Idiopathic epilepsy is genetic in many dog breeds and is familial; meaning that it runs in certain families or lines of animals. Breeds most prone to idiopathic epilepsy include the Beagle, Keeshond, Belgian Tervuren, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Vizsla and Shetland Sheepdog. Multiple genes and recessive modes of inheritance are suggested in the Bernese Mountain Dog and Labrador Retriever, while non-gender hormone recessive traits has been proposed in the Vizsla and Irish Wolfhound. There are also recessive traits in the English Springer Spaniel which can lead to epilepsy, but it does not appear to affect all members of the family. Seizures are mainly focal (involving localized areas of the brain) in the Finnish Spitz. Source
Most dog seizures are associated with a form of dog epilepsy.
Here’s what you need to know (and do!) if you think your dog has had a seizure, plus some videos of dogs having seizures so you can see that dogs typically come out of seizures just fine — even though the dog seizure itself can seem quite violent and scary…
Not all seizures will have your dog on the floor shaking. There are many different types of dog seizures.
Two distinctly different types are quite common:
Generalized seizures affect the whole body and can be divided into 2 types, grand mal and petit mal. Grand mal seizures are the most common. A dog experiencing a grand mal seizure usually falls on her side and has uncontrollable muscle activity such as kicking her legs as if swimming or paddling. Salivation is profuse and often the dog involuntarily urinates and defecates. The dog is unaware of you, her surroundings, or her own actions. Petit mal seizures do not result in convulsions, but the animal loses consciousness. It may look like the dog just collapsed. Source
There are 3 phases to every dog seizure:
Here are some video examples of dog seizures…
…As you can see, all dogs react differently when they’re having a seizure.
Experiencing a dog seizure for the first time can be really scary.
The first thing you need to do is stay calm Believe me, that’s easier said than done!
When my cat had a seizure in the middle of the night, he ended up falling off our bed — which woke me up. I wasn’t calm at all! I was scared. I tried to hold him still. I was yelling at my cat; I was mad at him for peeing on the floor. (I found out later that animals have no control over their bladder during a seizure.)
We got him the medical attention needed, and the vet put him on medication to help control his seizures. He didn’t have another seizure until about 3 years later, and then again 6 months before we lost him.
In addition to remaining calm whenever your dog has a seizure, these tips will also come in handy:
Most dog seizures that only last a couple of minutes are not emergencies. However prolonged fits (status epilepticus) or several fits close together (cluster seizures) can be life-threatening and may require urgent veterinary treatment. Source
There are many different reasons that your dog may have a seizure.
For one, your dog may have a brain tumor or a head injury. Dog seizures are also frequently caused by distemper or dog epilepsy. However, there are a number of reasons for non-epileptic dog seizures as well.
Other illnesses and ailments can cause seizure-like symptoms in dogs as well, including low blood sugar, disease of the middle ear, cardiac disease, and respiratory disease — to name just a few.
It is important to keep your epileptic dog as free from chemical pollutants as possible. Think about the environment your dog is living in. Do you use chemical sprays on your lawn? Dogs will sometimes seize only when the lawn is sprayed for weeds. How about the cleaner you use for the floor? Some dogs have been known to seize after the floor has been washed with a pine scented cleaner. Flea and tick medications can also cause seizures. It is recommended that epileptic dogs be given Interceptor as a monthly heartworm preventative and Frontline used for fleas. Avoid products with Ivermectin it has been known to cause seizures in some breeds. There are many things that can lower a dog’s seizure threshold. It is also a known phenomenon that some dogs may seizure around the full moon. Source
The characteristics associated with genetic epilepsy usually manifests from 10 months to 3 years of age, but has been reported as early as 6 months and as late as 5 years. Source
The type of treatment prescribed for your dog’s seizures will depend on what’s causing the seizures in the first place.
Dog epilepsy itself cannot usually be cured, which means that your dog may need to be on anti-seizure medication for the rest of his life. The primary objective of your vet prescribing conventional medicine is not to cure dog epilepsy, but rather to control it. Unfortunately, many of drugs commonly prescribed to treat dog epilepsy (like phenobarbitol) tend to have some fairly serious side effects.
Medical treatment is generally advised for animals who have one or more seizures per month. Animals who have cluster seizures or go into status epilepticus may be treated even though the rate of incidence is greater than once per month. Successful drug therapy depends upon the owner’s dedication to delivering the drug exactly as prescribed, with absolutely NO changes in the dose or type of medication without veterinary consultation. Haphazard drug administration or abrupt changes in medication is worse than no treatment at all, and may cause status epilepticus … The goal of treatment is to decrease the frequency and severity of seizures and avoid unacceptable side effects. It may not be possible to stop the seizures altogether. Source
There are a number of natural remedies for some dog seizures that might be worth considering. For example, skullcap has been shown to help with seizures. It’s an herb that’s safe for dogs. Here are some dog owners’ views regarding various natural remedies for dog epilepsy.
Dog acupuncture is not usually a substitute for anti-seizure medicine, but rather it’s used in conjunction with the meds.
Changing your dog’s diet may also help to reduce the number and extent of his seizures. It is believed that adding digestive enzymes to a dog’s diet (which could be in the form of raw food, among other things), will block or eliminate dangerous neurostimulants in the brain.
If the seizure is caused by low blood sugar, give your dog some honey or corn syrup to quickly elevate his blood sugar. (Using a large plastic honey bottle works best, so you can squirt the honey into his mouth without getting your hands too close to his teeth.) Be sure to use a dish or a wooden spoon to administer the sugars to avoid injury to you. [After the seizure], the honey or corn syrup will burn off quickly and needs to be supplemented by his normal food. Source
If a dog’s seizures are bad enough and the result of something like a tumor, the vet may recommend surgery to help control the seizures. This is usually a last resort though. For example, canine brain tumors can be treated with radiation, chemotherapy or removal through surgery, however removing a canine brain tumor is difficult depending on the location and size of the tumor. (Dogs that are exposed to radiation therapy can live at least a year after treatment.)
IMPORTANT: While your dog is receiving treatment for his seizures, he should not be permitted near water (like a swimming pool or a lake), in order to avoid accidentally drowning should a seizure occur.
Does your dog sleepwalk or have very active dreams lately? Some people think their dogs are just dreaming or sleepwalking, when in fact it’s a good possibility that their dogs may be having seizures.
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