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When your pooch cannot tell you that he needs to see the doctor, you have to be the one to know when things are going wrong. Being attentive and educated about the health of your pet is just as vital as those visits to the dog park.
Because a lot of dog owners do not fully understand how seizures affect animals and how to identify them, they often mistakenly diagnose an attack as merely a canine idiosyncrasy such as whining or pacing.
Stages of Seizure
1. Prodome stage. The stage prior to the actual attack. Changes in a dog’s mood can be observed such as display of neediness, excessive panting, pacing, and whining.
2. Ictal stage. The actual seizure itself. Some symptoms include temporary paralysis, loss of consciousness, air-pawing, teeth-chomping, bowel movements, and uncontrollable urination.
3. Post-ictal stage. The moment the dog’s attack is over, he will quickly snap back into consciousness. While the signs in ictal stage only last a few seconds or minutes, here, the symptoms may last for a couple of hours. Behavioral signs may include excessive consumption of food and water, temporary blindness, confusion, drooling, and walking into the wall or objects.
If your dog seems to have suffered from a seizure, seek medical treatment immediately as these can result to permanent damage to his brain. Your vet will be able to diagnose the cause and work with you to determine the best course of treatment.
Common Causes of Seizure
Seizures occur for numerous reasons. Vets will normally recommend various diagnostic tests to find the cause of the problem. This usually begins with blood tests that may lead to advanced brain tests such as MRI, CT, and CSF. The following could likely be the source of canine seizures:
1. Developmental or structural abnormality
2. Reaction to allergen or toxin
3. Systemic disorder such as thyroid disease or liver shunt
4. Viral or bacterial infection
5. Brain tumor, benign or malignant
6. Poor diet and/or reaction to low quality pet food
What to Do
If you believe your dog is having an attack, try to remain calm and keep him out of danger. Start moving any object that may get in the way or may fall on your dog, should he bump into it. Try blocking off stairways and any area that may present safety threats. Never place your hand or anything in or near your pooch’s mouth as you may get seriously injured. Yes, he may bite his tongue, but he surely will never swallow it. In other words, simply try to steer clear of your pet until the attack is over.
How to Manage the Condition
In cases where brain abnormalities are identified, treatment options will vary according to the specific diagnosis as well as severity of the disorder. Luckily, attacks in epileptic dogs can be regulated with dietary changes and/or medications. There are numerous anti-convulsive drugs that your veterinarian may use to prevent seizures. Most vets, however, would not recommend medication if the attacks are mild or if it takes place less than once a month. Like any other drug, these pharmaceutical treatments have side effects. Nevertheless, if they help in controlling your pooch’s seizures, you may find that the benefits overshadow the risks.
The following video shows Tanner, a senior Golden Retriever, going through a fairly severe seizure. It may be difficult for some to watch, but Tanner’s human does a great job of remaining calm and describing what is happening while making sure she is safe in her environment. This dog has had extensive veterinary care, but has suffered with seizures throughout her entire life.