Seizures In Dogs: Reasons Why Dogs Have Seizures
Seizures in dogs can occur for many reasons. It’s not always clear why a dog may have a seizure. In some cases a seizure may be a one-time event or it may recur. Epilepsy is always a possibility, but there are other possible causes. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why dogs have seizures.
Conditions That Cause Seizures
Seizures in dogs may be caused by many things, including other health problems. Your dog may have a seizure due to conditions such as the following:
- 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)
Kinds of Seizures
Dogs can have different kinds of seizures. A partial seizure only affects a small part of the body or just one side of the dog’s body. These seizures may be caused by a brain lesion.
A generalized seizure affects the dog’s entire body. There are two kinds of generalized seizures: the grand mal and the petit mal (petty mal). Grand mal seizures occur more frequently. If a dog has a grand mal seizure he will typically fall over onto his side and have uncontrollable muscle activity. You can expect him to kick his legs as though he’s swimming or paddling. He will salivate profusely. He may urinate and defecate involuntarily since he does not control his bodily functions with this seizure. The dog will be unaware of you, his actions, or of his surroundings.
A petit mal seizure is less dramatic. The dog does not have convulsions. He will lose consciousness. He may appear to simply collapse.
The last, and most serious form of seizure is called Status Epilepticus” or “Status.” These are seizures in which the dog has one grand mal seizure after another. He does not recover from the first one before another one begins. The dog may be in a state of seizure for hours. Seizures are not normally life-threatening unless they reach the Status state. In this case, you should get veterinary help for your dog immediately.
Phases Of A Seizure
There are typically three phases to a seizure:
Pre-Seizure: The pre-seizure phase is known as the “aura.” During this time your dog can appear restless. He may pace, look for affection, drool, whine, or hide. This phase usually occurs just a few minutes before the seizure strikes.
Ictus: The ictus is the period of the seizure. During this time your dog may have uncontrolled muscle activity. He may seem excited, he may vomit or drool; he may run in circles, or he may collapse. The ictus usually lasts for five minutes or less.
Post-Ictal: The recovery period is known as the post-ictal phase. Your dog may seem disoriented and uncoordinated. He may be temporarily blind. This period can last from a few minutes to a few days.
What Causes A Seizure?
It is not known what actually triggers a seizure in dogs, however many times a seizure seems to occur when a dog becomes excited, such as when playing. Other dogs have had seizures while sleeping. In humans seizures may be triggered by many things such as alcohol consumption (unlikely in a dog), hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, flashing lights, and stress. Changes to your dog’s routine could be a possible trigger.
During A Seizure
Dogs rarely become aggressive during a seizure. Quite the opposite is true. Most dogs will seek out their owner for comfort before a seizure. However, during the seizure a dog may not be aware of you or his surroundings so it is possible that a dog could accidentally bite you. It doesn’t do much good to try to comfort or soothe your dog when he is going through the actual seizure. You should make sure that he is lying down, away from anything hard or sharp, so he won’t hurt himself. If he is on a sofa or bed you should place him in the floor so he can’t roll off. You can place a pillow or rug under his head. But keep your hands away from his mouth and body. Remove any children or pets from the room so they won’t be upset or get in the way. Stay with your dog and carefully observe what happens in case you need to describe the event to your veterinarian. If your dog has one seizure that does not repeat, there is usually no need to call the vet unless it lasts for more than three minutes. However, you should note if the seizure effects your dog’s entire body or only a part of the body, the other symptoms, and how long it lasts. If the seizure repeats you should call your vet and arrange an appointment. Above all, stay calm.
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