If your dog experiences seizures, the type and severity of the seizures your dog has can differ from one event to the next. Here our Dallas vets explain everything you should know about seizures in dogs.
There are different types of seizures which can be seen in dogs, and it's certainly not unusual for an individual dog to experience more than one type of seizure. Not only that, how each of these different seizures affects individual dogs can also be very different.
Typically seizures in dogs occur without warning and last just a short period of time (a few seconds to a couple of minutes).
While pet parents are often concerned that their dog will injure themselves during a seizure, injury is rare.
If your dog has a seizure, even if it's very short, it's important to contact your vet just to let them know what has happened. Not all dogs will need to see their vet following a seizure. When you speak to your vet they will let you know whether an examination is a good idea for your dog.
If your dog has a seizure that lasts more than 3 minutes, or if your dog experiences recurring seizures over a 24 hour period, an urgent trip to the vet is required! Contact your vet immediately, or head to the nearest emergency animal hospital.
Focal or Partial Seizures in Dogs
Focal seizures in dogs (sometimes called partial seizures) only affect one half of the brain, and within a particular region of that half. These seizures are described as either simple or complex, depending on your dog’s level of awareness while the seizure is occurring. Dogs usually remain conscious during a simple focal seizure, whereas consciousness is likely to be more impaired if your dog has a complex focal seizure.
Signs of a Simple Focal Seizure
Dogs experiencing a simple focal seizure could display one or more of the following signs:
- Hallucinations (Your dog may bark, growl or moan at nothing, bite at the air or behave fearfully for no apparent reason)
- Signs of vision or hearing changes
- Fur standing up
- Dilated pupils
- Balance problems
- Involuntary movements
- Specific muscles may contract and relax
Generalized Seizures in Dogs
Generalized seizures in dogs occur within both sides of the brain. Generalized seizures often start out as a focal seizure then evolve into a generalized seizure. Dogs experiencing a generalized seizure will usually lose consciousness and may urinate or defecate while unconscious.
Types of Generalized Seizures
Generalized seizures are characterized by movement on both sides of the body and fall into different categories:
- Tonic: Muscle contraction or stiffening
- Clonic: Involuntary rapid and rhythmic muscle contractions or jerking
- Tonic-Clonic: Tonic phase followed immediately by a clonic phase (see above)
- Myoclonic: Sporadic jerks or movements on both sides of the body
- Atonic: Often called 'drop attacks' these seizures will sudden cause the dog to collapse
- Cluster: Two or more seizures within a 24-hour period with the dog regaining full consciousness between seizures
- Status Epilepticus: Either a single seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes, or a number of seizures over a short period of time without regaining full consciousness between each seizure. If your dog suffers from a Status Epilepticus seizure call your vet immediately for advice. Seizures lasting longer than 5 minutes can be life threatening.
Focal Seizure Into Generalized Seizure
In dogs that experience seizures, focal seizures which evolve into generalized seizures are the most common. Often the focal seizure is so short or subtle that the signs are missed by pet parents.
If your dog begins having a generalized seizure, try to remember exactly what they were doing right before the generalized seizure began. Was there an unusual behavior before the seizure began? Provide your vet with a detailed explanation of what happened. The more your vet knows about what your dog was doing before the generalized seizure, the better able they will be to diagnose the type of seizure your dog had and possible cause.