There are a number of reasons that your dog may have a seizure ranging from heat exhaustion to epilepsy. Today our Santa Cruz vets share some of the reasons that dogs have seizures, and what you should do if your dog has a seizure.
Seizures in Dogs
Witnessing your dog having a seizure can be distressing for many pet owners. That said, knowing the causes of the seizure and what to do if your dog does have a seizure may help to make the situation a little less stressful.
What Seizures in Dogs Look Like
A seizure can take many forms, and some are more obvious than others. If your dog is having a seizure you may notice muscle twitching or uncontrolled jerking movements, but a seizure could also include a loss of consciousness, drooling, or unusual eye-rolling movements. If your dog shows signs of having a seizure it's important to contact your vet to let them know.
Causes of Seizures in Dogs
Regardless of the underlying cause, a seizure occurs due to faulty electrical activity in the dog's brain which leads to a loss of control over their body. The main underlying causes of seizures in dogs can include:
- Heat Exhaustion
- Nutritional imbalances such as thiamine deficiency
- Low blood sugar levels
- Liver disease.
- Ingested poisons such as caffeine, chocolate
- An injury to the dog's head (such as a road accident)
- Infectious diseases such as canine distemper virus infection (CDV) and rabies
Dog Breeds With Increased Risk of Seizures
While not all dogs within these breeds will experience a seizure in their lifetime, these breeds tend to be more prone to seizures than others:
- Bull Terriers can suffer from an inherited form of epilepsy which causes behaviors such as tail chasing, irrational fear, and unprovoked aggression.
- Large herding and retriever dogs may be prone to seizures, including German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, as well as Labrador and Golden Retrievers.
- Herding dogs with the MDR1 gene commonly experience seizures. These breeds include: Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Longhaired Whippets, as well as Old English and Shetland Sheepdogs.
- Breeds with short, flat noses such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, and English Bulldogs can also be more prone to experiencing seizures.
When To Call A Vet
Contact your vet immediately if there is a chance that your dog is having a seizure due to poisoning, if your dog's seizure lasts longer than 3 minutes, or if your dog has more than one seizure in a row.
When it comes to the question of whether a seizure can kill a dog, most seizures are short, lasting less than 3 minutes and with proper treatment, the pet can lead a normal life. However, seizures can be a serious health concern and even short seizures could cause brain damage. If your dog suffers a seizure that continues for more than 30 minutes serious permanent brain damage could occur.
If your dog has a brief seizure then quickly recovers be sure to call your vet to let them know. Your vet may suggest that you bring your dog in for an examination or they may simply make a note in your dog's records and ask you to bring your dog in for an examination if it happens again. Some dogs will have an unexplained ‘one off’ seizure, while other dogs continue to have seizures throughout their life due to epilepsy or illness.
Treatment for Seizures In Dogs
If your dog is experiencing seizures, treatment will depend upon the underlying cause. Your vet will run a number of tests to determine the cause of your dog's seizures, if no cause can be found the disease will be diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. Once your dog's seizures have been diagnosed your vet will work with you to determine the best treatment for your dog's seizures which may include medications or keeping a seizure diary.