Seizures in dogs can be caused by a number of underlying conditions from heat exhaustion to epilepsy. In today's blog, our Seattle vets share some reasons why dogs have seizures, and what you should do if your dog has a seizure.
Seizures & Your Dog
Witnessing your dog having a seizure can be very distressing for many pet parents. That said, knowing the causes of the seizure and what to do if your dog does have a seizure may help to make the situation a little less stressful.
A seizure can take many forms, and some are more easily recognizable than others. If your dog is having a seizure you may notice muscle twitching or uncontrolled jerking movements, but a seizure could also include a loss of consciousness, drooling, or unusual eye-rolling movements. Psychomotor seizures in dogs may take the form of strange behaviors that only lasts a couple of minutes such as barking at an imaginary object, snapping at the air, or chasing their tail.
Causes of Seizures in Dogs
Seizures occur due to faulty electrical activity in your dog's brain which results in a loss of control over their body. This is the case regardless of what triggers the seizure in your dog's brain. Possible seizure triggers or underlying conditions include:
- Ingested poisons such as caffeine, chocolate
- Nutritional imbalances such as thiamine deficiency
- Low blood sugar levels
- Liver disease.
- An injury to the dog's head (such as a road accident)
- Heat Exhaustion
- Infectious diseases (canine distemper virus infection and rabies)
Dogs That Face an Increased Risk of Seizures
Because senior dogs are more likely to have many of the underlying health conditions listed above, older dogs are more at risk of seizures than younger dogs. Any breed of dog can experience seizures, although some breeds do appear to face an increased risk of having a seizure during their lifetime. Below are some of the breeds that may have a predisposition to seizures:
- Bull Terriers can suffer from an inherited form of epilepsy which causes behaviors such as tail chasing, irrational fear, and unprovoked aggression.
- Large herding and retriever dogs may be prone to seizures, including German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, as well as Labrador and Golden Retrievers.
- Herding dogs with the MDR1 gene commonly experience seizures. These breeds include Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, Longhaired Whippets, as well as Old English and Shetland Sheepdogs.
- Breeds with short, flat noses such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, and English Bulldogs can also be more prone to experiencing seizures.
When To Call A Vet
Call your vet immediately if there is a chance that your dog is having a seizure due to poisoning, if your dog's seizure lasts longer than 3 minutes, or if your dog has more than one seizure in a row.
When it comes to the question of whether a seizure can kill a dog, most seizures are short, lasting less than 3 minutes and with proper treatment, the pet can lead a normal life. However, seizures can be a serious health concern and even short seizures could cause brain damage. If your dog suffers a seizure that continues for more than 30 minutes serious permanent brain damage could occur.
If your dog has a brief seizure then quickly recovers contact your vet to let them know. Your vet may suggest that you bring your dog in for an examination or they may simply make a note in your dog's records and ask you to bring your dog in for an examination if it happens again. Some dogs will have an unexplained ‘one off’ seizure, while other dogs continue to have seizures throughout their life due to epilepsy or illness.
Treatment for Seizures In Dogs
If your dog is experiencing seizures, treatment will depend upon the underlying cause. Your vet will run a number of tests to determine the cause of your dog's seizures, if no cause can be found the disease will be diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. Once your dog's seizures have been diagnosed your vet will work with you to determine the best treatment for your dog's seizures which may include medications or keeping a seizure diary.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.