FAQ About Causes of Seizures in Dogs: Questions and Answers
Many times when people hear “seizures in dogs” they automatically think of epilepsy. However, dogs can have seizures for many other reasons. Epilepsy is only one cause of seizures. Here are some frequently asked questions about seizures.
Will my dog die from a seizure?
No. Seizures do not kill dogs. Seizures look very frightening to an owner, and they are not enjoyable for your dog. However, your dog’s life is not at risk during a normal seizure, such as a partial seizure, a petit seizure, or a grand mal seizure. If your dog goes into Status, where he is having one grand mal seizure after another, you should call your veterinarian right away to get help, but your vet should be able to take care of your dog.
What kinds of seizures are there?
There are four kinds of seizures. They are the partial seizure, which affects only one area of your dog’s body; generalized seizures such as the petit mal seizure, which may cause your dog to collapse; and the grand mal seizure which usually causes uncontrollable movement in your dog, drooling, kicking and paddling legs, and your dog may urinate and defecate without knowing it. The fourth kind of seizure is called Status Epilepticus or Status and it occurs when grand mal seizures occur one after the other without your dog having time to recover.
What causes seizures in dogs?
Seizures can be caused by any number of conditions ranging from congenital defects to fevers, from toxins and medications to a brain tumor.
- Congenital defect
- Low oxygen levels due to problems breathing, heart problems, or anemia
- Blood glucose levels that are too high as in diabetes mellitus, or too low as in hypoglycemia
- Kidney problems
- Liver problems
- Brain damage from trauma or poor blood flow
- Brain tumors
- Infections as with canine distemper
- Fevers and hyperthermia
- Some medications
- Poisons such as antifreeze, chocolate, or lead
- Low calcium levels in nursing females (eclampsia)
- Epilepsy (primary or idiopathic)
What should I do if my dog has a seizure?
If your dog has a seizure you should make sure that he is lying comfortably on the floor. Remove any hard or sharp objects that he could hurt himself on. Clear children and pets out of the room. Place a pillow or rug under your dog’s head. Then keep clear of your dog’s mouth and head. Your dog may not be aware of his surroundings or you and he could accidentally bite you. Observe him carefully during the seizure. See if his entire body is effected, how long the seizure lasts, and other details in case you need to describe the event to your vet. If your dog has a single seizure that lasts for less than three minutes it is not usually necessary to call the vet, though you can if it will make you feel better to discuss it. However, if your dog has more than one seizure you should make an appointment to see your veterinarian.
Can seizures be treated?
Yes, there is treatment, depending on the cause of the seizures. For instance, if your dog is having seizures due to kidney or liver disease, then treating the disease can help the seizures. If your dog has been poisoned by antifreeze, then emergency treatment for antifreeze poisoning will help the seizures and save your dog’s life.
If your dog does have epilepsy there is also treatment, though it is not curative. The treatment can reduce the frequency, severity and the duration of the seizures. Your vet may need to try several different medications before finding one that works well for your dog. Drugs commonly used to treat epilepsy in dogs are phenobarbital and potassium bromide (KBr).
Will my dog live a normal life if he has seizures?
Yes, your dog should be able to live a normal life if he has seizures. There are many different causes of seizures in dogs and many of them can be eliminated when the cause of the seizure is treated. In other cases your dog may have an occasional seizure that is controlled with medication. Your dog may need to take medication on a daily basis, but his quality of life will be as it was before he started having seizures. He should be able to live a normal life as your pet, just like any other dog.