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Seizures in dogs - types, times and what to do if your dog has one

Seizures can present in a variety of forms, including generalised (when the entire body is affected), partial (when one area is affected) or absent seizures (when the patient isn't shaking but is unaware of their surroundings). Idiopathic epilepsy is dogs' most common type of seizure disorder and can be frustrating for owners and veterinarians. There are many possible causes of seizures, but idiopathic epilepsy is defined as seizures with no known cause. Despite this, there are a few risk factors that have been identified which may predispose a dog to develop idiopathic epilepsy, including:




- Genetic disposition - certain breeds are more prone to developing seizures, including Samoyeds, Beagles, Keeshonds, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.

- Male gender - male dogs are around twice as likely as females to develop seizures.

- Age - idiopathic epilepsy most commonly develops in dogs between one and five years of age.


Generalised and Focal seizures in dogs

Not all seizures are the same; many different ways an attack can present in your dog. The most common presentation seen in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy are categorised as generalised tonic-clonic seizures, previously called grand mal seizures and focal seizures, formerly known as petit mal seizures. Generalised tonic-clonic seizures involve the whole body is affected. The dog may collapse, lose consciousness and paddle its legs while having muscle spasms. Focal seizures are less severe and may involve only a part of the body, such as the head or a limb. The dog may appear dazed or confused and stare into space or wander.


Tonic movements refer to stiffening, clonic movements refer to shaking, and myoclonic movements refer to gerking actions.


Duration - Seizures typically last for around one to two minutes but can occasionally last up to five minutes. If a seizure lasts longer than five minutes, or if the dog has multiple episodes quickly, this is known as status epilepticus and is a medical emergency.


What to do if your dog has a seizure

If your dog has a seizure, it is essential to remain calm and not try to restrain them. Move any objects out of the way, so they dont injure themselves, and time the seizure. If the episode lasts longer than two minutes, or if your dog has multiple attacks, you should take them to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.


What can trigger a seizure in a dog?

Several possible triggers have been associated with seizures in dogs, including:

- Stress or anxiety

- Heat

- Sounds (more common in cats than dogs)

- Overexertion or excitement

- Lack of sleep

- Diet (including both food and water)

- Exercise

- Flashing lights or patterns

- Changes in the environment (such as a move to a new house)

- Certain foods or medications


While these triggers can be associated with seizures, it is essential to remember that not all dogs will be affected similarly. Some dogs may be more sensitive to specific stimuli than others, and some may not be affected by any. If you think your dog's seizures may be triggered by something in their environment, it is worth keeping a seizure diary to see if you can identify any patterns. No attacks are activated; some will occur for no notable reason; these are idiopathic seizures.




Commonly asked questions

What do I do if my dog has a seizure?

If your dog has a seizure, it is essential to remain calm and not try to restrain them. Move any objects out of the way, so they dont injure themselves, and time the seizure. If the seizure lasts longer than two minutes, or if your dog has multiple episodes, you should take them to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.


Can idiopathic epilepsy in dogs be cured?

There is no cure for idiopathic epilepsy, but it can be managed with medication. The goal of treatment is to minimise the number and severity of seizures and to make them less disruptive to your dog's life. In some cases, surgery may also be an option.


What is the prognosis for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy?

The prognosis for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy is generally reasonable. With treatment, most dogs can live relatively everyday lives. Some may experience more seizures than others, and some may require higher doses of medication, but most dogs with idiopathic epilepsy can live happy healthy lives.


If your dog has a seizure, does it have epilepsy?

No, not all dogs that have a seizure will go on to develop epilepsy. Many strokes are caused by low blood sugar or infection and resolve without further problems. However, if your dog does have multiple attacks, it is possible that they do have epilepsy and will require lifelong treatment.


Can the gut-brain axis cause seizures?

The gut-brain axis is a complex system that is not fully understood. However, some evidence suggests that it may play a role in seizures, and more research is needed in this area.


Can anything be done to prevent seizures?

There is no sure way to prevent seizures, but there are some things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of them occurring. For example, if your dog is prone to stress or anxiety, keep them in a calm environment and avoid anything that may trigger their seizures. If they are on medication, give it to them as prescribed and do not skip any doses. And finally, if you think their attacks may be related to their diet, try to feed them a high-quality, balanced diet and ensure they have access to fresh water.


Seizures can be frightening for you and your dog, but with the proper treatment, most dogs can live relatively everyday lives. If you think that your dog may be having seizures, or if you have any other concerns, please do not hesitate to speak to your veterinarian. They will be able to give you more information and advise you on the best course of action for your dog. Thank you for reading. I hope this has been helpful.


If you have any questions or want to share your experiences, please comment below. I would love to hear from you.

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