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Predicting Seizures in Dogs: When They Are Going to Happen and What to Do If You Notice the Signs

Seizures can differ in how they present; however, a study recently investigating the prodromal phase—AKA the time right before your dog has an episode—found that around 60% of owners could predict when their dog was about to experience a seizure based on changes in their behaviour. This article covers what to look out for if your dog has idiopathic epilepsy and discusses what you can do if you think your dog is going to have a seizure.

If your dog has seizures, you are not alone. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders in dogs, with an estimated 0.7% of all canines affected by it. While seizures can be caused by a variety of things—including trauma, infection, and brain tumours—the majority of cases (approximately 60%) are idiopathic, meaning that the cause is unknown.

Dogs with idiopathic epilepsy will usually start showing clinical signs between one and five years of age. The seizures themselves can vary greatly in terms of severity and duration, from brief episodes lasting only a few seconds to more prolonged ones that can go on for minutes or even hours. Some dogs will only have seizures infrequently, while others may have them multiple times a day.

One of the most important things you can do if your dog has seizures is to learn to recognize the clinical signs that indicate an episode is about to begin. These prodromal signs can differ from dog to dog but may include changes in behaviour such as increased restlessness, pacing, or hiding; changes in interactions with family members; or changes in sleeping patterns.

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it's important to stay calm and reassure them. If your vet has given you intervention or pulse medication and your dog is still alert and aware of its surroundings then give the medication. Try to move them to a quiet, safe place where they will be comfortable and less likely to hurt themselves. Once the seizure has passed, offer them water and help them to cool down if they are panting or seem overheated.

A recent study by Finnegan et al (2020) reported that owners noted four main changes in their dogs during the prodromal phase - they were as followed

  1. by behavioural including increased restlessness, clinginess, pacing, eye movements, vomiting, changes in appetite, becoming withdrawn, licking, staring, salivating more, becoming itchy, increase appetite, lethargy, decreased activity, decreased sleep and vocalising frequently.

  2. Sensory changes - such as the smell of their dog

  3. The recognition of seizure triggers such as moon cycle changes in routine, decreased sleep, stress, overexertion, and cold temperatures.

  4. Changes in other household pets' behaviour

What's the significance of being able to predict when a seizure is going to occur?

If you are able to predict when your dog is going to have a seizure, it means that you can take steps to prevent the seizure from happening or at least minimize its severity. For example, your vet may have prescribed your dog medication to be used on an as-needed basis. This is usually referred to as pulse medication. Pulse medication refers to medication that is given when your dog is about to or recently has had a seizure. It is used for a short period of time. It is thought that this type of therapy may reduce the development of anti-epileptic drug resistance in dogs (Packer et al; Volk et al).

If you are able to predict when your dog is going to have seizures, you can also take steps to make sure that they are in a safe environment where they are less likely to injure themselves. This may mean having someone stay with them during the seizure or making sure that they are in a safe area such as a crate or pen.

Seizures can be very scary for both you and your dog. However, by learning to recognize the clinical signs that indicate an oncoming seizure, you can take steps to help prevent or lessen the severity of the seizure. If you have any questions or concerns about seizures in dogs, please talk to your veterinarian.


Finnegan, S. L., Volk, H. A., Asher, L., Daley, M., & Packer, R. M. (2020). Investigating the potential for seizure prediction in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy: Owner‐reported prodromal changes and seizure triggers. Veterinary Record, 187(4), 152–152.

Packer RMA, Nye G, Porter SE, et al. Assessment into the usage of levetiracetam in a canine epilepsy clinic. BMC Vet Res 2015;11:25.

Volk HA, Matiasek LA, Luján Feliu-Pascual A, et al. The efficacy and tolerability of levetiracetam in pharmacoresistant epileptic dogs. Vet J 2008;176:310–9.


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