Dog Seizures and How to Handle Them

Dog Seizures and How to Handle Them

Author WDF Staff


There are a few events as shocking as witnessing for the first time your dog having a seizure. Your blood immediately freezes, and if you are not a vet, you probably have no idea what to do. The worst thing is probably the feeling of not being able to help your dog. Dog seizures are scary, but before you start to panic, there are some things you should know about them.

What are exactly dog seizures?

Dog seizures are the most common neurological condition that prevents normal brain function and causes abnormal muscle activity. Seizures can be called convulsions or fits, and they are temporary and involuntary.

What causes a dog to have seizures?

We need to make one thing clear first; a seizure is a sign or a symptom - it is not a disease. They point out that something out of the ordinary is happening in your dog’s body, and you should look for a vet’s assistance.

Dog seizures can be caused by several different reasons. Here is a short list of the most common reasons dogs can start having seizures;

  • Epilepsy - This is the most common reason dogs have this problem. Vets are not entirely sure why or how dog epilepsy starts, but some evidence shows it might be genetic.
  • Liver disease - Some liver issues can cause them. If left untreated, liver issues can lead to coma and death.
  • Kidney disease - Improper kidney functions can cause a dog to have seizures.
  • Anemia - Lack of oxygen to the brain can cause a dog to have convulsions.
  • Blood sugar - Low or high blood sugar can cause convulsions. Make sure to check your dog’s blood sugar levels.
  • Poison - Exposure to different toxins and poisons can cause a dog to have a seizure. Things like insecticides, xylitol, alcohol, or cannabis can cause them.
  • Electrolyte disturbance - Improper electrolyte levels can mess with brain functions and cause convulsions.
  • Head trauma - A direct trauma to the head or a concussion can make a dog’s brain swell and cause a seizure.
  • Encephalitis - Encephalitis is a disease that can be described as “brain swelling,” and it can cause seizures. Ticks carry this disease.
  • Stroke - Strokes will cause several problems like blindness, weakness, paralysis, or convulsions. Strokes are far less often in pets than they are in humans.

bulldog laying

How to recognize a seizure? What does it look like?

There is some good news about dog seizures; they are usually far worse for us, witnessing owners than dogs. Most of them recover very quickly, and the bigger stress for us happens from not knowing what is going on and worrying about our dog.

Some dog seizures are easier to spot. In the case of Grand Mal seizures, the whole body will go into a convulsion, and the dog will shake and spasm uncontrollably. They will fall on one side or their back, and their legs will move and shake. This is pretty straightforward, and there is little to no confusion about these types of dog seizures.

Other types might be a bit harder to spot. The milder convulsions can be localized. A dog might start barking uncontrollably and in a way that is unusual for them. They can have a facial tremor or some sort of rhythmic movement.

You can learn more about dog epilepsy here - Epilepsy in dogs.

How dangerous are seizures in dogs?

Dog seizures look a lot worse than they actually are. Most dogs will recover from them quickly, and there is no pain for them. The most significant danger comes from convulsions happening at the wrong time. If your dog is in the street or close to furniture, they can get hurt while experiencing an episode.

puppy sleeping

What should I do if my dog has seizures?

AS an owner of a dog with seizures, you should know how to act and react to it. We are aware that this can be pretty scary, but keep in mind that your dog is not conscious and doesn’t feel any pain. Here are some things you could do if you see your dog having a seizure;

Stay Calm

We know that is easier said than done, but try to remain calm. As we said, your dog is not in pain, nor are they conscious. It will pass, and you should try to remember as many details as you can.

Mind the time

The exact length of a seizure could tell your vet vital information about seizures your dog is experiencing. It can point them in the right direction and reveal the underlying condition that might be causing them. If there is someone else with you while your dog is spasming, ask them to film the convulsion so you can show it to your vet.

Watch the fingers

There is a popular belief that dogs might swallow their tongues while having a seizure. That is wrong. Do not try and grab their tongue or put anything in their mouth while they are having a seizure; the only thing you are doing is risking losing a finger.

Keep them safe

Your dog can get hurt if they are near the stairs or furniture. Heavy objects can fall on them, or they can hit their heads. Make sure to keep them away from dangers and put something soft under their heads. You can pet them until they regain consciousness.

Keep them cool

Muscle spasms that occur during a seizure produce a lot of heat. If they last more than 2 or 3 minutes, you can give your dog vet towels or spray them with water. Make sure they don’t get heatstroke while they are having convulsions. Be prepared to take your dog to the vet after the episode finishes.

Contact your vet

No matter how big or small the seizure might have been, make sure you call your vet and notify them about what happened. Do that even if your dog acts normal after it.

Keep notes

You should start keeping notes about the date, length, and time of seizures. Gather as much information as you can to help your vet treat your dog.

Two or more seizures

If your dog experienced two or more seizures in less than 24 hours, take them to the vet immediately. They are having cluster seizures, and that needs to be treated as a medical emergency. Check out this map for more information about emergency clinics - Emergency vet near me.

World Dog Finder team

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