Seizures in Dogs - Know What to Look for and How to Respond

  • 01/02/2014

Seizures in dogs, a very scary situation especially when it happens for the first time; unfortunately many people aren't educated on the actions to take when a seizure occurs. This article goes over what a seizure is, what causes it, and how you can respond.

Seizures are characterized by abnormal brain activity. The nerve cells in the brain malfunction and become uncontrollably excited. This can cause subtle symptoms or violent convulsions, depending on how "excited" the cells become. Seizures in dogs that occur over and over again mean the dog has a condition called epilepsy. It is important to get the seizures treated; if you do not, they may occur more frequently and with more force, possibly causing brain damage.

The difference between Gran Mal and Petit Mal Seizures:

As stated above, the seizures can be subtle, or can produce violent convulsions. There are two types of seizures in dogs; seizures that are accompanied by convulsions are called gran mal seizures; seizures that occur without convulsions are called petit mal seizures. If your pet has a gran mal seizure, it may fall to the floor and their legs will convulse spastically, it will generally last between 45 and 90 seconds. These seizures can be fatal if they last longer than that because the brain and vital organs will not receive blood and oxygen. Pets that have petit mal seizures do not have convulsions but may appear dazed or disoriented, stare off into space and ultimately ignore everything around them no matter what. They may not seem as serious as gran mal seizures; however, if they are not treated they can progress and become that type.

Categories of seizures:

Seizures can also be placed into categories called "generalized" or "partial." When the entire brain is involved, the pet has generalized seizures; these include gran mal and petit mal seizures and the effects occur on both sides of the body. When only part of the brain is involved, the pet has partial seizures. They can also be both types of seizures, but the effects are localized to one side of the body. There are several other categories that pet seizures can be placed under, such as structural cause and frequency.

Causes of seizures:

Seizures can be caused by a number of different factors that occur in the blood, nerve cell membranes and neurotransmitters. Dogs with problems originating outside the brain, such as low blood sugar or heart disease may be susceptible to reactive seizures. Other causes of seizures include:

• brain malformation
• tumors
• immune malfunction
• blood vessel rupture
• infection
• overheating
• poisons and toxins
• medications
• kidney failure
• liver failure or malfunction
• hypothyroidis
• Cushing's disease
• abnormal levels of electrolytes, vitamins or minerals in the blood
• high blood pressure
• lack of oxygen

Of course a veterinarian can help to determine what the cause of the seizures is. Some cases of seizures in dogs and epilepsy are caused by an unknown reason and certain types of pets are more susceptible to develop seizures. First of all, dogs are more prone to them than cats are; and large dogs with shepherd or retriever genetics as well as some herding dogs and small dogs are more commonly affected. It is also known that Bull Terriers and outdoor pets are more likely to have seizures.

What to do if your dog has a seizure:

So, now that you know what seizures and epilepsy are, you can understand what to do to improve your pet's condition. Unfortunately, there is not much that owners can do for their pet during a seizure. All you can do is wait until the seizure is over, which should be within 2 minutes. If it lasts longer than that, the animal should be taken to the veterinarian immediately. Some owners become tempted to touch their pets while they are having a seizure, however, this can be dangerous because the pet could become startled and bite or scratch. When the seizure is over, you must reduce the amount of external stimulation as much as possible.

If a veterinary visit is necessary, the doctor may give your pet an injection of diazepam to stop the seizure. The vet will try to detect underlying problems through blood tests and a urinalysis. There are medications that can improve seizures but they are usually only provided if the case of epilepsy is serious. The medications do not cure the condition and do not completely prevent seizures from happening. This is something your vet will discuss with you.

Knowing what to expect and what do to do and what not to do during a seizure is important for pet owners to know. Watching your pet have a seizure is an unpleasant experience, but being educated about it will truly make the situation less frightening.

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