm so that your dog can also remain calm.

Sit Close To Your Dog

Sit close to your do while they are having a seizure so that they feel safe. However, you should not pet your dog because your dog may bite you or lash out while they are having a seizure. Your dog may they come to, having you there will make them feel at ease.

Simply sitting close, but not too close, to your dog is an excellent form of emotional support and reassurance that they need at the moment.

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Keep Track Of The Seizures Duration

You should try to time the duration of your dog’s seizure. Knowing the duration is crucial in determining the severity of the situation. If you can use a stopwatch, that would be ideal but simply taking note of the clock can also work.

If your dog’s seizure lasts less than 2 minutes, then the situation is not severe. If their seizure lasts between 2 to 5 minutes, you should call your veterinarian. However, if your dog’s seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, you should get them immediate medical attention.

Move Hazardous Objects

If your dog starts to have a seizure in a hazardous area such as near stairs, you should carefully place something to prevent them from falling down the stairs.

It is typically not a great idea to touch your dog while they are having a seizure, so you should move any hazardous objects away from your dog to prevent them from hurting themselves while they are panicking.

Verbally Comfort Your Dog

Speak in low tones to comfort your dog. Do not cause any loud noise or distractions, because that can cause your dog to panic and worsen the situation. If your dog does not react well to your voice, you should silently watch over them while they are having their seizure.

Call Your Veterinarian

If your dog’s seizure lasts longer than it usually does, or it is their first seizure, you should call your veterinarian as soon as possible. If your dog remains untreated, it may suffer brain damage and in severe cases, it may die.

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Pete Decker