Q: I’ve heard that dogs can have seizures. How do I know if my dog has had one?
A seizure is a neurological condition, meaning it is the result of abnormal brain activity and is more common than you may think. Should your dog suffer a seizure, it may convulse and thrash around, cry out, experience excessive drooling and uncontrollable bladder and bowel movements.
There are various reasons for a seizure: epilepsy, ingesting toxins, low blood sugar, low calcium, high blood pressure and liver disease. Usually, seizures last less than two minutes, after which there is a recovery phase that can last longer, during which your dog will either be lethargic or overexcited. If a seizure lasts longer than five minutes, it is a medical emergency and your dog could overheat and suffer permanent brain damage. It is critical you consult a vet following a seizure so a thorough examination can be conducted.
Generalised seizures in dogs are the most common form and can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours, depending on the severity. While it can be difficult to identify when your dog is having a seizure, it is helpful to understand the different types of generalised seizure, making it easier to spot the symptoms. During a tonic seizure, your dog’s muscles will stiffen and, if it is standing up, it may temporarily lose function in its legs and collapse. These symptoms can last from 10 to 30 seconds and some dogs may experience excessive drooling.
During a clonic seizure, your dog may experience convulsions, lose control of its bladder, salivate and foam at the mouth, seem disorientated and lose consciousness. In some cases, both types of seizures can occur simultaneously, known as a tonic-clonic seizure. Notify your vet and keep a watchful eye for the onset of the clonic phase.
Psychomotor seizures, another common type, is identifiable by unusual behaviour, such as biting the air to capture an object that isn’t there, staring into space, not responding to cues, being unresponsive to surroundings or tail chasing.
Another, less common cause of seizures among dogs is idiopathic epilepsy (IE). Symptoms often occur when there is a change to brain activity, such as excitement, feeding or when the dog is going to sleep or waking up.
Dogs ranging from age six months to five years are at a higher risk of having seizures and should be routinely checked by your vet, especially if they have any other underlying health condition. A seizure would usually occur between the ages of two to four years. Unlike humans, it is not possible for your dog to swallow its tongue during a seizure. It is important you don’t put your hand in your dog’s mouth should it have a seizure, as it will already be distressed and disorientated and could bite you by accident.
Dr Sara Elliott is director of veterinary services at British Veterinary Hospital. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.