One of the neurological diseases in dogs that is most frequently observed is seizures. A seizure, which is often referred to as a convulsion or fit, is a brief, unconscious disruption of regular brain activity that is typically accompanied by uncontrollable muscle movement.
Recurrent seizure events are referred to as epilepsy. Seizures brought on by epilepsy might be isolated or come in groups, random and infrequent or occurring on a regular schedule.
What causes seizures?
Seizures can have a variety of reasons. The most frequent cause of seizures in dogs is idiopathic epilepsy, which is a hereditary condition with an unidentified root cause. There are more causes, such as liver disease, kidney disease, brain tumors, head injuries, or poisons.
Seizures frequently happen during periods of fluctuating brain activity, such as when a dog is excited, eating, sleeping, or waking up. Between seizures, affected dogs may seem entirely normal.
What happens during a typical seizure?
Three things can cause seizures:
1) The pre-ictal phase (aura), during which the dog’s behavior is altered, is characterized by hiding, nervousness, or a desire to find the owner. It could be fidgety, anxious, complaining, trembling, or drooling. This could go on for a short while or several hours. This time frame comes before the seizure activity, as if the dog can know what is about to happen.
2) The duration and appearance of the ictal phase might range from a few seconds to many minutes. A total loss of consciousness and bodily functions might occur during the ictal phase, as can subtle alterations in mental awareness such a confused expression, slight shivering, staring out in the distance, or licking the lips. All of the body’s muscles contract spastically and wildly during a grand mal seizure in which the dog loses consciousness. The dog typically collapses on its side, paddles its legs, and appears to be paralyzed. Frequently, the head will tilt backward. Salivation, urination, and feces are all possible. The dog is deemed to be in status epilepticus, which is a prolonged seizure, if it doesn’t stop in five minutes (see below).
3) Confusion, disorientation, salivation, pacing, restlessness, or even momentary blindness occur during the post-ictal phase, or the time immediately following the termination of the seizure. The length of the post-ictal phase and the severity of the seizure are not directly correlated.
Is a seizure painful or dangerous to the dog?
Seizures don’t hurt, despite their dramatic and violent appearance, yet the dog may experience disorientation and possibly terror. It’s a myth that dogs swallow their tongues when they’re having seizures, but this is untrue. You won’t be able to help your pet if you put your fingers or another object in its mouth, and you run the risk of getting severely bit or hurting your dog. It’s crucial to prevent the dog from falling or harming itself by accidentally slamming things upon it. There is little possibility of harm happening as long as it is on the floor or ground.
The dog is rarely in danger from a single seizure. However, the body temperature starts to rise if the dog experiences several seizures quickly (cluster seizures) or if a seizure lasts for more than a few minutes. In the event that hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) follows a seizure, additional issues must be resolved.
What is status epilepticus?
Status epilepticus is a grave and potentially fatal condition. A seizure that lasts longer than five minutes is what distinguishes it. The dog may die or sustain irreparable brain damage if intravenous anticonvulsants are not administered very away to interrupt the seizure activity. In the event of status epilepticus, you must seek immediate veterinary care.
Now that the seizure is over, can we find out why it happened?
Your dog’s veterinarian will start by conducting a detailed medical history after a seizure episode, paying special attention to any past experiences with head trauma or exposure to potentially dangerous or hallucinogenic chemicals. A physical examination, blood and urine tests, and occasionally an electrocardiogram will also be carried out by the veterinarian (ECG). These tests eliminate conditions that affect the heart, electrolytes, liver, kidneys, and blood sugar levels. If your dog doesn’t take a monthly heartworm preventative, a heartworm test is done.
If these tests are normal and there is no exposure to poison or recent trauma, further diagnostics may be required, depending on the severity and frequency of the seizures. Less frequently than once per month, infrequent seizures are less concerning, although they can grow more frequent or more severe. A spinal fluid analysis could be done in this situation.
Specialized procedures like a CT scan or MRI may also be carried out to directly examine the structure of the brain, depending on what is accessible at a referral center or teaching hospital.
How are seizures treated or prevented?
Treatment typically doesn’t start until a pet has:
1) a month or more between seizures,
2) Seizure clusters in which one seizure is followed by another right away, or
3) Grand mal seizures that are intense or last a long time.
Phenobarbital and potassium bromide are the two drugs that are most frequently prescribed to treat seizures in canines. Other anticonvulsants are currently the subject of research, and novel anticonvulsants like zonisamide (brand name Zonegran) and levetiracetam (brand name Keppra) are gaining popularity. For canines that don’t respond well to conventional therapies, combination therapy is frequently used.
Anticonvulsant medication must be taken continuously once started. There is evidence to suggest that the dog may be more susceptible to future, more severe seizures if anticonvulsant medicine is started and then stopped. If put on anticonvulsant medicine and then quickly taken off of it, even healthy dogs without a history of seizures or epilepsy may be made to have a seizure. Your veterinarian will provide you with detailed instructions for doing this if anticonvulsant medication needs to be stopped or changed for any reason.
Is it possible to halt a dog’s seizures naturally?
Depending on the specific conditions surrounding your pet, your veterinarian may advise some natural treatments as well as pharmaceuticals for the treatment of seizures. ” Your veterinarian may suggest drugs to treat seizures and aid in preventing new ones after a diagnosis of epilepsy, depending on the underlying cause, according to Barrack. “Diazepam, phenobarbital, and/or potassium bromide are a few of the Western drugs used to treat seizure disorders. Long-term phenobarbital medication can be harmful to the liver, so dogs who receive it must have their liver values routinely checked through blood testing.
But certain holistic methods can also be beneficial outside of Western medicine. The qualified veterinary Chinese herbalist Barrack thinks both treatments and drugs have advantages.
“There are many various herbal formulae that may be used to treat seizures, she says, and Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, and food therapy, can be highly useful in treating dogs with epilepsy.”
These therapies can be used instead of, or in addition to, conventional Western treatments in some circumstances.
Thin, sterilized stainless steel needles are inserted into particular body locations during acupuncture. According to Barrack, the majority of acupuncture points are situated along the 14 channels that together constitute a network that transports energy and blood across the entire body. It results in a physiological reaction. In addition to relieving pain, it can boost the immunological and neural systems, improve microcirculation, reduce inflammation, and help cure neurological conditions including epilepsy and seizures.
There isn’t a predetermined amount of sessions needed to treat seizures because every patient responds differently and every situation is different, Barrack continues. “While many patients need more than one session, some individuals experience significant improvement after just one. More therapies are often needed to decrease or cure seizures that are more severe and frequent.
Chinese Herbal Formulas
To increase the effectiveness of the needling sessions and lengthen the duration of the effects, Chinese herbal formulae can be used alone or in conjunction with acupuncture.” According to Barrack, Chinese herbal formulae are remarkably risk-free and have little adverse effects. “Only slight and temporary gastrointestinal disturbances, such as diarrhea, are reported as a side effect. In rare cases, a patient may briefly seem worse before improving. Consult your veterinarian to find out what kinds of Chinese herbal remedies you can use on your own pet.
According to Liff, some patients may use cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which is derived from hemp with a high CBD content but low THC content, to reduce seizures. “The oil is given to the pet in food or directly into the mouth,” she claims. (It should be noted, though, that not all states currently have CBD oil for pets available or legal.)
A high-quality diet is advised by Liff and Barrack because food can be a potent form of medication. According to Barrack, ketogenic diets that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates have been thought to be beneficial for epilepsy sufferers because high fat can reduce neuron excitability.
Liff continues that some supplements, including fish oils, can improve your dog’s health in other ways and aid in seizure prevention. DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oils, is said to aid in many brain functions and processes. “It has been demonstrated in children to lower the threshold for seizures, and we extrapolate the efficacy to be the same in dogs and cats. Your veterinarian could suggest supplements that include vital fatty acids depending on the circumstances of your dog. Before making any dietary modifications for your pet, discuss it with your veterinarian.
What could cause a dog to have a seizure?
Your dog could experience a seizure for a variety of reasons, from heat exhaustion to epilepsy. Today, our Greensboro veterinarians discuss some of the causes of canine seizures as well as what you should do if your dog experiences one.
Seizures in Dogs
For many pet owners, seeing their dog have a seizure can be upsetting. Having said said, understanding the causes of seizures and what to do in the event that your dog does experience one may assist to lessen the stress of the circumstance.
What Seizures in Dogs Look Like
A seizure can appear in a variety of ways, some of which are more noticeable than others. Your dog may twitch or jerk uncontrollably during a seizure, but other symptoms of a seizure include loss of consciousness, drooling, and odd eye-rolling movements. It’s crucial to notify your veterinarian right away if your dog exhibits symptoms of a seizure.
Causes of Seizures in Dogs
The dog loses control of their body during a seizure owing to improper electrical activity in the brain, regardless of the underlying cause. The following are the primary underlying causes of seizures in dogs:
- exhaustion of heat
- abnormalities in nutrition, like thiamine deficiency
- low amounts of blood sugar
- liver illness.
- consumed toxins like caffeine and chocolate
- a head injury to the dog (such as a road accident)
- infectious diseases including rabies and the canine distemper virus
Dog Breeds With Increased Risk of Seizures
Even though not every dog in these breeds will have a seizure at some point in their lives, certain breeds have a tendency to be more susceptible than others:
- An genetic form of epilepsy that affects Bull Terriers can result in behaviors including tail-chasing, irrational fear, and unprovoked violence.
- Large herding and retrieving dogs, such as German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, may be prone to seizures.
- Dogs carrying the MDR1 gene for herding frequently develop seizures. These breeds include Old English and Shetland Sheepdogs, Longhaired Whippets, Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherds, and Border Collies.
- English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs are a few examples of breeds with small, flat noses that may be more prone to seizures.
When To Call A Vet
If your dog experiences a seizure that may be caused by poisoning, if it lasts longer than three minutes, or if it has many seizures in a succession, call your veterinarian right away.
When it comes to the subject of whether a dog can die from a seizure, the majority endure less than three minutes, and with the right care, the animal can resume its normal life. Seizures, however, can pose a major health risk, and even brief seizures have the potential to harm the brain. Seizures in dogs that last longer than 30 minutes have the potential to cause severe, irreversible brain damage.
Call your veterinarian to let them know if your dog has a brief seizure and then recovers right afterwards. Your veterinarian might advise you to take your dog in for a checkup, or they might just put a note in your dog’s file and ask you to bring your dog in if it happens again. While some dogs experience seizures only sometimes or “one off,” others experience seizures on a regular basis throughout their lives as a result of epilepsy or other conditions.
Treatment for Seizures In Dogs
The course of treatment for your dog’s seizures will depend on what’s causing them. In order to identify the source of your dog’s seizures, your veterinarian will perform a number of tests. If a cause cannot be identified, idiopathic epilepsy will be the diagnosis. Once your dog’s seizures have been identified, your veterinarian will consult with you to decide the best course of action, which may involve medication or the maintaining of a seizure journal.
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Can you stop a dog’s seizure by distracting it?
When your dog has stopped fitting, you should only pet or otherwise interact with them when it is appropriate. During a seizure, you might be compelled to console or hold your pet, but doing so is not advised. Just keep in mind that during a seizure, they are not feeling discomfort and are unaware of your presence.
During a seizure, turn off any lights, music, or television to reduce your dog’s exposure to unnecessary background stimuli.
It’s also a good idea to remove any sharp or hazardous objects from the area where your pet is fitting, just in case they hurt themselves.
Keep your hands away from your dog’s mouth since they can unintentionally bite you if you do.
Timing the fit is important since it will notify your veterinarian and let you know how serious the condition is.
Clusters of severe seizures in a dog are unusual but not unheard of.
A medical emergency is defined as a single seizure that lasts more than five minutes or as a cluster of brief seizures. In these instances, every second counts, so be sure to get in touch with your regular veterinarian or the closest 24-hour animal emergency clinic as soon as you can.