Seizures in Dogs, Convulsions and Epilepsy
Anyone who has ever witnessed a dog having a seizure will know how deeply distressing it is. The first time it happened to me was whilst I was fostering a homeless dog and I can honestly say I have never felt so helpless. (More of that later)
It is important to point out that once a diagnosis of epilepsy has been made and the correct medication prescribed, the dog can usually enjoy a normal, happy life.
What does a dog seizure look like?
Grand Mal Seizures
A Grand Mal seizure affects both sides of the brain and the whole body. The dog will fall on to the ground and become stiff, sometimes the dog will lose consciousness. All limbs will twitch and it looks like the dog is treading water. It is common for the dog to salivate and froth, some can be very vocal. The dog often loses control of his/her bladder and in some cases bowels too. A dog seizure lasts for one to two minutes. When the convulsion is over the dog will be disorientated and extremely fatigued. He/she will probably need an extra meal and thirst will increase too.
A dog may experience a Grand Mal seizure while he sleeps. It is important to leave the dog alone during a seizure, he is not experiencing pain and you may get bitten accidentally.
Contact the vet if the seizure continues for longer than five minutes.
Signals to Lookout For Before a Dog has a Seizure
Before a seizure occurs the dog may appear to be restless, scared or stressed. He may go off to find a safe place or demand more attention than usual. There is nothing you can do if you spot the warning signs apart from lead the dog to a safe area, away from furniture etc and stay calm.
What is epilepsy?
A neurological disorder that causes dogs to have sudden, uncontrolled and recurring seizures.
Which breeds are most Affected?
In some breeds, epilepsy is more common. These include Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Beagles, Vizsla and Shetland Sheepdogs.
Epilepsy can be genetic or caused by trauma, brain tumours or exposure to toxins. There can be many other causes which are less common.
What will the vet do?
A vet will want to know if the seizure has happened before. Blood tests will be done and the liver and kidneys checked out. If the dog goes on medication he will need to be closely monitored so that the correct dosage is given.
It may be advised that a diary is kept to record the severity and length of the seizures, It is a good idea to record the seizure to show the vet exactly what happens.
My Personal Experience of Canine Epilepsy
Uri was a young Jack Russell who was picked up as a stray and came to be fostered and assessed for rehoming. He was painfully thin (you can see how underweight he was in the photo below) he was hyper and known at the kennels as a bit of an escape artist
He had been with us for a few days and luckily hadn’t managed to escape. So, it was off to the vets for the snip, a requirement before he could be rehomed.
Not long after we dropped him off the vet rang to say that Uri had a reaction to the anaesthetic and had gone into a prolonged seizure which he was trying to control but they had almost lost the little Jack Russell.
Huge questions came to mind.
Was Uri suffering from epilepsy before the operation? This could be why he had been left homeless. Or, did he react badly to the anaesthetic?
Eventually the vet said that his condition had stabilised and we set off to collect him
We bought Uri home, still fitting every few hours and heavily medicated. It was heartbreaking to watch, we couldn’t do anything but make sure he didn’t hurt himself and be there to comfort him when he came round. His eyes were full of bewilderment and shock. Where was the dog who had been scaling six-foot walls a few days ago? Eventually, the fits were less frequent and the vet was able to reduce his medication.
After a week Uri was back to his old self, he wasn’t going to let epilepsy get him down.
Uri was with me for nine months until a lovely couple offered him a home. They understood that Uri would need to be on medication for the rest of his life, he would need routine and to be kept away from stressful situations. The adopted parents also understood that regular blood tests would need to be done to see if the dosage prescribed was adequate.
Just to prove that dogs with epilepsy can go on to lead happy lives, here are a few photos sent to me by his new family.