Seizures in dogs can be horrifying. Humphrey had one unexpectedly last week and it was the most upsetting and terrifying experience. There’s nothing that makes you feel quite as panicky or powerless as watching your dog shake, jerk, and flop while drooling, and occasionally losing control of his bladder or bowels. It’s terrifying if you don’t understand what’s happening.
That’s why it’s so important to understand seizures in dogs. Understanding seizures and knowing what to do if your dog has one can help you when you need it most.
Understanding Seizures in Dogs
The most important thing to know about seizures in dogs is that they’re a sign of another problem. They aren’t a disease. if your dog has even one seizure, and even if it only lasts a very short time, take him to the vet immediately. You need to find what’s causing the seizures sooner rather than later.
What Causes Seizures in Dogs
Seizures can result from a variety of health problems. Identifying the cause of the seizures quickly can help you address the underlying issue. The most common cause of seizures is what’s known as idiopathic epilepsy. The term “idiopathic” is doctor-speak for “unknown”. Vets aren’t entirely sure what causes epilepsy in dogs, but current evidence suggests that it’s a genetic issue.
While idiopathic epilepsy is the number one cause of seizures in dogs, there are other underlying health issues that can cause seizures as well. These seizure-causing conditions are:
- Electrolyte Imbalance
- Low Blood Sugar
- Severe Anemia
- Brain Tumors
- Brain Trauma
- Metabolic Disease
- Exposure to Toxins
What do Seizures in Dogs Look Like
The “classic” seizure is the easiest to spot in our dogs. Called Grand Mal seizures, these affect the whole body and are obvious. When seizure events like this happen, your dog’s entire body will convulse. You might also see the following accompanying the seizure:
- Drooling or Foaming at the Mouth
- Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control
- Blood at the Mouth from Biting the Tongue
While most seizures tend to be easily spotted, there are some that aren’t so easy to see. Sometimes, a dog will have very small seizures, and owners might not know what they’re seeing. These small seizures might be localized or a sudden onset of rhythmic movements or actions. Signs include:
- Localized Facial Tremor
- Sudden Rhythmic Movement of the Limbs (Not Dreaming)
- Barking Which is Out of Character and Seemingly Directed at Nothing
What to do if Your Dog has a Seizure
It’s important to take action if your dog has a seizure. There are things to do at the moment and after the fact that can help keep your dog safe and get him diagnosed faster, allowing you to address the issue as quickly as possible.
What to do in the Moment
First and foremost, when dealing with seizures in dogs, remain calm. You can’t help your furry friend if you freak out. Keep your cool and take the following steps to get him through the seizure.
- Remain Calm and Focused – Keep your cool and your focus so you can take the necessary steps to help your dog.
- Understand Your Dog Isn’t in Pain – Seizures cause a loss of consciousness. No matter what it looks like, your dog is not in pain.
- Check the Time – Immediately check the time so you know exactly how long the seizure lasts. This gives your vet important information that he or she will use to help determine the cause of the seizure.
- Film the Seizure – If possible, have someone film the seizure. Having a visual of your dog’s seizure is a big help for your vet.
- DO NOT Grab His Tongue – It’s a common misconception that dogs and humans can swallow their tongues during a seizure. It’s not true. Trying to grab your dog’s tongue doesn’t help, and you could get bitten.
- Move Him to a Safe Space – Immediately move your dog to a safe space away from stairs or furniture legs. Gently hold and comfort him until he regains consciousness.
- Keep Him Cool – Prolonged seizures can cause your dog’s body to overheat and can result in brain damage. If your dog’s seizure is lasting longer than two to three minutes, immediately being applying cold water or wet towels to his groin, neck, paws, and head while rushing him to the vet.
What to do After the Seizure
Once your dog has gotten through his seizure, it’s time to start addressing the issue as quickly as possible. Seizures in dogs can be relatively benign, or they can be the result of a far more dangerous underlying condition, so getting to the bottom of them quickly is key.
- Contact Your Vet – Contact your vet even if your dog had a short seizure and seems completely normal afterward. It’s vital to make sure he doesn’t have something more serious happening.
- Keep a Journal – Keep a journal as you go through the process of visits, bloodwork, and subsequent treatment. It could help your vet figure out if there’s a pattern to your dogs’ seizures.
- Take Cluster Seizures Seriously – If your dog experiences more than one seizure in a 24-hour period, he is experiencing cluster seizures. Get to your vet or an emergency vet as soon as possible. Cluster seizures are extremely dangerous.
Understand Dog Seizures and Know What to Do
Dog seizures can look terrifying, but if you know what to do, you’ll be able to get yourself and your dog through it and begin treating him. It’s important to remain calm, understand what’s happening, and get your dog treatment as soon as possible. If you do that, your dog will have a much better chance at a long, healthy life.