Seizures in Dogs

Seizures in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Seizures in dogs are uncontrolled bursts of electrical signals between neurons that cause muscle tensing, change in behavior, and loss of awareness. 

The early symptoms of seizures in dogs are altered behavior. The dog appears nervous and scared, shaking, whining, and hypersalivation present. Later symptoms include the dog starting to lack awareness, shake, and lose consciousness. 

The leading causes of seizures in dogs are idiopathic epilepsy in dogs, kidney failure, liver failure, hypoglycemia, hypocalcemia, electrolyte imbalances, toxins, and neurological damage. 

The treatment for dog seizures depends on the underlying cause and includes anticonvulsant medications such as phenobarbital and potassium bromide and dietary management.

What are Dog Seizures?

Dog seizures are sudden bursts of electrical activity between nerve cells. A dog experiencing a seizure suffers behavioral abnormalities and episodes of loss of awareness, muscular contraction, hypersalivation, or loss of consciousness. 

Dog seizures are caused by systemic diseases such as kidney failure, viruses, liver failure, hypoglycemia, hypocalcemia, electrolyte imbalances, and toxins or neurological diseases. Examples of neurological disorders in dogs are idiopathic epilepsy, brain tumors, and spinal tumors. 

Why do Dogs Have Seizures?

Dogs have seizures when their neurons fire hyperactively. Damage to the nervous system caused by trauma, neoplasia, or disease causes seizures, although not exclusively. 

Other systemic diseases that cause electrolyte imbalances, kidney damage, liver damage, and toxemia are able to cause seizures. Eclampsia or hypocalcemia is a common condition in dogs that is visible in periparturient small dogs that are nursing a large litter. 

The calcium stores of the dam become progressively depleted throughout lactation and cause neurologic signs such as tremors, ataxia, seizures, and eventually coma and death. 

Can Dogs Have Seizures Due to Heart Problems

No, dogs cannot have seizures due to heart problems. Dog heart issues result in syncope, which resembles a seizure but has a different cause. Syncope is characterized by a momentary loss of consciousness due to inadequate oxygen perfusion to the brain. 

The brain is well-oxygenated when seizures occur, but electrical signals between neurons fire rapidly. Seizures last significantly longer than dog heart problems such as syncope and are preceded by tremors and progress to spastic body rigidity. 

What causes Seizures in Dogs?

The causes of seizures in dogs are listed below.

  • Idiopathic Epilepsy (IE): Idiopathic epilepsy is a disease that is one of the most common causes of seizures in dogs affected by the condition. The disease occurs in approximately 75% of the population of dogs affected with seizures. IE is characterized by repetitive, random, and unprovoked seizures.
  • Canine Distemper Virus (CDV): CDV is a highly infection and potentially lethal respiratory and neurological disease in dogs. The disease causes respiratory symptoms initially but causes neurological damage in the later stages. Dogs affected with neurologically damaging CDV develop tremors, uncontrollable spasms, seizures, and lack of awareness and fall into a comatose state preceding death.
  • Rabies: Rabies is a progressive and fatal disease without a cure. The virus infects the dog through infected saliva entering an open wound. The virus travels through the peripheral nerves into the central nervous system, where the brain develops pathogenic changes. The furious form of rabies leads to a lack of awareness, seizures, hypersalivation, unprovoked aggression, and comatose and death. 
  • Brain Tumors: Neoplastic growths in the brain tissue, ventricles, dura matter, or cranium are able to cause compression or damage to the brain. Compressed nerves and brain tissue lead to progressive neurological injury. The symptoms of brain tumors in dogs are ataxia, vision loss, loss of sense of smell, seizures, and paralysis.
  • Electrolyte Imbalances: Electrolytes are charged molecules that float inside the body, providing homeostasis and conducting electrical charges that govern physiology. A lack or excess of electrolytes leads to metabolic changes that interfere with the body’s electrical conductivity. The symptoms of electrolytes include dizziness, ataxia, incoordination, tremors, and seizures. 

How to Stop Seizures in Dogs Immediately?

To stop seizures in dogs immediately, take them to the veterinarian once the episode has finished. Mild dog seizures are not taken lightly, as they indicate an underlying problem. Ensure the dog is safe during the seizure by providing soft cushioning, such as a towel, to the dog’s head without being too close to the mouth. Gently move away any items in the surrounding areas and wait for them to recover. Take the dog to the veterinarian immediately once it has recovered. 

Are Dog Seizures Hereditary?

Yes, dog seizures are hereditary. Certain breeds are genetically predisposed to epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Idiopathic epilepsy, for example, “can be inherited (genetic or idiopathic epilepsy), caused by structural problems in the brain (structural epilepsy), or stem from an unknown cause (epilepsy of unknown cause),” according to Berendt et al., in International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force consensus report on epilepsy definition, classification and terminology in companion animals,” 2015.

What are Dog Seizure Symptoms?

The main dog seizure symptoms are listed below.

  • Nervousness: Nervousness is one of the initial signs of an upcoming seizure. The pre-ictal phase is a period of altered behavior that shows the dog looking uneasy or restless. Dogs walk around, are unable to sleep, and look dazed or confused. 
  • Whining: Persistent vocalization is observed in the pre-ictal phase of seizures. The dog starts to feel uncomfortable and whimpers, signaling distress. 
  • Drooling: A dramatic increase in salivary production is seen in the ictal phase of seizures. This symptom is accompanied by lip licking and occasional vomiting. Foaming at the mouth occurs during generalized seizures, which causes choking if left unnoticed. 
  • Panting: An increase in respiratory rate is expected in dogs with seizures. The tachypnea is induced by discomfort, anxiety, and pain. The dog has rapid, heavy, and distressed breathing patterns. 
  • Violent Shaking: The most noticeable symptom of the ictal phase is the violent shaking associated with seizures. There is muscular tension and spastic, repetitive movements. The dog suffers a complete loss of awareness and loses consciousness. 

What is Dog Seizure Treatment?

The main dog seizure treatments are listed below.

  • Phenobarbital: Phenobarbital is a first-generation anti-epileptic drug. The drug is widely used in patients with seizures as it is well-tolerated and more affordable than other anti-epileptic drugs. Withdrawal and physical dependence are side effects, making it a controlled substance that is only available with a veterinarian’s prescription. 
  • Potassium Bromide: Bromide is a first-generation anti-epileptic drug. The drug is used in patients with seizures that do not respond to phenobarbital alone. Bromide works by returning normal chloride levels inside the brain, preventing seizures. 
  • IV Fluids: Dogs have seizures due to electrolyte imbalances, hypocalcemia, or hypoglycemia. IV fluids containing the deficient substance are slowly replenished back into the body to return to homeostasis and stop seizures from recurring. 
  • Surgery: Nervous system neoplasms that are able to be safely resected are removed with surgery. Extensive preparation is done before brain or spine surgery, which includes multiple diagnostic tests and diagnostic imaging. Radiation and chemotherapy accompany the surgical removal of nervous system tumors. 
  • Zonisamide: Zonisamide is an anticonvulsant medication used to manage epilepsy. The medicine is used alone or with other medications. Dogs on zonisamide require close monitoring for adverse side effects and regular blood screening for zonisamide levels. 

How Long Can a Dog with Seizures Live?

A dog with seizures can live for their entire lifespan, ranging between 10 to 15 years, if the trigger of the seizures is managed. Dogs with idiopathic epilepsy are expected to have a mean lifespan of 8 years. Dogs with nervous system tumors have good to poor prognoses depending on the extent of neoplasia and metastasis. 

Can Allergies Cause Seizures in Dogs?

Yes, allergies can cause seizures in dogs. A severe allergic reaction induces anaphylactic shock, which happens when a substantial amount of the antigen is introduced to an allergic dog. 

Anaphylactic shock progresses rapidly and is a life-threatening state that causes reduced blood pressure, dyspnea, seizures, and collapse. Untreated anaphylactic shock resulting from a severe dog allergic reaction leads to sudden death in dogs.

How Many Seizures Can a Dog Have Before It Dies?

A dog can have one very long seizure before it dies. Seizures are classified into focal seizures, psychomotor seizures, cluster seizures, and generalized or grand mal seizures. 

Grand mal seizures affect the entire body, and the dog falls over, shakes violently and uncontrollably, and loses consciousness. 

The most serious condition is when the dog suffers from status epilepticus. Status epilepticus is a serious and fatal situation wherein the dog experiences a grand mal seizure that lasts over five minutes. The brain suffers extensive and irreversible damage that precedes a coma and eventual death. 

How can CBD Oil Help Dogs with Seizures?

CBD oil can help dogs with seizures by activating the endocannabinoid system, providing anxiolytic and anti-inflammatory properties. CBD has anti-seizure and anti-convulsive features. Research shows the use of cannabinoids helps reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of seizures in dogs of idiopathic origin. CBD for dogs helps with anxiety by mimicking the effects of serotonin, the feel-good hormone responsible for happiness and relaxation. 

How much CBD Oil can I give to my Dog with Seizure?

You can give your dog with seizure 0.5 mg of CBD per pound per day. The dosage for dogs with seizures varies according to the dog's exact weight and specific needs. Consult a CBD dosage calculator for the most accurate dosage information for the CBD potency and pound of body weight. A veterinarian is able to advise on optimal doses of CBD oil dosage for dogs with seizures. 

Can Dogs Die from Seizures?

Yes, dogs can die from seizures. Seizures cause secondary damage to the brain that debilitates the dog’s body and affects daily activities. Consistent and prolonged seizures cause extensive and irreversible brain damage. Status epilepticus is a life-threatening situation that leads to death if emergency care is not provided.