What to Do When Your Dog Has a Seizure: The Complete Guide

by | Jul 29, 2020 | Health and Nutrition

We love dogs. They are wonderful companions and they make us so happy in so many ways.

They love us unconditionally and they are always there for us with their upbeat attitude, loyalty, and endless goofiness. They live a life of joy and they even inspire us to emulate their simple but beautiful outlook on life.

Therefore, when our dogs are in distress, we are too. Whether they are sick or sad, we feel their pain deeply as well. 

When a dog has a seizure, it’s terrifying. You might not know what to do when your dog has a seizure, which can make the entire experience even worse.

Whether your dog has experienced seizures in the past or not, knowing what to do if one occurs is crucial. Preparation ahead of time can help you to feel calm and ready to act when the time comes. 

Seizures never stop being scary, but being armed with the right information will make your dog’s seizure more bearable, and can help you to keep him and her safe in a time of need.

Why Dogs Have Seizures

In both dogs and humans, seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. 

Seizures can be caused by a number of different conditions including epilepsy, kidney or liver disease, anemia, electrolyte imbalances, allergies, brain cancer, and more. Often, seizures can be caused by accidents like head injuries, consumption of a poison, or a stroke.

Sometimes an animal or human will have a seizure once and will never have one again, but sometimes they are a regular occurrence and they can happen with some frequency on an ongoing basis for the remainder of one’s life.

Epilepsy is a condition in which seizures are common. Some breeds of dogs are more prone to epilepsy such as Beagles, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. In all breeds, epilepsy usually becomes evident between the ages of one and three years.

Symptoms of Seizures in Dogs

Most people can recognize when a human is experiencing a seizure. In dogs, seizures are often quite obvious as well. However, because we cannot talk to dogs about their experience and how they are feeling, sometimes they may be difficult to identify.

Immediately prior to a dog’s seizure, he or she may begin to act oddly and confusion or stress may be apparent.

Grand Mal or Generalized Seizures

In a grand mal or generalized seizure, once the seizure begins, the dog may suddenly fall to the ground. 

During the seizure, the dog may twitch and shake and go stiff. He or she may drool or foam at the mouth and may lose bladder and bowel control. In many cases, your dog may also whine or growl during the episode.

A seizure may only last a few seconds or it may continue for several minutes. Even a short seizure can be terrifying. After the seizure is over, your dog may seem groggy and confused and may have difficulty walking for the next twenty-four hours or so.

Other Types of Seizures

Grand mal or generalized seizures are what we think of when we think of seizures. However, there are other, less obvious types as well. Focal seizures focus on one body part and may look like a twitch. It may be difficult to identify this type of seizure easily.

Psychomotor seizures are even harder to identify. These types of seizures may inspire odd behavior such as tail-chasing or hallucinations. They may only last a minute or two.

In the case of focal or psychomotor seizures, your dog may experience them for quite some time before you even notice them or grow concerned enough to pursue a veterinary diagnosis.

What to Do When Your Dog Has a Seizure

At the moment, you may not know what to do when your dog has a seizure, but the proper response is really not much different from the correct response when a human experiences one.

The first thing that you should do is to make sure that there is nothing nearby that can hurt your dog during the seizure. If he or she falls near a table, make sure nothing can fall off the table during the episode that could cause further injury. If possible, gently slide him or her to a more open space.

Although your dog may be grinding his or her teeth and might be foaming at the mouth, do not put your hands anywhere near the mouth. The oral response of a seizure is uncontrollable and you could be injured if you try to stop it.

If possible, time the seizure to keep track of its length. A seizure can feel much longer than it actually is, and knowing how long the seizure lasted can be helpful for your vet.

After a Seizure

After the seizure is over, your dog will be confused and disoriented. This is when he or she will greatly benefit from your love and care. Talk to your dog in a calm voice and be gentle. Pet him or her softly. If your dog is small, hold him or her in your lap to make your dog feel safe.

If this was your dog’s first seizure, or if the seizure lasted more than five minutes, you should take him or her to the vet. The vet will perform a number of tests to try to determine the cause of the seizure. Your vet may develop a treatment plan and may prescribe anti-seizure medication.

Anti-seizure medication can cause a dog to gain weight, so you may need to alter your dog’s diet to keep him or her healthy now and into the future.

Dogs who have seizures should not be allowed to swim. If your dog has a seizure while swimming, drowning is likely. It’s better to keep a dog that has seizures on the shore to be safe.

Ongoing Care for Seizures in Dogs

There’s no doubt about it – seizures are scary. However, it’s possible for a dog that has seizures to live a long and happy life with proper care. If your dog has seizures often, your vet will ask you to keep a log of them for future reference. If your vet prescribes medication, it’s crucial that you give it to your dog on the recommended schedule. 

Once you know what to do when your dog has a seizure, you will feel better prepared if one happens again. Your dog depends on you for so much. It is so important that you know what to do should an emergency arise for your furry, four-legged friend.

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