13/08/2022

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What Do Seizures Look Like in Dogs? What Signs Should I Look For? | Pet Keen


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Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

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Just like humans, dogs can have seizures. While they are not common, the potential is something that all dog owners should be aware of. Do you know how to identify when your dog is having a seizure? What do you do if your dog does have a seizure? Here is what you should know about dog seizures and what to do if your furry family member has one.

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Generalized Seizures

This is the most common type of seizure that dogs can experience. The seizure affects every part of the brain, not just one side, like other types of seizures. Therefore, dogs tend to convulse heavily and become unconscious. Some dogs will defecate themselves during the experience. The entire process of the seizure could last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.

Signs to Look For:

  • Muscle contraction and stiffening
  • Involuntary muscle jerking and paddling of limbs
  • Short sporadic bursts of movement
  • Collapse and/or unconsciousness
  • Loses bowels or urinates

Focal Seizures

A focal seizure happens when only a portion of one side of the brain is affected. They are sometimes called partial seizures in the medical community. Focal seizures can be simple or complex, depending on exactly what part of the brain is affected. Dogs experiencing a simple focal seizure are more likely to stay conscious than those that experience a complex focal seizure.

Signs to Look For:

  • Changes to vision and/or hearing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Problems balancing
  • Muscle twitching

Psychomotor Seizures

This type of seizure results in strange behavioral patterns. For instance, a dog may try to attack their tail or start barking and whining at something that nobody else can see. The activity lasts just a minute or two, but it can be startling for dog owners. It can be tough to tell the difference between a dog having this type of seizure and a dog simply behaving strangely. However, dogs that have psychomotor seizures will display the same strange behaviors each time. Once those behaviors are established, a psychomotor seizure can be more easily recognized.

Signs to Look For:

  • Strange behavior lasting no more than a couple of minutes

Idiopathic Epilepsy

Idiopathic epilepsy is a type of seizure that doesn’t have an easily attributable cause. It typically happens to dogs between the ages of 6 months and 6 years old. According to WebMD, certain breeds are more susceptible to idiopathic epilepsy than others. These breeds include the Border Collie, the German Shepherd, and the Beagle.

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What Causes Seizures to Occur in Dogs?

sick dog
Image Credit: Christin Lola, Shuuterstock

There are several reasons that a dog might have a seizure or epilepsy. First, it could be a genetic disorder. Ingesting poison or toxic food could also lead to a seizure episode. Brain trauma is a major reason that some dogs can have seizures. Liver and kidney diseases have also been known to cause tremors and seizures in dogs. Even brain tumors can be the cause of seizures. It is important to work with your veterinarian to try to determine the cause of your dog’s seizures. Keep in mind, though, that a cause may never be discovered.

What to Do If Your Dog Has a Seizure

The first thing that you should do if your dog experiences a seizure is to remain calm. They may be uncomfortable, but they likely are not in any pain. Refrain from trying to put anything in your dog’s mouth, as it won’t do anything to help them, and it could injure them. Ensure that no sharp objects or heavy items are near your dog, if possible.

This will help ensure that they don’t hurt themselves while their seizure plays out. Finally, call your veterinarian for guidance and schedule a checkup appointment. If your dog’s seizure lasts longer than 3 to 5 minutes, get them to an emergency clinic right away. While typical seizures are usually not life-threatening to dogs, prolonged seizures could be.

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In Conclusion

Dog seizures can be scary, but most are not life-threatening. However, you should take your pet to the vet after a seizure for full evaluation. It’s important to understand the different types of seizures that a dog can have and the signs of those seizures so you know how to react if a seizure does take place. Never hesitate to contact your veterinarian when in doubt.


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Published for: WATPFC