Seizures can be triggered in dogs due to a number of factors ranging from heat exhaustion to epilepsy. Here our Matthews vets share some of the reasons that dogs have seizures, and what you should do if your dog has a seizure.
Seizures in Dogs
It can be distressing for a pet-parent to witness their dog having a seizure. Some dogs will recover quickly from a seizure and never have another, while other dogs may continue to have seizures throughout their lifetime due to illness or epilepsy.
What do seizures look like in dogs?
Seizures in dogs can take many forms, some are more obvious than others but most are very brief. If your dog is having a seizure you may notice muscle twitching or uncontrolled jerking movements, but a seizure could also include a loss of consciousness, unusually eye movements, or drooling. If you believe that your dog has had a seizure it's important to contact your vet to let them know.
If your dog has been having a seizure for 3 minutes or longer, or has experienced multiple seizures in a row, contact your vet or emergency vet immediately.
What causes seizures in dogs?
All seizures occur due to faulty electrical activity in the dog's brain which leads to a loss of control over their body, regardless of the underlying cause of the seizure. The issues that may trigger a seizure in dogs include:
- Heat Exhaustion
- Liver disease
- Ingested poisons such as caffeine, chocolate
- Diabetes, Low blood sugar levels
- An injury to the dog's head
- Nutritional imbalances (thiamine deficiency)
- Infectious diseases such as CDV and rabies
What dog breeds are prone to seizures?
Every dog within these breeds will not experience a seizure in their lifetime, however the following breeds tend to be more prone to seizures than others.
- Large herding and retriever dogs may be prone to seizures, including German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, as well as Labrador and Golden Retrievers.
- Herding dogs with the MDR1 gene commonly experience seizures. These breeds include: Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Longhaired Whippets, as well as some Sheepdogs.
- Breeds with short, flat noses such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, and English Bulldogs can also be more prone to experiencing seizures.
- Bull Terriers can suffer from an inherited form of epilepsy which causes behaviors such as tail chasing, irrational fear, and unprovoked aggression.
Can a seizure kill a dog?
If there is a chance that your dog is having a seizure due to poisoning, if your dog's seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, or if your dogs has multiple seizures in a row, then the seizure indicates a serious health threat. Contact your vet immediately, or your closest emergency veterinary hospital.
When to call the vet?
Most seizures are short, lasting less than 3 minutes and with proper treatment, the pet can lead a normal life. That said, seizures can be a serious health concern and even short seizures could cause brain damage. If your dog suffers a seizure that continues for more than 30 minutes serious permanent brain damage could result.
If you witness your dog having a brief seizure, then he or she quickly recovers, contact your vet to let them know what happened. Your vet may suggest that you to bring your dog in for an examination or they may simply make a note in your dog's records and ask you to bring your dog in for an examination if it happens again. Unexplained ‘one off’ seizures are common in dogs, but some dogs will continue to have seizures throughout their life due to underlying conditions.
Treatment for Seizures In Dogs
Treatment of seizures in dogs depends upon the underlying cause. Your vet will run a number of tests to determine the cause of your dog's seizures, if no cause can be found the disease will be diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. Following a diagnosis, your vet will work with you to determine the best treatment for your dog's seizures. Treatment may include medications or simply keeping a seizure diary to track your dog's seizures and overall health.