Seizures in dogs, like in humans, is a neurological and brain disorder that causes sudden spasms in the body. Dogs who are prone to seizures can lead a normal life if the seizures are taken care of accordingly. Dogs will not know what is happening to them or how to react afterward, so it is up to you to remain calm and take care of your dog until the seizure episode is over.
We have some suggestions on how to tell when a seizure is about to occur as well as what to do during and after the seizure to help your dog settle and return to normal.
What Causes Seizures in Dogs?
Seizures in dogs are triggered by some sort of underlying disease that needs to be treated. The causes of seizures can be separated into three categories: primary epileptic seizures, secondary epileptic seizures, and reactive epileptic seizures.
Primary epileptic seizures have no structural cause but and are often genetically inherited. At least 65% of dogs with onset seizures have been diagnosed with primary epilepsy. Unfortunately, there is no test that determines if a dog has primary epilepsy and it often can only be diagnosed by ruling out other seizure-causing diseases.
Secondary epileptic seizures are caused by some abnormal process in the brain. This can be either an accumulation of spinal fluid on the brain, trauma, tumor, or infection. Vets will often recommend a spinal tap or diagnostic imaging of the brain in order to properly diagnose if a dog is suffering from secondary epileptic seizures.
Reactive epileptic seizures are caused by metabolic dysfunctions. This could be either low blood sugar, hypothyroidism, low calcium, liver failure, toxins, kidney failure, or electrolyte imbalance. More invasive tests, such as blood work and urine analysis, will be performed in order to diagnose if a dog is suffering from reactive epileptic seizures and to find a treatment to help reduce the occurrences of seizures.
Symptoms of Seizures in Dogs
In order to help a dog who suffers from seizures the first step is to recognize when a seizure could occur. Sometimes seizures occur out of nowhere, and other times seizures give a few warning signs before they occur. It is up to you to be able to recognize when your dog is acting abnormally.
When a dog is about to have a seizure their personality and body can change dramatically. The dog may act scared, confused, anxious, or stare off at nothing and even lose control of their bodily functions. If you notice your dog acting abnormal, you can prepare for the seizure by getting your dog to a safe and quiet place and keep a careful eye on them.
Why You Need to Monitor Your Dog for Seizures
Seizures need to be taken seriously because your dog can be harmed during the episode. Your dog does not have any control over their limbs during a seizure, so if they are not in a safe place they could injure or potentially break something. If they are not cared for before and after the seizure, it could cause further harm and make future seizures worse.
Not all seizures can be one hundred percent eliminated but they can often be controlled. With proper medication and treatment, your dog can continue to live a normal life around the seizures. But without any form of treatment seizures can get worse and you may end up with a dog that can no longer be treated with medication.
How to Calm a Dog After a Seizure
If you haven’t already done so, or it is the first time your dog has a seizure, you should first take them to the vet to figure out what is causing the seizures. Diagnosing can be long and require many tests and bloodwork, but they are necessary in order to provide the best medical treatment for the seizures. Your vet can also educate you on the type of diagnosed seizure in order to provide better and more effective at-home treatments.
When at home, we recommend having a quiet and comfortable space set up for your dog that can serve as a safe place. Get them a bed that is flat and has no high edges, like this one, or you risk your dog falling off the bed or getting caught up in the bed during a seizure. Remove any toys, blankets, or objects from the safe space to further limit injury.
During the seizure, it is important to remain calm and not panic. There is nothing much that can be done during the seizure but wait it out and soothingly speak to your dog so they know you are there for them. Do not touch your dog or hold him down, and do not let other pets or children interact with your dog until their episode is over.
After the seizure is when your dog will need your help and support the most. Only when you are sure that they are no longer having the seizure may you gently caress your dog and speak softly to him to calm him. Dogs will be in a confused state, known as the post-ictal phase, from as little as ten minutes to as long as a week after the seizure.
Common symptoms after a seizure are pacing, whining, extreme hunger, disorientation, and, rarely, aggression. Calm your dog by letting him know that you are there to provide comfort and support during his confused state. If he is hungry, feed him small meals to start with so as to not upset his stomach.
In some cases, dogs who suffer from seizures will have low blood sugar after an episode. Some recommend giving a small amount of ice cream to dogs to help but this is an internet myth. You should consult with your vet before doing this. Sugar should only be given to dogs if you know they suffer from low blood sugar, otherwise, it could increase the risk of brain damage.
If your dog has seizures the best thing to do is remain calm and give your pup as much support and love as you can, both before and after the seizure.
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