If you have a dog that you love, it is scary to see them having a seizure.
Here are the best ways to handle them.
Witnessing a seizure in your dog can be a scary event. No dog owner wants to see their beloved fury friend experiencing a seizure. Knowing more about their cause can help ease fears we face as pet owners. Seizures in dogs are a type of brain disorder, and there are multiple reasons why a pet may be having them.
In most cases, the underlying cause isn’t something owners have control over, but there are some things you can do to limit the potential for seizures in dogs, says The team at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services.
What Is a Seizure?
A seizure is abnormal brain activity, a rapid occurrence of electrical impulses of the brain and uncontrolled muscle spasms. We don’t completely understand the exact mechanisms of this condition, but there are a number of factors linked to seizures. A seizure can either be a grand mal seizure, affecting all four limbs, or a focal seizure that impacts one side of the body.
What Are the Symptoms of Seizures?
Symptoms can include collapsing, jerking, stiffening, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, chomping, tongue chewing, or foaming at the mouth. Dogs can also fall to the side and make paddling motions with their legs. They sometimes poop or pee during the seizure.
Some dogs may look dazed, seem unsteady or confused, or stare off into space before a seizure. Afterward, your dog may be disoriented, wobbly, or temporarily blind. They may walk in circles and bump into things. They might have a lot of drool on their chin. They may try to hide.
What Are the Types of Seizures?
The most common kind is the generalized seizure, also called a grand mal seizure. A dog can lose consciousness and convulse. The abnormal electrical activity happens throughout the brain. Generalized seizures usually last from a few seconds to a few minutes.
With a focal seizure, abnormal electrical activity happens in only part of the brain. Focal seizures can cause unusual movements in one limb or one side of the body. Sometimes they last only a couple of seconds. They may start as focal and then become generalized.
What Causes Dog Seizures?
There are several different things that can cause dog seizures:
- Flea and tick preventatives
- Herbicides and pesticides
- Other pharmaceutical meds
- Liver or kidney disease
- Low or high blood sugar
- Electrolyte problems
- A head injury
- Brain tumors
It’s important to remember not all seizures are alike.
Seizures from unknown causes are called idiopathic epilepsy. They usually happen in dogs between 6 months and 6 years old. Although any dog can have a seizure, idiopathic epilepsy is more common in border collies, Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, beagles, Belgian Tervurens, collies, and German shepherds, say Fetch By WebMD.
What Happens During a Seizure?
If your dog has a prolonged seizure, they happen for more than 5 minutes. Cluster seizures are when two or more seizures occur within a 24-hour time span.
A seizure has specific phases associated with their symptoms and duration. The first stage accompanies behavior changes that produce restlessness and anxiety.
From there, stage two is when the seizure is happening. Seizures can last between a few seconds to several minutes.
Stage 3 concludes the seizure. During this recovery time, your dog may be disoriented, uncoordinated, anxious, and salivate more. Some pets experience temporary blindness.
When Your Dog Has a Seizure.
During the seizure, you can help keep your dog safe and calm by following these instructions.
- Remain calm and keep your dog as calm as possible by using a reassuring voice and touch. Getting anxious or stressed out won’t help your dog. Make sure you clear the area around him so that he doesn’t hurt himself.
- Keep track of the time it begins and finishes, so that you can pass the information on to your veterinarian. Also, because a seizure can cause your dog to overheat. If it continues for more than 2 minutes, turn on the ceiling fan or place a portable fan near him to cool him down. Soak a cloth in cold water and hold it to his paws.
- Do not attempt to hold down your dog or grab their tongue (despite the popular myth, they do not swallow it). Unlike humans, dogs can’t choke on their tongues, so there’s no reason to put your hand (or anything else) near his mouth. This is the safest way to avoid a bite!
- Cushion your pet’s head and remove any obstacles around them, while stroking their fur. This is a way to help and reassure him and make him feel safe. According to dogsnaturally.
- During a seizure, it can often be difficult to safely move a pet, so if a seizure takes place on top of furniture or on stairs, block the sides so your pet can’t fall.
- After the seizure has subsided, monitor your pet closely so he or she doesn’t injure themselves; he will be disoriented and unsure of what is happening. Allow your pet to move on his or her own accord
- Call your vet after the seizure so that you can decide on an appropriate plan for your pet. He or she may make a recommendation that your dog be evaluated by a veterinary neurologist. Neurologists specialize in treating pets with seizures, says The team at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services.
If your pet is having seizures, don’t despair. 70% of dogs can be well-controlled with treatment.
1. Conventional Seizure Medications For Dogs
First, let’s review the prescription medications that your vet will commonly reach for. They may even be ones that your dog is taking now.
This is a newer anti-seizure medication for dogs, introduced over the last few years. But humans have used it for seizure management for many years.
It’s the one your vet will most likely reach for if your dog is newly diagnosed, or if he has taken phenobarbital for a long time. It’s a safer long-term option than some older medications but it still has its pros and cons … so let’s review those.
The benefit of this drug is that it’s processed by the kidneys and not the liver. Making it a safer option for liver disease patients. Another plus is that it can be used with other anti-seizure meds … helping to lower the doses needed of each.
Keppra does have disadvantages though. The one that affects pet parents most is its need to be given 3 times a day … tricky depending on how busy your schedule is. But there are now some longer-acting versions available … so check with your vet.
I mentioned earlier that it’s better for the liver … but because the kidneys filter this medication out of the body you do have to be careful. If your dog has a kidney disease, you will want to make dose adjustments.
Although your dog won’t require a lot of frequent recheck blood work with this drug … you will need to keep a good seizure journal. This is because your dog can build up a tolerance over time … meaning the dose that works for him right now may not always be enough.
There a few pharmaceutical companies that manufacture this product so you may know it by a few names. If your dog has had seizures for a few years this is likely a medication you have heard of. But it’s no longer a go-to medication for seizures as there are many disadvantages and risks to your dog.
Phenobarbital is processed by your dog’s liver and long-term use can lead to permanent liver damage …. so you need to get your dog regular blood work to have time to intervene. Your dog will also need regular bloodwork for blood monitoring and to ensure that he has appropriate blood levels … as this is a Controlled Substance IV due to high addiction rates.
Potassium bromide is an “old school” anti-seizure medication but there are good reasons why it’s still prescribed. It’s one of the most reliable anti-seizure medications for many years.
A major benefit of potassium bromide is that you can use it alone or with other medications. It’s often used to lower the dose of Phenobarbital.
And it’s equally as effective either way!
It helps control seizures in a unique way … it competes with chloride ions for access to brain tissues. By increasing the level of bromide in your dog’s brain the chloride level drops. This inhibits electrical activity, which makes it difficult for a seizure to start.
There are a few downsides if your dog is on any diuretic medications …. as it will flush the bromide out of his body faster… running the risk of a seizure. If your dog is currently on potassium bromide you also need to be mindful that you don’t stop it abruptly … as it does not stay in the body long and may cause him to have a seizure.
If you miss a dose, just give it as soon as you can. Don’t double it up though … just resume his normal dosing.
2. CBD Oil For Dog Seizures
You may be wondering why CBD oil is in its own category. The truth is it can’t be placed in just one box … and I’ll explain why.
Research is constantly finding new ways in which CBD oil can impact diseases … and seizure management is a big one. This is because seizures have a profound effect on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). CBD oil uses a process called external modulation to reduce (and in some cases remove) this impact on the ECS.
As an added bonus, CBD may also have the ability to affect receptors that can calm the neurons that fire during a seizure. But these studies are far from confirmed as there’s still a large amount to research.
Even though scientists need to dig deeper into the details of how CBD provides control of seizures … the FDA approved a CBD product for human use for two severe forms of seizures in 2018.
But there’s even more reason to reach for CBD oil for seizure in dogs … It’s going to help support his whole body for better health. It can reduce chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease and prevent and kill cancer cells … two known causes of seizures.
3. MCT Oil
The brain metabolizes sugars in carbohydrates to produce energy. But when someone suffers from epilepsy and seizures, this process is interrupted. The brain doesn’t get the energy it needs to function properly. And without the right amount of fuel, your neurons can’t communicate with one another.
One of the easiest ways to get the body to enter ketosis is with a ketogenic (keto) diet. They’re high in fat and low in carbs. When children with epilepsy eat a keto diet, it can reduce seizure frequency.
The problem is, keto diets aren’t an ideal solution for dogs as it may be missing key nutrients your dog needs, says The Academy Of Veterinary Homeopathy.
In fact, researchers at the Royal Veterinary College recently studied MCTs in seizure management. They worked with 21 dogs with idiopathic epilepsy on AEDs. They wanted to test whether MCT oil would reduce the frequency of seizures.
The results of the study were promising:
71% had seizures less often
48% saw a reduction in fseizure requency of 50% of more
14% no longer experienced seizures
So we know that remedies can play a huge role in seizure management for your dog … but which remedies should you reach for?