why do dogs have seizures

Why Do Dogs Have Seizures?

Reviewed by Erica L. Tramuta-Drobnis, VMD, MPH, CPH

Have you ever wondered why do dogs have seizures? There are many reasons that can cause dog seizures. 

Dog seizures can be stressful for pet owners. However, if you are aware of the causes and what you can do if your dog has a seizure. 

You may be able to help your dog safely recover, and make the situation less alarming.  

Seizures are caused by abnormal, uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in the brain, which affect their appearance and behavior. 

In addition, they might seem as a twitch or uncontrollable shaking and last anywhere from a few seconds to many minutes.

It’s important to contact your veterinarian, if your dog appears to be experiencing a seizure.

Types of seizures include generalized seizures and focal seizures. Generalized seizures also known as grand mal seizures are the most common type.

In a generalized seizure, abnormal electrical activity happens throughout the brain, and lasts between seconds and a few minutes.

However, in a focal seizure, abnormal electrical activity happens in only part of the brain, and can cause abnormal movements in one limb or one side of the body.

Causes of Seizures in Dogs

why do dogs have seizures

There are different causes of seizures in dogs. The most common cause is idiopathic epilepsy, which is a type of epilepsy that occurs for no apparent reason, and may be due to genetics. 

Other causes of seizures in dogs include:

  • Poison ingestion like chocolate or caffeine 
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Low or high blood sugar levels
  • Anemia
  • Injuries to the head like car accidents 
  • Exhaustion due to heat
  • Tumors
  • Diabetes
  • Canine distemper virus infection (CDV) or rabies
  • Heartworms

Signs of Seizures in Dogs

why do dogs have seizures

Signs of seizures in dogs include collapsing, jerking, stiffening, muscular twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, tongue chewing, or foaming at the mouth. 

Additionally, the dog may fall to the side and paddle with their legs. During the seizure, they may poop or pee. They’re also oblivious to what’s going on around them.

Before a seizure, some dogs may appear disoriented, confused, or stare off into space. After the seizure, your dog may become dizzy, unsteady, or momentarily blind. 

They may walk in circles and hit objects. They could be drooling heavily on their chin, and they may try to hide themselves.

What to Do if Your Dog is Having a Seizure

why do dogs have seizures

The first thing to do if your dog is having a seizure is to stay calm, and monitor the duration of the seizure, and if possible record a video to show to your vet later. 

In addition, keep your dog safe while having a seizure by keeping them away from stairs.

You can add a cushion to his head, and gently hold and comfort him until they begin to recover. 

Seizures that last longer than 2-3 minutes might cause the dog’s body temperature to rise.

In order to decrease your dog’s temperature, you can apply cold water or a damp cloth on their body.

Seizures can be a major health problem, and even brief seizures can result in brain damage.

Even if your dog seems to be acting normally after a seizure, it’s always best to call your veterinarian or emergency veterinarian.

Finally, always document your dog’s seizures to keep track of the date, time, and length.

This will help your veterinarian to identify if there is a pattern to your dog’s seizures.

Treatment of Seizures in Dogs

why do dogs have seizures

Treatment of seizures in dogs is determined by the underlying cause. Your veterinarian will perform a series of tests to identify the reason for your dog’s seizures.

If none is discovered, the disease will be labeled as idiopathic epilepsy.

Once your dog is diagnosed, your veterinarian will recommend the best treatment, which may involve anti seizure medications.

When to See a Veterinarian

why do dogs have seizures

If your dog is having a seizure due to poisoning, or if the seizure lasts longer than 3 minutes, you should call your vet immediately.  

Some dogs experience cluster seizures. These occur when a dog has more than one seizure in a 24-hour period.

This needs emergency veterinary assistance, and you must take your dog to a veterinarian for a checkup as soon as possible.

Even if your dog has a brief seizure that is less than one minute, and appears normal after, you should call your veterinarian to advise you on what to do next. 

Your veterinarian may recommend that you bring your dog in for an examination, or they may just add a note in your dog’s medical records and advise you to bring your dog in for an evaluation if it occurs again.

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