When A Dog Has Epilepsy Or A Seizure, What Exactly Are We Talking About?

In the canine population, seizures are a common neurological problem. A momentary involuntary interruption of normal brain function, sometimes accompanied by uncontrolled muscular movement, is what medical professionals refer to as a seizure, convulsion, or fit. Recurrent seizures are referred to as epilepsy. Seizures may be sporadic and hard to anticipate, or they can occur at predictable intervals, both of which are common in epilepsy.

Why do some people have seizures, exactly?

Epileptic seizures may arise from a wide variety of factors. The most prevalent kind of canine epilepsy, idiopathic epilepsy, is a hereditary condition for which the underlying etiology is still unclear. Liver illness, renal failure, brain tumors, brain trauma, and poisons are other contributors. When the dog’s brain activity is rapidly shifting, like when it’s exciting, when it’s eating, when it’s sleeping, or when it wakes up, seizures are common. Between attacks, affected dogs can seem perfectly normal.

A normal seizure consists of what?

An epileptic seizure has three parts:

  • A dog’s behavior changes before an epileptic seizure (the “aura”), during which she may hide, seem anxious, or try to find her owner. It’s possible she’s fidgety, anxious, whiny, trembling, or drooling. Depending on the circumstances, this might last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours. The dog seems to have an anticipatory phase before the onset of seizure activity.
  • The ictal phase may vary in duration from a few seconds to many minutes and in appearance. At any point throughout the ictal phase, the person’s level of consciousness and ability to control their body might decrease or disappear entirely. When a dog has a grand mal seizure, it loses consciousness and all of its muscles twitch and contract in uncontrollable ways. Typically, the dog will lie on her side and paddle her legs as if paralyzed. Frequently, a retraction of the head will be seen. It’s possible that you’ll have to urinate, defecate, and drool. Status epilepticus, often known as a protracted seizure, is diagnosed when a dog’s first seizure lasts longer than five minutes (see below).
  • Confusion, disorientation, salivation, pacing, restlessness, and maybe momentary blindness characterize the post-ictal phase, or the time immediately after the termination of the seizure. The intensity of the seizure does not predict how long the post-ictal period would last.

Is my dog at any risk during a seizure, and is it painful?

Even while seizures seem scary and may cause your dog to worry, they are not unpleasant. It is a common misconception that, during a seizure, a dog would swallow its tongue. You won’t be doing your dog any favors by putting your fingers or anything else inside her mouth; in fact, you’re more likely to be bitten severely or hurt your pet in the process. The most crucial thing is to prevent your dog from harming herself by tumbling or knocking things down on top of her. As long as she remains on the floor, she is safe from danger.

“The important thing is to keep your dog from falling or hurting herself…”

Rarely does a dog die from only one seizure? However, your dog’s body temperature starts to increase if it experiences numerous seizures in a short period of time (cluster seizures) or if a seizure lasts more than a few minutes. Another set of issues arises if hyperthermia (high body temperature) occurs as a result of having a seizure.

What does it mean when someone has status epilepticus?

Status epilepticus is a dangerous and life-threatening condition. Seizures that last longer than five minutes are diagnostic of this condition. Unless intravenous anticonvulsants are administered rapidly to interrupt the seizure activity, a dog may die or suffer irreparable brain damage.

In the event of status epilepticus, immediate veterinary attention is required

When a patient has a seizure, how can doctors pinpoint the root cause?

The first thing your doctor will do when your dog has a seizure is taking a detailed history, paying special attention to any history of toxic or hallucinogenic chemical exposure or head trauma. Additionally, your vet will do a complete physical exam, run lab tests (including blood and urine), and maybe even an electrocardiogram (ECG). Diseases of the liver, kidneys, heart, electrolytes, and blood sugar levels may be ruled out by doing these analyses. If your dog is not receiving monthly heartworm prevention, a test will be conducted.

If they are all clear and there has been no recent poisoning or trauma, then the severity and frequency of the seizures will determine whether or not additional diagnostics are necessary. Although seizures that occur less often than once a month do usually not cause for alarm, they may increase in frequency and severity. If this is the case, a spinal fluid (CSF) analysis may be conducted.

Specialized procedures, such as a CT scan or MRI, may also be conducted to look directly at the anatomy of the brain if they are available at a referral center or teaching hospital.

How are seizures treated or prevented?

Treatment usually begins after a dog has:

  1. More than one seizure per month,
  2. Clusters of seizures where one seizure is immediately followed by another, or
  3. Grand mal seizures that are severe or prolonged in duration.

If anticonvulsant treatment begins, it must continue indefinitely. Anticonvulsant medicine may increase the dog’s chance of getting more severe seizures if it is begun and subsequently withdrawn. It is possible to create seizures in healthy dogs by using anticonvulsant medicine and then suddenly stopping it. You may expect detailed instructions from your vet on how to taper off or switch anticonvulsant medication if that becomes necessary.