Pet Seizures

Pet Seizures

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What is a seizure?
Watching your dog or cat experience a seizure can be a scary thing, and for good reason: seizures are usually accompanied by convulsions and wild thrashing, yelps and cries, and sometimes excessive drooling, urination, and pooping.

So what exactly is a seizure, and why does it plague some of our furry friends? Seizures result from abnormal brain activity, the cause of which is not always understood. Not only are they distressing to witness, they also vary greatly in severity. Often, seizures can be a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention.

Seizures should not be ignored and can signal a variety of underlying conditions in your pet. Culprits include epilepsy, brain tumors, trauma, certain toxins and metabolic issues such as low blood sugar, low calcium levels, high blood pressure and liver disease. If your pet has a seizure, it is extremely important to work with your veterinarian to determine the cause.

There are a lot of questions out there about epilepsy and dogs, and one big reason is because it tends to be more prevalent in certain dog breeds than others (which suggests that genetics likely plays a role). But while epileptic seizures are relatively common in young to middle aged dogs, cats are rarely affected.

So what is epilepsy? The word “epilepsy” is a blanket term for neurological disorders characterized by seizures. It is a syndrome of recurrent seizures. Sometimes, the seizures are caused by trauma, a toxin, a brain tumor, an infection, or an issue with your dog’s blood, kidneys, or other organs. Other times, epilepsy is considered “idiopathic,” which simply means that there is no identifiable underlying cause. For a more in-depth analysis, read our article on idiopathic epilepsy.

If your pet experiences a seizure, a diagnostic evaluation can include:

  • Complete blood count and/or blood chemistry profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Liver function tests
  • Blood pressure tests
  • Evaluation of cerebrospinal fluid
  • Imaging studies such as a CT or MRI scan
  • In some cases, consultation with a specialist

Treatment for every dog is slightly different depending on underlying medical conditions, severity of seizures, and other factors. Your veterinarian is your best resource for information specific to your dog. Two commonly prescribed medications for seizure treatment are:

  • Phenobarbital, which helps reduce the frequency of your dog’s seizures and is the most prescribed medication for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. It is generally a well-tolerated drug.
  • Potassium bromide, another seizure medication that may be added to your dog’s treatment, if she does not respond well to phenobarbital alone.

To learn more about treatment of epilepsy, consult our article on idiopathic epilepsy.

If your dog is diagnosed with a seizure disorder, there are several ways you can help manage it:

  • Maintain a seizure log that lists date, time, length and severity of seizures and share this with your veterinarian
  • Do not change or discontinue medications without consulting your veterinarian
  • Have blood work and other lab work done when recommended by your veterinarian
  • Consult your veterinarian about potentially dangerous seizure situations
  • Put a medical alert tag on your pet’s collar so that if they become lost whoever finds them will be aware of their seizure disorder and need for medication.

By working closely with your veterinarian, you can maximize the chances of controlling the disorder and giving your pet a long, happy, and comfortable life.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Choose Brentwood Animal Hospital For Emergency Care for Pet Seizure

Dr. Burnett and the team at Brentwood Animal Hospital use their vast experience with animals to provide the highest quality care for their patients in Pensacola, FL and surrounding areas. We offer many veterinary services for pets including vaccinations, preventative care, dental care, diagnostics, surgery, laser therapy, microchipping and boarding. Contact Brentwood Animal Hospital today at 850-434-2646 when your pet experiences a seizure that needs immediate care.

Dog Seizures: Symptoms and What You Can Do

If you’ve ever seen a dog having a seizure, you were probably very alarmed. When a dog has a seizure, he usually falls down on the floor and may hold his legs stretched straight out from his body. He might also paddle his legs, depending on the situation, and he could run around in a panicked circle for a few minutes before falling over.

Whichever way your dog experiences seizures, seeing it happen isn’t fun, and you may be wondering what you can do to help your frightened furry friend when these occur.

Remember: If your dog is having or has just had a seizure for the first time, write down all the details you can remember about it and schedule an appointment with your vet. And if you think your dog may have ingested something toxic that could have caused the seizure, get to an emergency vet right away. Otherwise, chances are good your dog may have epilepsy, which is common in canines.

Read on to learn more about symptoms of seizures and how to progress when your dog has one.

Dog Seizures: When to Worry, When to Wait

Help! My dog is on medication but continues to have seizures. What should I do?

The goal of anti-convulsants in seizure control isn’t to make pets never have a seizure again. Although this would be nice, it’s not realistic. However, the number, duration and severity of seizures should lessen with medication. If your pet continues to have breakthrough seizures in an amount that concerns you, request a simple blood test to ensure the level of medication is therapeutic in your pet.

If the level is therapeutic and your pet continues to seize, ask your veterinarian about adding another medication like bromide or phenobarbitol, depending on which one your pet currently takes – or possibly consulting with a specialist. – Dr. Fiona Caldwell, DVM

I can’t tell if my dog is having a seizure or trembling for another reason.

Shaking and trembling may be caused by reasons unrelated to epilepsy in dogs. Learn how to tell the difference in 6 Reasons Your Dog May Shiver by Dr. Marc.

Or Call 866-929-3807 to Add a Pet to Your Current Policy

Video Transcript: Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page today.

This question comes from Janet, who writes, “My dog had a seizure. I took her to my veterinarian and the veterinarian wants to wait to put her on seizure medication. Is this okay?”

I’m sorry your dog had a seizure. This can be a really frightening and scary thing to watch. Seizures that are caused by epilepsy happen in less than 1% of dogs. Typically, what you’ll see is the pet losing consciousness and paddling their legs or jerking or convulsing. It can last for a number of minutes.

Definitely make an appointment with your veterinarian if you ever suspect that your dog has had a seizure. You were right to go to your veterinarian. Typically, the vet is going to want to run some type of lab work or some other diagnostic testing to make sure there isn’t a different underlying problem causing the seizure.

As a rule of thumb, dogs less than a year of age that have a seizure are typically suffering from some kind of infectious problem, either viral or bacterial. In dogs from about one to six or seven years of age, typically the most common cause is epilepsy. Dogs older than seven that come up with seizures, unfortunately this is often related to something outside of epilepsy, scary things like a brain tumor, liver disease or some other problem.

Depending on how old your dog is and what the seizure was like, it actually might be okay for you to wait to put this dog on seizure medication. There is a decent percentage of the canine population that will have one seizure and then never have another one. Your veterinarian probably doesn’t want to put your dog on seizure medication if he or she is one of those dogs who never has another seizure.

A reason that I would put a dog on medication would be if they have seizures that last more than three to five minutes. Try to take a look at your watch or at the time on your phone so that you can know exactly how long it was. This is going to help your veterinarian to better treat your dog. If a seizure lasts more than three to five minutes, this is an emergency and you should bring your dog to a veterinarian. Their body temperature can rise quickly and can be a problem. Especially as pets age, seizures that last that long can cause problems with their brain and cause brain damage.

If it’s a quick seizure, 20 or 30 seconds to a minute, and your dog pops out of it, it isn’t necessarily an emergency but you should probably schedule an appointment with a veterinarian if they’ve never had a seizure before. If your dog continues to have seizures and they’re getting to the point where they’re once a month or two to three times a month, at some point the frequency is going to warrant medication. Talk with your veterinarian. There are seizure medications that typically work pretty well for dogs and can help control their seizures.

If you guys have questions for me, feel free to post them at Pets Best Facebook page.

Seizures in pets can be scary for pet owners. Knowing what seizures look like and what to do when they occur can help put pet owners at ease. Dr. Devon Hague, a veterinary neurologist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, sees multiple patients every day that have had seizures.

“There are several different types of seizures that can range in duration, frequency, and severity,” Dr. Hague says. Generalized seizures are usually the easiest to recognize in these seizures, the animals will lose consciousness and may fall to the side and have uncontrolled motor activity (in other words, whole-body tremors). During the seizure, pets may urinate or defecate.

Dr. Hague explains that, just as a limp can indicate a broken leg, a seizure is a manifestation of brain disease.

Any Animal Can Have a Seizure

Any animal that has a brain has the potential to have seizures. Dr. Hague, like most veterinary neurologists, typically sees cats and dogs. At the University of Illinois, the neurology and neurosurgery service also consults on exotic pets (including birds, reptiles, and small mammals) and large animal patients.

“Some pets will vocalize during a seizure, and pet owners may be concerned that their pets are in pain,” Dr. Hague says. “Although we cannot ask our animal patients how they feel, we know from asking human epileptic patients that seizures generally do not cause pain.” The animal may vocalize because they are not conscious rather than because they are in pain.

During a Seizure

Although you may feel alarmed when a seizure occurs in your pet, remaining calm is the best way to help. You must take steps to protect both yourself and your pet, because during a seizure your pet loses consciousness.

“Make sure to keep hands away from the animal’s face to avoid being bitten, and keep the animal away from stairs or anywhere that could lead to a fall and injury,” Dr. Hague advises.

It is also important to note the behaviors before, during, and after the seizure episode as well as the length of the seizure. A video of the episode will help your veterinarian make an accurate diagnosis.

When to Go to the Veterinarian

How long the seizures last indicate how quickly the pet must be seen by a veterinarian. If the seizure lasts 5 minutes or more, or if the animal experiences more than two seizure episodes within 24 hours, then the pet should see a veterinarian right away. If the pet cannot get an appointment with the primary care veterinarian, owners should take the pet to an emergency hospital because of the seriousness of this situation.

“These scenarios are cause for alarm because with each seizure that occurs, it becomes easier to have another one and harder to stop them,” Dr. Hague explains. Prolonged seizures can cause the body to overheat and cause serious damage to the animal.

Your family veterinarian may refer your pet to a specialty hospital, such as the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, if further diagnostics or a second opinion is needed.

Seizures could indicate a wide variety of disorders. In making a diagnosis, the veterinarian takes into consideration the animal’s history, age, and findings of the neurological examination. The neurological examination examines the pet’s mental status, gait and posture, the function of the cranial nerves, postural reactions, and spinal reflexes. Each of these components helps the veterinarian determine what the issue is and where it is located.

Treatment and Prevention

“Treatment of seizures can vary depending on the cause and the particulars of the case,” Dr. Hague says. Medications are available to reduce the number and frequency of the seizure episodes. The veterinarian will look at the side effects and the efficacy of the medication and recommend the best option for the patient.

“One of the easiest ways to prevent seizures is to routinely have the pet vaccinated,” Dr. Hague stresses. Vaccinations help prevent certain diseases, such as canine distemper virus or rabies, that can cause neurologic symptoms, such as seizures.

Seizures may also occur in conjunction with other diseases, such as stroke, cancer, toxicity, and inflammatory diseases. Owners should feel assured that their pet’s seizures are not the owners’ fault.

For more information about seizures, contact your local veterinarian.

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