You’re lucky to have never witnessed a dog suffer a convulsive seizure. It is horrible to see in any dog. Now, imagine that he is yours.
There are many types of seizures. A generalized seizure that causes excessive, aberrant, and widespread electrical activity in both the brains of the dog is called the big, bad grand mal seizure. It’s also known as convulsive seizure or tonic-clonic. This is when the dog falls over suddenly with violent, jerking spasms in all four limbs.
WHAT DO YOU DO IF A DOG IS SEIZURED?
Make sure that you are both safe. To avoid accidentally biting your dog, you must keep your hands away from his mouth. Your dog’s natural instinct is to try to comfort him by touching his head and/or hugging him. Your dog may not be aware of the severity of a seizure and cannot control his jaw movements. Your dog might become disoriented or demented in the hours and minutes following a seizure. This is called the post-ictal stage. It can lead to aggressive behavior, rage, and even aggression. You must be careful during and after the seizure.
Keep your dog safe by removing any broken or falling objects from his area. You can keep your dog safe if he is close to stairs.
Next, use your watch to time the seizure. This is important for two reasons. The first is to keep track of your dog’s seizures in a journal or log. This will help you determine when seizures are getting more severe or frequent. The second is for a life-threatening condition called Status Epilepticus.
Status epilepticus refers to a persistent seizure that does not resolve itself. Dogs who are in status epilepticus too often will eventually die. The core body temperature can rise to dangerous levels due to the intense and violent physical activity. To stop the seizures, status epilepticus must be treated by an emergency veterinarian with intravenous medication. This is usually a benzodiazepine such as Valium.
Five minutes is a good rule of thumb. You should get your dog to the vet immediately if he is still seizing after five minutes. If your dog is still seizing after you arrive, you should immediately seek emergency medical attention. You don’t have to pay an emergency fee if the seizure goes away while you’re on your way. For a moment, just relax. If your dog is still quiet, it’s time to call an ambulance.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF DOG SEIZURES
Tonic (stiffened, extended limbs that move or jerk), myoclonic, myoclonic, and atonic (standing staring, nonresponsive) are other generalized seizures.
Focal seizures are when abnormal electrical activity occurs in one area of the brain. They can appear as many things. Fly-biting is a classic example. The dog appears to be constantly snapping at and seeing flies.
A “chewing gum fit” occurs when the jaw repeatedly clicks. The repeated twitching, squinting, or shaking of the eyelid, lips, or ear might be a focal seizure. It is possible to lose consciousness without losing your awareness.
These seizures are rarely serious and don’t usually require treatment. However, a focal seizure can lead to a generalized seizure so make sure you are on the lookout until it passes.
Additional Care Tips for Dogs Who Have Seizures. Ask your veterinarian to dispense Valium (diazepam) at home. This can be used for rectal administration in case of seizures. The medicine will be given to you in a syringe that has a rubber tube attached. Simply insert the rubber tube’s tip about 1 inch into your dog’s rectum, and then you can give the medicine. This can often reduce the severity and length of seizures. To prevent seizures from clustering, a few doses can be administered immediately after a seizure. You can gently press on the eyes of your dog for between 10 and 60 seconds, if you are able to do so safely. Repeat this for five minutes. This can be repeated every five minutes. This approach requires a specialist who is trained in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. This diet includes medium chain triglycerides, (MCTs), as a fat source. MCTs have been shown to block seizures-causing brain receptors. This diet has been shown to significantly reduce seizure activity in epileptic dogs.
CAUSES OF DOG SIZURES
Metabolic disorders such as hypoglycemia (low sugar), hypocalcemia, low blood calcium, liver disease, liver and kidney disease, among others, can cause seizures. These seizures are called reactive seizures. Reactive seizures are normal brain functions. If the metabolic disorder is corrected, the seizures will disappear.
Certain drugs can increase the brain’s seizure threshold, which can lead to seizures. These reactive seizures can be resolved by stopping taking the drug.
Toxins, like dark chocolate, caffeine, xylitol (sugar-free sweetener), ethylene glycol (anti-freeze), bromethalin (rat poison), ethanol (liquor), to name a few, can cause seizures. The seizures can be eliminated by treating the toxin.
Brain abnormalities can cause seizures. These seizures are known as structural seizures. They can be caused by tumors, head trauma, inflammatory disease like granulomatous medinoencephalitis, or infectious diseases such as rabies and canine dysentery.
Epilepsy is the leading cause of seizures in veterinary clinics. Epilepsy can be defined as seizures of unknown cause. The brain is free from structural lesions. There are no structural lesions in the brain. Epilepsy is usually diagnosed after all other causes of seizures have been eliminated.
A normal physical exam, normal neurological exam and normal bloodwork can all help your veterinarian determine if there is epilepsy. The most important thing is the age at which seizures begin. Epilepsy typically begins between 1 and 6 Years of Age.
Dogs younger than one year old are more likely to suffer from a congenital defect or intoxication. Dogs older than 6 years old when they experience their first seizure are at greater risk of developing a metabolic disorder, or a structural brain tumor.
Another clue that your vet may use is breed predisposition toward epilepsy. What else can you do?
Recall: If your dog experiences a seizure for the first time, be calm and safe. Also, time the seizure. After your dog is stable, you should schedule an appointment for a veterinary exam.
Your veterinarian must first confirm that it was a seizure. Your veterinarian will be greatly helped by recording it on video. A cardiac event is the most common cause of a seizure episode. A dog with intermittent cardiac arrhythmia can experience confusion, weakness, and even collapse. This can sometimes be confused for seizure activity. The effects of cardiac collapse are generally less severe than those caused by seizure activity. They can feel more like fainting and usually the dog recovers faster.
If the veterinarian believes it was a seizure she will perform a neurological exam as well as a physical exam. To rule out any metabolic causes of seizures, it is important to do a baseline bloodwork. There may be additional diagnostics that can be done, such as CT scan, infectious disease testing, or MRI.
To TREAT or NOT?
Unintentional mix of epilepsy-prone breeds. Schnauzers and Golden Retrievers are the most common seizure-prone dog breeds.
Your vet may recommend that you administer medication to your dog in order to reduce or eliminate seizures. It depends.
Let’s assume your dog is aged between 1 and 6. All testing is normal and an epilepsy diagnosis is made. Most veterinarians agree that anti-convulsant drug treatment is not recommended after a single seizure. The following exceptions to the rule are:
Cluster seizures are more than three seizures within a 24-hour span. These breeds include the Border Collie, German Shepherd Dog and Irish Setter as well as the Golden Retriever, Siberian Husky and Keeshond. These breeds may be too fast for you.
Keep a seizure log for all others. Here you can record the date, time, duration, severity, and any other pertinent information. This log can be used to determine when anti-convulsant therapy should be started.
It might seem strange that you would not just give your dog anti-convulsants. You don’t want him having another seizure. Consider this: Your dog might never experience another seizure. He may experience a mild seizure once a year. It is impossible to predict how this will play out until you actually see it. It is usually necessary to take an anti-convulsant for the rest of your life.
Your dog may have a few seizures a year, but he is not an epileptic. You are costing him money for medication that he doesn’t really need. Even better, epileptic dogs who are well-managed and on anti-convulsants can still experience break-through seizures. Even with long-term medication, a seizure-free future cannot be guaranteed.
If a dog starts to seize more than twice per month, it is a sign that he is not enjoying his life and yours. In this situation, I recommend that you start an anti-convulsant. As the owner of the dog and the one who loves it, you are the final judge of when enough is enough.
MEDICATIONS FOR DOG SEIZURES
There are many anti-convulsants for dogs. Zonisamide is the most well-known, since it has minimal side effects and works well. Your veterinarian might also discuss other medications such as potassium bromide and phenobarbital (Keppra).
Dogs may need more than one medication to control their seizures. Levetiracetam can be used as a second medication. Because it is quick-acting, you must take it three times per day. Dog owners may find this difficult. It is easier to use the extended-release Keppra XR, which can be administered twice daily.
KeppraXR has a few important points. You can’t split or chop the pills, as this will destroy the extended-release function. It’s possible to see the tablet in your dog’s stool, appearing intact and undigested. Do not be alarmed. It’s okay. This is okay! The drug is slowly released into the body by digestive juices, which then dissolve it. This is how extended-release versions work. After the tablet is done, it can be safely disposed of with your dog’s stool.
Sometimes, an epileptic dog who was previously managed well may experience more severe seizures. Some dogs may develop tolerance to anti-convulsant medication. These dogs will become more sensitive to the anti-convulsant medication as their liver metabolizes it at a faster rate, making higher doses of the drug necessary. Higher doses can lead to more severe side effects. This can be frustrating and difficult to manage.
Dog seizures are scary and hard to see. We have many tools that can help us diagnose and treat this horrible condition.
Dog Seizures: What to do if your dog has a whole dog journal?