What to do if your dog has a seizure

You should only touch your dog or give them attention after they’ve stopped fitting when it’s safe to do so. You may instinctively want to comfort or hold your pet during a seizure but this is not recommended. Just remember, during a seizure, they’re not in pain and don’t know you’re there.

Turn off any lights, music or television during a seizure, this will minimise the amount of background stimulation for your dog.

Removing any sharp or dangerous objects around your pet is also a good idea, just in case they injure themselves while fitting.

Avoid putting your hands near your dog’s mouth as they may inadvertently bite you.

Timing the fit is useful, as this information will help your vet and give you a guide on how severe the situation is.

Clusters of seizures

It’s unusual for a dog to suffer clusters of serious seizures, but not unheard of.

Single seizures that last more than five minutes, or clusters of short seizures, are a medical emergency. Every second counts in these situations, so be sure to contact your daytime vet or your nearest out-of-hours pet emergency clinic as soon as you can.

How to stop a dog from having a seizure

Reducing stress and limiting changes to your dog’s environment can help to prevent seizures, as stress is known to ‘trigger’ seizures.

Feeding your dog a healthy diet, keeping an eye on their blood sugar and getting them checked regularly by your daytime vet will also come in handy.

Once a seizure has started, it’s important to make sure your dog can breathe easily. Is anything blocking their airways? Is their mouth clear?

Seizures can also cause a rise in temperature as a result of increased muscle activity. You can mitigate this by wrapping them in cold towels or placing a fan in front of them; just be careful not to cool them so much that you cause hypothermia.

What causes seizures in dogs?

Seizures are usually the result of abnormal activity in the brain and can lead to your dog losing control of their body. They are relatively common, with up to one in 20 dogs suffering from fits at some point in their lives, but seizures can be distressing and cause anxiety for you and your pet.

Multiple factors can cause seizures, fits and convulsions. If your dog is eight years old or younger, epilepsy is the most common cause.

Further causes can include:

  • low blood sugar levels
  • calcium deficiency
  • stroke
  • anaemia
  • heatstroke
  • infectious diseases
  • head trauma
  • liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • some poisons
  • high or low blood pressure
  • poor circulation of the brain
  • brain tumours

Could my dog have a seizure after eating something poisonous?

Potentially, yes. If your dog suffers a one-off and unexpected seizure, it may be because they’ve swallowed something toxic.

The following household products can cause seizures if ingested by dogs:

Are seizures life-threatening to dogs?

Prolonged seizures can be deadly, but an occasional or one-off seizure is not life-threatening in most cases.

Always seek urgent advice from your vet if your dog has a seizure of any kind, whether it’s a one-off or several.

If your dog has multiple fits in a short space of time, they are at risk of brain damage and in extreme circumstances may end up in a coma. Emergency treatment may be needed, so please contact your vet or your nearest emergency care provider as soon as possible.

How to tell if your dog is having a seizure

No two seizures look the same, but symptoms of dog seizures can include:

  • trembling
  • eyes glazing over
  • falling or lying down, then jerking violently
  • focal twitching
  • champing of the jaw
  • drooling

Your dog may also defecate or pass urine, depending on the severity of their fit.

After the seizure, your dog may be disoriented and even appear blind. This is called the “post-ictal” period; it shouldn’t last longer than two hours.

In recurring cases, you may spot subtle changes in your dog’s behaviour before a seizure — called the “pre-ictal” period.

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What are the treatments for dog seizures?

Treatment will depend on several factors, including how many seizures your dog has had, the severity of the fits, and whether they’ve previously been diagnosed with epilepsy.

In most scenarios, your vet will perform a thorough physical examination and a number of diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the seizures. If your vet feels your dog needs a brain scan, they may be referred to a specialist hospital or clinic.

If your dog is rushed to the vet after a cluster of seizures (more than two seizures in 24 hours), they may be prescribed drugs to control their condition.

What is canine epilepsy?

Epilepsy in dogs can be broken down into three categories — idiopathic, structural or reactive.

Idiopathic epilepsy (or primary epilepsy) means that no underlying cause of the seizures can be established. This is the most common cause of seizures in dogs and, in most cases, the condition is inherited.

Structural seizures can be brought on by head traumas, brain inflammation, stroke or brain tumours — although the fits themselves may not present for weeks, months or even years after brain damage occurs.

Reactive seizures are usually the result of conditions like low blood glucose, low blood calcium, high blood potassium, liver disease and kidney failure. Poisoning from lead and snail bait can also cause structural seizures in dogs.

Epilepsy can’t be cured but it can be controlled; there are drugs available to help your dog live a seizure-free life. Speak to your daytime vet if you’re concerned.

What is canine epilepsy?

Epilepsy in dogs can be broken down into three categories — idiopathic, structural or reactive.

Idiopathic epilepsy (or primary epilepsy) means that no underlying cause of the seizures can be established. This is the most common cause of seizures in dogs and, in most cases, the condition is inherited.

Structural seizures can be brought on by head traumas, brain inflammation, stroke or brain tumours — although the fits themselves may not present for weeks, months or even years after brain damage occurs.

Reactive seizures are usually the result of conditions like low blood glucose, low blood calcium, high blood potassium, liver disease and kidney failure. Poisoning from lead and snail bait can also cause structural seizures in dogs.

Epilepsy can’t be cured but it can be controlled; there are drugs available to help your dog live a seizure-free life. Speak to your daytime vet if you’re concerned.

Are certain dog breeds prone to epilepsy?

Idiopathic epilepsy runs in the families of some dogs and is genetic in several popular breeds, including:

  • golden retrievers
  • beagles
  • Labradors
  • Shetland sheepdogs

You should avoid breeding from your dog if they have epilepsy.