Dog Seizures: 10 Ways to Prevent and Treat Them
If your dog is having seizures it can be scary for you and those who care for your dog. Read on to learn the best ways to handle them.
Dog seizures are scary and unsettling. Seizures are complex and can't always be prevented. In most cases, the underlying cause isn't something owners have control over, but there are some things you can do to limit the potential for seizures in dogs.
Most of the time, the signs of dog seizures are obvious. The animal will stiffen, fall over, and have full body tremors. They may also have urine or fecal accidents. A dog might appear worried or frightened, says Dr. Brian Voynick, the owner and director of the American Animal Hospital of Randolph, New Jersey who has been in the field for 33 years. Symptoms can include glazed eyes, a distant gaze, involuntary twitching, or muscle contractions or unconsciousness. Sometimes the dog will paddle his legs as if dreaming.
Sometimes, however, an owner might not know a dog seizure has occurred, says Dr. Christina Lorenson, a small animal practitioner in North Kingstown, Rhode Island with over 15 years experience. "It is possible to have a 'partial seizure' that is very subtle -- just stiffening up and staring out in space or odd movement of the body," she says. Also, of course, if your dog has a seizure when you're not home or when you are sleeping, you might not be aware that it has happened.
Dr. Voynick shares his best advice on how to prevent and treat dog seizures:
- Pay Attention to Genetics
Genetics are important. When you get a puppy, ask if the parents have any history of seizures. Certain breeds are more likely to have seizures, especially German shepherds, cocker spaniels, Siberian huskies, golden retrievers and poodles. It's also seen in mixed breeds.
- Feed Your Dog Right
Healthy eating is key. You want to make sure your dog gets adequate nutrition. Consult with your veterinarian based on your dog's specific needs.
- Know Your Pet's Health -- and Health of Its Ancestors
Liver disease can cause seizures, so you want to make sure that illness is not in the blood line. This is difficult if you obtain puppies from pet stores, but if you have a purebred dog, the breeder should have this information.
- Monitor Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar can lead to seizures. Supplement your dog's diet with carbohydrates and sugars per your vet's recommendations.
- Have the Brain Checked
Get your dog checked for brain tumors. Surgery may resolve seizures by removing brain tumors such as meningiomas, which are common in older dogs. CT scans can diagnose them early, but X-rays will not detect them.
- Blame It on the Moon
The environment could be to blame. Moon cycles may put your dog at higher risk of seizures during a full moon. Dr. Voynick recommends speaking with your vet about giving your dog Valium during these times to prevent seizures.
- Get Your Pet Tested
Lab testing is important. Some dogs only have one seizure and then it never happens again. But other dogs have more than one. There is greater potential for brain damage when each seizure occurs, so early treatment and monitoring are imperative.
- Find the Perfect Remedy
Drugs such as potassium bromide or phenobarbital can help control seizures. As always, ask your veterinarian for recommendations for your dog's specific problem.
- Seek Alternative Methods
Alternative therapies are sometimes helpful. Some owners report a drop in dog seizure activity after using acupuncture but, again, check with your vet first.
- Keep Calm
Reduce stress whenever possible, as stress can trigger episodes.
Dr. Lorenson advises bringing your dog to the veterinarian after its first seizure. Seek immediate emergency care if your dog has a seizure that lasts longer than 10 minutes or has three or more seizures in a 24-hour period. She also suggests protecting your pets during a seizure so they're not in danger (i.e., falling down stairs) but do not handle them any more than necessary. They are unaware and can bite their owners.
What Caregivers Need to Know
Dr. Lorenson and Dr. Voynick suggest that people working with your pet be fully informed about the seizure diagnosis. They should know how to handle a seizure if it occurs, how to administer medication and when to seek emergency care. They should also make sure the dog is eating and drinking properly to avoid dehydration, especially in hot weather.
Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys including a set of identical twins. She is also mom to three rescue pets: Scarlett, a 7-year-old Beagle, and Edith and Ollie, 15-year-old identical twin cats. She has written for numerous parenting publications and is the president of On Point Communications.