What does a seizure look like? While you might picture your dog flopping on the ground and shaking, there are actually many other dog seizure symptoms you should be aware of. Your dog could be having regular seizures, and you aren’t aware of it because you’re missing some of the signs. So, let’s talk about dog seizure symptoms.
Dog Seizure Symptoms
Common dog seizure symptoms include:
- Muscle twitching
- Loss of consciousness
- Foaming at the mouth
- Tongue chewing
- Involuntary urination or defecation
After a seizure, a dog may be confused, shaky, tired, or even temporarily blind.
What Is a Seizure or Epilepsy?
A seizure is a temporary involuntary disturbance of normal brain function due to abnormal, excessive activity of neurons in the brain. Seizures are often (but not always) accompanied by uncontrollable muscle activity.
Epilepsy is a condition where a dog (or human) has recurring seizures. Dogs with epilepsy may be prescribed anticonvulsant medication to reduce the frequency of seizures.
What Happens During a Seizure?
There are three phases to a seizure:
- Pre-ictal phase (aura). Before your dog has a seizure, they may appear nervous or hide. They might also be whining, restless, salivating, or shaking. This behavior may start a few seconds to a few hours before a seizure hits.
- Ictal phase (seizure). The seizure may last from a few seconds to a few minutes and may range from staring aimlessly or mild shaking all the way to a grand mal seizure with all the muscles moving spastically.
- Post-ictal phase. After the seizure, your dog may be disoriented, salivating, confused, or even temporarily blind.
What Is Status Epilepticus?
Status epilepticus is a seizure that lasts longer than five minutes. Your dog needs Intravenous anticonvulsants immediately to prevent potentially fatal brain damage, so you should always have the information for your local emergency vet handy to save time in an emergency.
What Causes Seizures in Dogs?
The most common seizures in dogs are idiopathic, meaning they have no known cause. However, seizures can also be caused by things like:
- Eating poison
- Electrolyte problem
- High or low blood sugar
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Brain tumor
- Head injury
Types of Seizures in Dogs
There are several types of seizures in dogs. Every kind of seizure has different symptoms because different parts of the brain are affected by each seizure type.
Generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure
This is the most common and most easily recognizable type of seizure. Both sides of the brain are affected, meaning both sides of the body will display symptoms. You’ll recognize a tonic-clonic seizure because your dog will fall over, start to shake, and lose consciousness.
Focal (partial) seizure:
These seizures only affect one area of the brain, and there are two different types of focal seizure:
- Simple (focal motor) seizures are the result of neurons firing in the motor area of a cerebral hemisphere. Usually, your dog will have involuntary limb jerking or repetitive facial muscle movements. Your dog may or may not lose consciousness.
- Complex partial (psychomotor) seizures look like a behavioral abnormality such as aggression, motionless staring, or biting at imaginary flies, and consciousness is usually impaired. These seizures originate from the limbic system or temporal lobe of the cerebrum.
What Should I Do If My Dog Has a Seizure?
While your dog is seizing, make sure they can’t hurt themselves by falling or hitting something hard. Your dog can’t swallow their tongue. While they may bite their tongue, you should not stick your fingers in your dog’s mouth to try to prevent that from happening, because your dog may involuntarily bite you.
Make a note or take a video of what is happening so that you can be very specific with your vet. If the seizure lasts more than a minute, put a fan on your dog and put cold water on their paws to cool them down. If the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes or if your dog has another seizure within 24 hours, take them to the emergency vet. Otherwise, it’s OK to schedule a visit to talk about what happened with your dog’s regular vet.
What Should I Expect When I Take My Dog to the Vet after a Seizure?
Your vet will ask for details about your dog’s seizure and may order blood, urine, or other tests to look for what may have caused the seizure. They may prescribe medication. Once your dog starts on seizure medication, they need to take it for the rest of their life. Stopping anticonvulsants can actually trigger seizures.
How Are Seizures Treated or Prevented?
The first time your dog has a seizure, they probably won’t need any type of treatment (unless the seizure lasted longer than 5 minutes). Your vet may prescribe medication for your dog after they have:
- Had more than one seizure in a month
- Clusters of seizures with one right after the other
- Severe or prolonged grand mal seizures
Anticonvulsant medication can help prevent seizures, but your dog must take it for the rest of their life.
What Do Dogs Feel During Seizures?
While seizures may look painful, your dog doesn’t feel anything because they are unconscious. It’s arguably more difficult for you to watch your dog having a seizure than it is for them to have it.
Final Thoughts on Dog Seizures
While watching your dog have a seizure can be scary, they aren’t feeling any pain, and one seizure may not be anything to worry about (as long as it lasts less than five minutes). Some dogs with epilepsy can live healthy lives on anticonvulsant medication.