Canine Seizures

In case your dog has a seizure, make sure she’s in a spot the place she will’t fall or hurt herself, then attempt to video the occasion. As callous
as that sounds, the video may help your veterinarian diagnose the situation.

Seizures usually are not frequent in dogs – however they aren’t uncommon, both. The Veterinary Data Community estimates that the prevalence within the dog inhabitants is about 1%. Whereas distressing to witness, they’re not often life-threatening. After you’ve gotten previous the shock of the occasion and your dog is popping out of the seizure, your thoughts will probably be racing. What prompted the seizure within the first place? Does your dog have epilepsy? Is that this going to occur once more? Seems, these usually are not all the time straightforward inquiries to reply. 

“Epilepsy” refers to a seizure dysfunction by which all different doable causes have been eradicated; it’s a prognosis of exclusion. The seizures appear to happen spontaneously, with no underlying structural mind illness or metabolic sickness. Which means there isn’t a take a look at that may establish epilepsy. Somewhat, all different causes have to be dominated out earlier than this prognosis could be made. Doing this may be an intensive and dear course of.

Sure breeds are predisposed to epilepsy, together with Beagles, Poodles, Boxers, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, and Shelties. Whereas the illness might have genetic roots, it might probably additionally happen spontaneously in any dog. 

First Help for Seizures

Your dog is having a seizure! What must you do? First, each dog proprietor ought to know some fundamental seizure first assist.

Before everything, in case your dog has a seizure, be certain he’s on a low or flat floor from which he can’t fall. Preserve your fingers away from his mouth, as a seizing dog just isn’t conscious and should inadvertently chunk. Monitor your dog intently.

If the seizure persists longer than 5 minutes, get your dog to an emergency veterinary hospital as quick as doable.

So long as the convulsion stops inside 5 minutes, fast emergency care just isn’t needed. A follow-up together with your dog’s veterinarian is required, however typically, you may await an open
appointment. All the time verify in together with your dog’s veterinarian for suggestions shortly after the episode.


Seizures happen when neurons within the mind quickly discharge time and again. Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter within the mind that inhibits excitation of neurons, and in a seizure, the GABA receptor system is especially concerned. When seizures happen, regular GABA inhibition is overcome, and the mind can’t “relax.” The elevated electrical exercise results in adjustments in habits, which might manifest in many alternative methods. 

The traditional seizure kind, as soon as known as grand mal, is now known as tonic-clonic; tonic refers back to the stiffening of the dog’s muscle groups and clonic refers back to the dog’s twitching or jerking. Robust muscle contractions happen, the dog is unable to face, and should lose bowel and bladder management. The dog might also vocalize. 

The hallmark of a real seizure is the post-ictal interval. As soon as the muscle contraction ceases and the seizure is over, a dog will take a while (from minutes to hours) to return to regular. In some instances, blindness and disorientation can persist for a day or extra. Conduct could also be very unusual, comparable to a whole disinterest in meals or ravenous consuming. Problem strolling might also happen. Your dog might sleep deeply or be stressed. 

Different seizure varieties embody focal seizures (additionally known as petit mal), by which just one a part of the physique is concerned (such because the face); the muscle groups in that space might twitch or contract. In absence spells, throughout which a dog is aware however not responding, the eyes could also be open, however he might not reply when his title is known as or he’s touched. These kinds of seizures might presage tonic-clonic and might go unnoticed, as a result of they’re usually delicate. 

Typically, these electrical discharges are self-limiting, which means the seizure will stop by itself. In occasional instances, the seizure doesn’t finish, resulting in a situation known as standing epilepticus (see sidebar, web page 7). 


To achieve a prognosis of epilepsy, an intensive work-up will probably be needed. On the preliminary examination, your veterinarian will collect a historical past. 

Be ready to reply questions in regards to the length and severity of any seizures you’ve witnessed, in addition to any precipitating occasions that you simply observed, comparable to stress, pleasure, or sleeping. Toxins or medicines in the home are additionally an necessary piece of the puzzle. Whereas seizures are distressing to see, getting a video in your veterinarian may assist with the prognosis. As soon as your dog is in a secure place, attempt to file the occasion.

After history-taking, your veterinarian will study your dog. This nose-to-tail examination will assist establish any abnormalities which will level towards a prognosis. As soon as accomplished, the diagnostics begin. 

Initially, a “minimal database” of diagnostic exams is beneficial. This features a full blood depend (CBC), chemistry panel, and urinalysis. Relying in your dog’s age, a blood stress measurement and x-rays might also be beneficial. These will establish underlying metabolic causes that may result in seizures, comparable to extraordinarily excessive blood sugar (as in diabetic ketoacidosis) or kidney failure associated to antifreeze ingestion. 


The reason for seizures could be damaged down loosely into age teams:

Puppies youthful than 6 months.

It’s unusual for a dog to develop true epilepsy earlier than six months of age. In dogs this younger, different causes are more likely. These can embody every thing from parasitic an infection with protozoa comparable to Neospora species, to viruses comparable to canine distemper virus, to toxin publicity (a typical drawback in curious puppies).

A radical work-up for a puppy with seizures will embody the minimal database above, in addition to suggestions for the next (relying on breed and historical past):

Bile acid take a look at. That is finished if a liver shunt is suspected. Liver shunts are irregular blood vessels that intrude with correct metabolism by the liver. When current, they’ll trigger seizures and irregular habits, particularly after meals. Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Bichon Frises, and Miniature Poodles are all predisposed. 
Titers for infectious illness. Canine distemper virus (CDV), the fungi Cryptococcus and Coccidioides, and protozoal ailments comparable to neospora and toxoplasma can all trigger seizure exercise.
Computed Tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These instruments for imaging the mind can decide whether or not structural abnormalities like hydrocephalus (a situation the place cerebrospinal fluid builds up in a dog’s cranium) or Chiari malformation (structural defects within the base of the cranium and cerebellum, the a part of the mind that controls stability)are current. 
Cerebrospinal faucet. This may help establish meningitis, as seen with irritation or an infection.Work-ups could be costly and time intensive, so many house owners decide to deal with with medicines and wait to see how the dog responds. With puppies, although, epilepsy is an unlikely trigger, which implies one other illness could also be at work and can possible progress and worsen.In puppies, it’s also crucial to rule out publicity to toxins. Puppies are naturally inquisitive, and this usually results in unintentional publicity to medicines, cleansing merchandise, and even illicit medication. 

Canine 6 months to five years.

At this age, an absence of different medical signs or identified toxin publicity makes epilepsy the most typical trigger. That is very true in predisposed breeds. Because of this, as soon as the minimal database has been accomplished and apparent causes comparable to toxins dominated out, many house owners decide to deal with with anti-seizure medicines and see how a affected person responds. 

Canine older than 5 or 6 years.

In dogs older than 5 years, the most typical reason for acute onset of seizures is mostly a mind lesion, significantly mind tumors (plenty). These are often benign meningiomas, which might trigger issues as a result of stress on adjoining constructions. 

The beneficial diagnostics are just like different age teams, beginning with the minimal database. On this group, although, it’s additionally necessary to rule out hypertension (by checking blood stress) and undetected most cancers (by taking chest and belly x-rays) as doable causes. 


The remedy for seizures is evolving. First-line remedy stays drug administration. These medicines are known as anti-epileptic medication (AEDs). Phenobarbital and potassium bromide have lengthy been the medication of selection, however different medicines at the moment are turning into common. These embody Keppra (levetiracetam) and Zonegran (zonisamide). 

Phenobarbital has been used within the administration of human seizures for a few years. It’s dependable, efficient, and comparatively low-cost. Nonetheless, phenobarbital is a managed treatment and must be dealt with with care. It should all the time be saved away from youngsters. 

Phenobarbital works on the dog’s GABA receptors, serving to to inhibit the excitation of neurons. 

Phenobarbital does have vital unwanted effects. It could trigger ravenous urge for food, weight acquire, elevated consuming and urinating, and induction of liver enzymes. In uncommon instances, it might probably trigger liver failure. Because of this, liver values must be monitored intently (at the very least each six months) by your veterinarian. If liver enzyme elevations happen, a more moderen seizure treatment could also be beneficial. 

The dosage of phenobarbital have to be individualized, so monitoring the dog’s phenobarbital ranges is vital. That is often initiated about two weeks after beginning the treatment, when it’s anticipated to achieve “regular state” ranges. (A drug is at a gradual state when the consumption of the drug is at an equilibrium with its elimination.) At therapeutic ranges, it might probably trigger sedation and ataxia. Often, dogs will acclimate to this over time. 

About 85 to 90% of dogs will expertise a major discount in seizure exercise with phenobarbital. 

Potassium bromide can also be thought of a first-line remedy, though that is shifting. Potassium bromide has most of the identical unwanted effects of phenobarbital and should even be monitored, as toxicity is feasible. It could take as much as 4 months for this treatment to achieve regular state ranges. 

Weight-reduction plan is a crucial a part of remedy with potassium bromide. Meals with increased ranges of sodium can enhance the excretion of potassium bromide, resulting in decrease ranges and elevated seizure exercise. The dog’s weight-reduction plan have to be constant whereas on this treatment. 

Levetiracetam is getting used extra steadily to deal with seizures. Initially, it was utilized in people, and its use has been extrapolated to dogs. Its mechanism of motion just isn’t nicely understood, however it might have an effect on the discharge of neurotransmitters. It’s minimally metabolized by the liver, so it doesn’t trigger the liver enzyme elevations which are seen with phenobarbital. Levetiracetam ranges within the blood are therapeutic inside about 24 to 36 hours (versus two weeks for phenobarbital). 

Levetiracetam additionally doesn’t trigger ravenous urge for food and weight acquire. It’s thought of so secure that common monitoring just isn’t often needed. You will need to be aware that two formulations can be found and every have to be given in several methods. “Common” Keppra have to be given each eight hours; Keppra-XR, an prolonged launch formulation, could be given each 12 hours however can’t be crushed and positioned in meals (doing so would thwart the mechanisms that trigger the drug to be launched constantly over a 12-hour interval). 

At 6 years outdated, after being steady on AEDs for a number of years, Bixby skilled standing epilepticus. It took many medicines over a full 24-hour interval to cease his seizures. After two weeks of devoted care from his vet and proprietor, he recovered totally.

Zonisamide doesn’t act as rapidly as Keppra however is quicker than phenobarbital (about one week to achieve regular state). Like Keppra, zonisamide typically has minimal results on the liver. It does, nonetheless, have some uncommon unwanted effects comparable to hepatopathy (liver congestion), dry eye, bladder stones, and hypothyroidism. Common bloodwork monitoring is mostly not needed, however any adjustments in a dog’s situation ought to all the time be dropped at the eye of your veterinarian. 

Sadly, medicines are sometimes a life-long necessity. Working intently together with your veterinarian to taper to the bottom dose doable for administration is the perfect method. 


Merchandise containing CBD (cannabidiol, a phytochemical compound extracted from hashish crops) have gotten common with house owners as an adjunctive remedy for a lot of sicknesses. You will need to know that presently, apart from in a handful of states, veterinarians usually are not allowed to suggest or talk about CBD as a remedy (see “Know Your CBDs,” WDJ August 2019).

Standing Epilepticus: The Seizures That Don’t Cease

Bixby is a 6-year-old Boston Terrier that belongs to my technician, Laura. When Bixby was 2, he was presumptively recognized with epilepsy. He was the correct age, a predisposed breed, and had a standard minimal database. Bixby was began on anti-epilepsy medication (AED) and did nicely – till he didn’t. Just lately, Bixby went into standing epilepticus (SE).
SE is basically a steady seizure. It presents a novel situation that have to be handled instantly and aggressively. SE doesn’t terminate by itself and is a real emergency. Extended muscle contraction throughout a seizure results in rising physique temperature. Warmth stroke may result.
If a seizure lasts greater than 5 minutes, emergency care must be sought. Initially, an intravenous (IV) catheter will probably be positioned and a benzodiazepine like diazepam (Valium) or midazolam (Versed) will probably be given. Often, one dose is enough to interrupt the seizure. In some instances, this doesn’t occur. As much as three doses of those medicines could be given earlier than they’re thought of to have failed.
When it’s out there, Levetiracetam (Keppra) could be given IV, however the injectable type just isn’t carried by many normal practices. It’s often discovered at emergency and referral practices. Phenobarbital will also be given IV to interrupt seizures, however once more, it’s costly and in addition not often discovered generally practices. If a benzodiazepine doesn’t work, and different IV medication usually are not available, propofol (a normal anesthetic) and fuel anesthesia can be utilized.
If a dog’s physique temperature has turn into dangerously excessive, remedy for warmth stroke have to be aggressively instituted. This may embody IV fluids, lively cooling with followers, water, and probably ice packs. A number of organ dysfunction can happen after a warmth stroke. This will result in clotting difficulties, in addition to injury to the mind, kidneys, liver, and intestinal tract.
The prognosis for SE is all the time guarded, and it might probably take a number of days for a affected person to get better and return to regular. In some instances, residual abnormalities can persist.
When Bixby began seizing and wouldn’t cease, Laura rushed him to the ER, the place they struggled to get his seizures below management. Benzodiazepines didn’t do it, in order that they gave him Keppra. Bixby continued to grab. He spent the night time on the emergency clinic, however he wasn’t responding. Laura and Bixby’s veterinarians feared the worst. Had the extended seizures broken his mind?
Fortuitously, Bixby’s seizures have been lastly managed. After two weeks of hand feeding, he returned to his regular self. Now, he’s the loopy “Boston Terror” everyone knows and love.
Bixby’s case is a crucial reminder that generally it might probably take fairly a very long time for a dog to get better from SE. Warmth stroke and injury to the mind can happen, however full restoration can also be doable.

A examine printed within the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Affiliation (“Randomized blinded managed medical trial to evaluate the impact of oral cannabidiol administration along with standard anti-epileptic remedy on seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy,” June 1, 2019) evaluated CBD as a further remedy in sufferers with intractable seizures. 

Whereas the usage of CBD was related to a major lower in seizure exercise, additional investigation is warranted earlier than therapeutic suggestions could be made. As legal guidelines change, your veterinarian could possibly talk about this with you. Use warning when selecting to manage CBD merchandise with out veterinary supervision, as neither the unwanted effects nor interactions with different, FDA-approved medicines are nicely understood. 

In 2015, a examine supported the usage of medium chain triglycerides (MCT) as a dietary complement to lower seizures. The weight-reduction plan studied was ketogenic (excessive fats, low proteins and carbohydrates). There are a couple of business diets out there that tackle this want and could also be useful in managing seizures. 

Dietary dietary supplements comparable to omega-3 fatty acids, thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin E, and s-adenosyl methionine with milk thistle might also have some profit when used together with customary Debra Canapp remedy. A lot of the information now we have in veterinary drugs about these dietary supplements is extrapolated from human medical research and anecdotal. Nonetheless, the dietary supplements are unlikely to trigger hurt. As all the time, seek the advice of together with your veterinarian earlier than including any dietary supplements to present therapies. 

Lastly, a number of research have demonstrated doable profit with the usage of acupuncture. The precise motive acupuncture might assist decrease seizure frequency just isn’t understood. The speculation is that acupuncture stimulates the discharge of inhibitory neurotransmitters, subsequently “calming” the mind. Whereas it isn’t usually first-line remedy, in sufferers with intractable seizures or these with poor response to medicines, it’s one other modality which will supply some reduction. 

After 9 years in emergency drugs, Catherine Ashe, DVM, now works as a reduction veterinarian in Asheville, NC, and loves the GP aspect of drugs. 




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