What are Dog Seizures?

Dee Saale
Dee Saale
Dee Saale
Dee Saale
Pair of smooth-haired Dachshund puppies.
Pair of smooth-haired Dachshund puppies.

Dog seizures, much like human seizures, are caused by an irregular burst of electrical brain activity. In general, most dog seizures are related to some form of brain injury, heat stroke, brain tumor, brain abscess, poisoning, or kidney or liver failure. Dog seizures usually affect one of the cerebral hemispheres; however, it can spread out and affect other areas of the brain, as well. There are several different seizure disorders that can affect dogs.

Dogs who experience frequent seizures should be double checked by a veterinarian.
Dogs who experience frequent seizures should be double checked by a veterinarian.

One of the most common dog seizures is a grand mal seizure – a symptom of epilepsy. It typically begins with a period of unusual behavior, defined as the aura. During the aura, most dogs become restless or anxious. They sometimes whine or moan. They will either seek out their owners for compassion and affection or they may go into seclusion, wanting to be left alone.

Chocolate may cause seizures in dogs.
Chocolate may cause seizures in dogs.

Once an epileptic grand mal seizure begins, it will usually only last about two minutes or less. During the seizure, the dog’s legs may collapse and then rigidly extend outwards. It is common for him to become unconscious and even stop breathing for up to half of a minute. Sometimes a dog will jerk his legs – looking like he is swimming or running. If the grand mal seizure is bad, he may also chew, drool, urinate or defecate uncontrollably.

There are several types of seizure that can afflict dogs.
There are several types of seizure that can afflict dogs.

After a dog regains consciousness from his grand mal seizure, he may be disorientated and confused. This is considered part of the post-seizure state. During this time, he may walk into walls and stumble. He may even appear to be unable to see. This post-seizure state can last for a few minutes or a few hours – depending on how bad his seizure was.

A blood test may be used to diagnose hypoglycemia in dogs, which may cause seizures.
A blood test may be used to diagnose hypoglycemia in dogs, which may cause seizures.

Other types of dog seizures include partial seizures, post-encephalitic seizures, and post-vaccination seizures. During a partial seizure, the dog will have only part of his body twitch. A post-encephalitic seizure will often happen a few weeks after the dog contracts distemper or encephalitis. Although vaccinations are part of routine pet care, some puppies may suffer a post-vaccination seizure when several vaccinations are given simultaneous – especially in conjunction with the vaccine for distemper-parvovirus.

Sometimes dog seizures can be brought on by a quick drop in blood sugar, called hypoglycemia. This is most often seen in puppies that are affected with cardiopulmonary syndrome. In addition, hypoglycemia can be found if a dog with diabetes is given an insulin overdose.

Poisons can also give a dog a seizure. Some poisons are used to bait animals, such as strychnine, insecticides, antifreeze and even chocolate. Most often, owners will be able to reflect whether a poison was on their property premise. Such information will allow a veterinarian to properly diagnose the reason behind the seizure.

Dog seizures can be treated. If they last longer than a few minutes, most veterinarians will consider them to be emergency situations and they will stop the seizures with Valium. There are also drugs that can be given to dogs to treat epilepsy; however, they are not fully effective.

Dee Saale
Dee Saale

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to AllThingsNature.

Dee Saale
Dee Saale

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to AllThingsNature.

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Discussion Comments

anon31983

The safest option for your dog is to take him to his vet. The vet may be able to check to see if he had a seizure or another medical condition. After you get a diagnosis from the vet, you will be better informed of what to do if he has another "episode".

othravens07b

A few minutes ago i heard my German Shepherd mix outside like she was tearing stuff up. When i looked out the window her muzzle was caught in and end of a table cloth and she was moving her legs back and forth as if she were running. She had slobber on the side of her mouth on which she was laying and it appeared as if she had urinated. I threw some water on her and she snapped out of it and started to run. She limped a little bit, but now she is acting normal. It didn't last very long at all, maybe 1 or 2 minutes. Was she having a seizure? Should I take her to the Vet?

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    • Pair of smooth-haired Dachshund puppies.
      Pair of smooth-haired Dachshund puppies.
    • Dogs who experience frequent seizures should be double checked by a veterinarian.
      By: leungchopan
      Dogs who experience frequent seizures should be double checked by a veterinarian.
    • Chocolate may cause seizures in dogs.
      By: Natika
      Chocolate may cause seizures in dogs.
    • There are several types of seizure that can afflict dogs.
      By: Mat Hayward
      There are several types of seizure that can afflict dogs.
    • A blood test may be used to diagnose hypoglycemia in dogs, which may cause seizures.
      By: Africa Studio
      A blood test may be used to diagnose hypoglycemia in dogs, which may cause seizures.