Seizures in Dogs

Dogs can have seizures for various reasons, such as epilepsy and heat exhaustion. In this post, our Jacksonville vets explain more about the causes of seizures in dogs, how to recognize them, and when to call your veterinarian.

Dogs & Seizures

It can be distressing for dog owners to see their beloved pups have a seizure. However, knowing what is causing the seizure and what to do if your dog has a seizure can help make the situation a little less stressful.

How To Recognize Seizures in Dogs

Seizures can take many forms, and some are more obvious than others. If your dog is having a seizure, you might notice their muscle twitching or uncontrolled jerking movements. In addition to this, seizures can cause loss of consciousness, drooling, or unusual eye-rolling movements. If your dog shows signs of having a seizure, it's imperative to call your vet immediately and inform them of the situation.

What Causes Seizures in Dogs?

It doesn't matter what the underlying cause of the seizure is, seizures occur due to faulty electrical activity in the dog's brain, which causes a loss of control over the body. The main underlying causes of seizures in dogs include:

  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Heat Exhaustion
  • Nutritional imbalances such as thiamine deficiency
  • Epilepsy
  • Tumors
  • Liver disease
  • Heartworms
  • An injury to the dog's head (such as a road accident)
  • Diabetes
  • Ingested poisons such as caffeine, chocolate
  • Infectious diseases such as canine distemper virus infection (CDV) and rabies

Dog Breeds That Have a Higher Risk of Seizures

While not all of these breeds will experience a seizure in their lifetime, these dogs tend to be more prone to seizures than others:

  • Breeds with short, flat noses such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, and English Bulldogs can be more prone to experiencing seizures.
  • Large herding and retriever dogs may also be prone to seizures, including German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers.
  • Bull Terriers can suffer from an inherited form of epilepsy which causes behaviors such as tail chasing, irrational fear, and unprovoked aggression.
  • Herding dogs with the MDR1 gene often have seizures. These breeds include Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Longhaired Whippets, as well as Old English and Shetland Sheepdogs.

When To Contact Your Vet

Contact your vet immediately if there is a chance your dog may be having a seizure because of poisoning, if your dog's seizure lasts longer than 3 minutes, or if your dog has more than one seizure in a row.

In terms of whether a seizure can kill a dog, most seizures are short, lasting less than 3 minutes, and with proper care, dogs can often live a normal life. However, seizures can be a serious health concern. Even short seizures can cause brain damage. If your dog's seizure lasts longer than 30 minutes, serious permanent brain damage can occur.

If your dog has a brief seizure and recovers quickly, call your vet to tell them what happened. Your vet might ask you to bring your dog in for an examination, or they may 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.

Treating Dogs That Have Seizures

If your dog is experiencing seizures, their treatment will be determined by the underlying cause. Your vet will run a number of tests to find out what is causing your dog's seizures. If no cause can be found, your dog will be diagnosed with 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.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact our Jacksonville vets immediately if your dog is having a seizure or call your nearest emergency animal hospital.