Dog convulsions can occur for a variety of reasons, including low blood sugar levels, liver illness, poor brain circulation, and mineral deficiencies. Brain tumours are frequently the source of newly formed seizures in an older dog and can induce convulsions and seizures in dogs as well.
Epilepsy is a frequent reason for seizures in dogs 8 years of age or less. The majority of the time, epileptic seizures respond favourably to treatment even though an underlying reason may not always be known.
What brings on a dog’s convulsions?
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 tumours, 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 behaviour is altered, is characterised 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 paralysed. Frequently, the head will tilt backward. Salivation, urination, and faeces 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.
Depending on the intensity and frequency of the seizures, more diagnostics may be advised if these tests are normal and there hasn’t been any recent toxic exposure or trauma. 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 centre 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.
Keep Yourself Calm
Regardless of whether this is your dog’s first seizure or you’ve witnessed one previously, try to remain composed before tending to your pet. He will be considerably more terrified by the scenario if you confront him while sobbing or screaming.
Sit Near Your Dog
Sit close to your dog, but avoid touching him too much. Sometimes, with with caution, you can pet his back or other areas of his body that are difficult for him to get with his mouth. But be aware that dogs might bite erratically when they are having seizures. Similar to how you could be confused when your dog approaches, he might attack you out of fear, discomfort, or confusion.
Even though it can be emotionally upsetting for you, it may be advisable to refrain from caressing your dog if you’re coping with a dog seizure for the first time.
Time Your Dog’s Seizures
Time your dog’s seizures if you are able to. While using a stopwatch is recommended, simply watching the time can help you determine how long your dog has been experiencing seizures.
Two minutes or less is the safe zone; two to five minutes is a warning zone, and your dog has to be sent to the vet as soon as you can.
Your dog needs to see a vet right away if he suffers numerous seizures within a short period of time and does not awaken between them.
Carefully Move Your Dog to a Safer Location
If your dog experiences a seizure close to the edge of the bed or steps, gently move him to a safer area or put something in front of him to stop him from falling without injuring him. Before or after having a seizure, a dog may feel frightened and start running around aimlessly. Additionally, they could not always be in control of their motions and might possibly seize so strongly that they fall.
Speak in Comforting Tones
Speak to your dog in a low, soothing voice. After a seizure, some owners even attempt playing soothing music for their dogs. This is acceptable as long as you don’t play anything too loud. But if you just let him return to normal without introducing any additional distractions around him, your dog might enjoy it more.
Lower Your Dog’s Body Temperature
Your dog’s body temperature will soon increase during seizures. Because of this, after the seizure has passed, it can be beneficial to gently drape cool washcloths over his feet. Before you do this, wait for your dog to awaken because if you don’t, he might bite you.
Wrap and Comfort Your Dog
After a seizure, some owners cover their dog in a towel or blanket and comfort him while holding him. If your dog has recovered from the seizure and is alert and acting normally, you may do this. If not, don’t carry out this action.
If cuddling disturbs your dog normally, don’t do this because he won’t find it comfortable in this circumstance either.
Let Your Dog Eat or Drink
After a seizure, your dog might also be excessively thirsty or hungry. Allow him to eat or drink if he appears attentive and is able to stand upright without stumbling or appearing bewildered, but don’t make him.
Call Your Vet
Call your veterinarian straight away and ask for guidance if this is your dog’s first seizure or if it lasted longer than normal. Take the advice of the veterinarian.
Your dog might be offered epilepsy medication if your veterinarian diagnoses him with the condition. For more information on how to administer this drug and what to anticipate in terms of adverse effects when you give it to your dog, you should speak with your veterinarian.
Why does my dog seem to be experiencing a seizure?
A dog’s body temperature is greater than ours by about 100–102 degrees Fahrenheit, but that doesn’t mean they won’t occasionally feel chilly or shiver, especially in the winter. But when can a shiver become something more worrisome, like a seizure? What exactly is a tremor? Are these signs also ones to look out for?
Vivian Lau, a SAGE Neurologist, explained the differences between these many physiological triggers to us.
What is a shiver? What is a seizure?
Your dog can warm up and increase body temperature by shivering. Shivering is a common symptom of anxiety and fear in dogs, as well as when they are cold. Some medical conditions, such as tremorgenic mycotoxins (often from ingesting waste or compost), or specific electrolyte imbalances, which could make muscular twitches easier to elicit, can also make your dog shiver or tremble.
On the other hand, a seizure is a sign that something is wrong with the forebrain. A variety of internal or external brain factors have the ability to produce seizures. These potential triggers could be:
- metabolic problems
- abnormal electrolytes
- brain cancer
- inflammatory diseases (either infectious or non-infectious)
Dogs can also develop “Dr. Lau claims that meningoencephalitis of unknown origin (MUO) can result in seizures. This is a catch-all phrase for many non-infectious and non-contagious inflammatory brain illnesses that are thought to be caused by an overactive immune system. There is a higher incidence of meningoencephalitis of unknown aetiology in toy dog breeds like Maltese and Yorkshire Terriers as well as other breeds like French bulldogs and Pugs. The specific cause of the ailment is still unclear, which is why the “Unknown origin portion of the name), and a mix of genetic and environmental factors may be to blame for the symptoms. Dr. Lau points out that immune suppressant drugs and anti-seizure drugs work well as a long-term treatment for the majority of dogs that have these inflammatory diseases.
How can you tell the difference?
Helping your dog warm up will stop a shiver brought on by the cold. Alternatively, you can remove them from whatever is causing them to appear anxious or agitated. Additionally, you want to be able to communicate with and interact with your dog if he is shivering. On the other hand, generalised seizures can cause dogs to lose consciousness because they impact the entire body. The average duration of a seizure is one to two minutes; if it lasts longer than five minutes, it is deemed a medical emergency. If you can, record the seizure on camera. This will be extremely helpful to the vets trying to determine what caused the seizure.
Blood tests can be requested by primary care veterinarians to determine whether electrolyte imbalances or low blood sugar may have contributed to the seizure. Patients can be referred to a veterinary neurologist if there is no evident metabolic cause for the seizure, who may also recommend an MRI to rule out tumours, strokes, trauma, or other structural causes of seizures. In order to diagnose common inflammatory disorders like MUO or infectious meningitis, which is more uncommon in dogs, neurologists frequently combine MRI with a spinal tap.
What is a tremor?
Many pet owners, according to Dr. Lau, inquire about tremors. Tremors are typically benign but can be a sign of more serious issues affecting certain areas of the brain (the cerebellum) or metabolic disease. They are typically indicated by rhythmic muscular contraction and relaxation of specific muscle groups, which are either localised to just the hind limbs or just the head and neck. The benign idiopathic fast postural tremor, which often happens when a dog is standing but stops when the animal is sitting or lying down, is one of the most prevalent tremors. These tremors are more common in older dogs than younger ones. As with seizures, Dr. Lau advises pet owners to record the tremors so that their veterinarian may determine the reason and propose a course of action.