Seizures can be scary to witness in humans, but they can be just as alarming to see in your dogs. While they don’t last for a long period, they still seem stressful and endless to the dog owners. How to recognize and treat your dog’s epileptic seizures? How to deal with epilepsy in dogs and how to react during an attack?
Epilepsy in dogs: What is a dog seizure?
An epileptic seizure is a disease characterized by the sudden onset of contractions. They can either affect a part of the body (partial epileptic seizures) or the whole body (generalized epileptic seizures) with loss of consciousness.
These contractions are due to abnormal electrical activity in neurons. The dog then loses control of all body functions related to affected parts of the brain. It is important not to confuse epileptic seizures with dog tremors which are mini muscle contractions as well as with syncope, which is a sudden loss of consciousness.
Since epileptic seizures are unpredictable and rapid, describing them as precisely as possible and maybe showing your vet a video, can really help in the examination.
Causes of epileptic seizures in dogs
Primary or idiopathic epileptic seizures are ones with no known cause; It is the most common form, and generalized seizures accompany it.
All dog breeds can suffer from epilepsy even if some are more predisposed, such as the German Shepherd, the Labrador or the Boxer.
Epilepsy is said to be primary or idiopathic when the dog shows no brain or metabolic damage. Whereas if the seizures are a consequence of an intracranial lesion (tumor, malformation, trauma, inflammatory process), it is then secondary epilepsy.
Symptoms of epilepsy in dogs
It can be challenging to recognize the warning signs of an epileptic seizure in your dog. As the intensity tends to increase over time, the first attacks often go unnoticed while they are more apparent in older dogs.
The signs vary from a dog to another. However, most dogs show the following behaviours before a seizure:
- He walks around for no apparent reason and seems to be wandering
- Licks his lips, drools a lot, urinates or vomits
- He shows signs of stress: he barks, cries, asks for attention or, on the contrary, runs away from you
During an epileptic attack, the dog becomes stiff, falls and throws his head back. He may also bark, moan, vomit, and have difficulty breathing. This phase can be tough and scary to see but only lasts a few minutes.
During the recovery phase following the attack, the dog will first try to get up; He may be exhausted and have difficulty moving around. He will also get very hungry and thirsty. Some dogs also suffer from temporary blindness. Recovery can take from a few hours to several days.
What are the treatments for epileptic seizures in dogs?
Treatments depend on the type and intensity of epilepsy your dog has. Secondary epileptic seizures are easier to treat once the vet identifies the underlying cause. He can then prescribe all the medications and interventions necessary for recovery. Some essential oils can also have beneficial effects.
On the other hand, when it comes to primary epileptic seizures, treatment can be more complicated. Without an identified cause, it is only possible to provide relief to your dog. The vet can prescribe anticonvulsant treatment with sedative properties. If your dog does not tolerate this treatment well, you can replace it with plants, such as CBD. Before making any changes, you need to discuss it with your vet first.
How to prevent epileptic seizures in dogs?
A dog with epilepsy can live a long and healthy life with the right treatment and preventive measures.
Limit triggering situations
If your dog has idiopathic epilepsy (with no known cause), it may be difficult to identify the situations that trigger seizures. However, by observing your dog well, you will be able to link certain factors such as intense physical activity or stressful situations (fireworks, thunderstorms, etc.) and the occurrence of a seizure.
For dogs suffering from secondary epilepsy, the preventive measures depend directly on the health problem causing the seizures. It can involve diet modifications, like a ketogenic diet (very high in fat) which can sometimes be helpful. Do not take any initiative without consulting your vet.
Be consistent with the treatment.
Epilepsy is not inevitable. Thanks to the treatments, 80% of dogs with epilepsy have a completely normal life expectancy. However, you need to give the treatment in the exact required dosage and at fixed times without missing a single one.
Plan regular visits to the vet
Anticonvulsant drugs can have side effects, especially on the liver, which require regular check-ups and blood tests. At a minimum, schedule a consultation every six months. You might need more frequent visits depending on the condition of your dog.
Make sure to keep all the tests results and examinations in your dog’s health record, as well as a calendar to note all the attacks (date, duration, conditions of onset).
How can you help your dog during an epileptic seizure?
If your dog is having a seizure, don’t panic! The episodes last from a few seconds to five minutes.
- Keep calm, keep children and other dogs away.
- Limit the noise in the room and put a very dim light
- Please do not touch your dog, and do not put your hand in his mouth. There is no risk of swallowing his tongue. He might also bite you and of course, not on purpose.
- Secure the environment around your dog. Remove anything that could hurt him.
- Record the start and end time of the seizure as well as any information that may be useful.
- If the attack lasts more than five minutes, call your veterinarian urgently and follow his advice.