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Did you know that there is such a thing as seizure disorders in dogs, and dogs get seizures from many causes, and one of them is epilepsy? Fortunately I have never experienced it any of my dogs, but no doubt it can be scary if you have encountered it in your dog for the first time.
Canine epilepsy can be inherited. Conscientious dog breeders take measures to make sure not to breed dogs with an epileptic bloodline, so if you are thinking of buying a pup from a breeder, be sure to ask about this. But there are also times when epilepsy or other types of seizures cannot be avoided no matter what an owner does. One symptom that may occur in your dog that can show the possibility of developing epilepsy is constant shivering of its legs (if it’s not cold). The first seizure normally only starts a year or more after your dog starts shivering, so you may want to ask your vet whether or not they recommend an office visit if there have just been tremors so far, and no seizures as yet. Tests before seizures develop are usually inconclusive. Try to videotape any seizures and take it with you to the vet, because most vets won’t see a seizure happen when the dog is in the office (you know — the “Murphy’s Law” effect!).
Seizure Disorders in Dogs
So what happens when your dog has a seizure? Similar to people, it may experience the “halo” effect, where it gets disoriented and starts acting weird. It may then experience some drooling or foaming at its mouth, and then it begins convulsions. Later it may fall backwards and start making weird noises like a dog running, but it’s lying on the ground. During this process, you should keep dangerous objects away from the area your dog is in, as it may flop about some. Dogs with seizures may also uncontrollably urinate or defecate. About the scary noises – there is no need to fear them because the dogs are unharmed. The dog is apparently hallucinating. The noises just sound creepy, that’s all.
First of all, do NOT fall for the “old wive’s tale” and try to pull out your dog’s tongue, or wedge something between its teeth, like you would do for humans experiencing a seizure. It is physically impossible for a dog to choke on or swallow its tongue.
Here is the most important thing you need to know about seizure disorders in dogs, as explained in an article on the Pets.WebMD.com website:
Seizures lasting more than five minutes (status epilepticus seizures) or cluster seizures (several seizures one after the other without a return to consciousness) are emergencies. They must be stopped with intravenous Valium or other anticonvulsants to prevent permanent brain damage or death. Seek immediate veterinary attention. Status epilepticus has a poor prognosis, because it is usually caused by poisoning or a serious brain disease.
In those cases, don’t wait for the seizures to stop! Get the dog into the car and GO!!
Seizures of dogs last usually around two minutes, but it can vary. There are actually ways that can help shorten the seizure length. First, you can cover your dog with a towel or a blanket to make sure that no light enters his eyes. Second, avoid getting near the dog’s mouth because it may tend to bite you or anything around it just out of reflex. Third, try giving your dog a back and hind massage to make him/her feel comfortable.
Your vet may advise Phenobarbital or other medication for dogs having seizure after a couple of blood tests, or nothing at all depending on the severity and frequency of the problem. If your vet is unsatisfied with the exam, he/she may also keep the dog under observation for a while. Don’t worry dog lovers: epileptic or other seizures do not necessarily mean your dog is close to death. There are dogs with these problems that have been treated properly and have lived a long, normal life.
There are many possible reasons for canine seizures, most of which are not serious, fortunately. For further reading, you may also wish to consult another of our Dogington Post articles on the subject. Read that article here.
The primary points about what you should know about seizure disorders in dogs are covered above. The main thing is to get your dog to the vet after a seizure, and do it immediately on an emergency basis if it lasts more than 5 minutes, or it is a series of cluster seizures.
Have you ever experienced this with your dog? If so, please add to these pointers below, so we can all be prepared.