Seizures in Dog


What is a Seizure?


A seizure or fit is caused by an abnormal burst of electrical activity within the brain, commonly in one of the cerebral hemispheres. The electrical activity sometimes spreads out and involves other areas; because multiple areas of the brain are all trying to send signals at the same time we see this as uncontrolled movement of the body. We call this a generalised seizure, these are the most common form of fitting.


Seizure activity in the brain may be more focal and may only affect one particular point of in the brain, we call this a focal seizure.


A typical seizure is preceded by a period of altered behaviour, called the aura. During the aura dogs may be restless and anxious, cry out, demand affection, or seek seclusion.


The actual seizure normally lasts less than two minutes, and is characterized by collapse with rigid extension of the legs. The dog becomes unconscious and may stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds. This is followed by rhythmic jerking of the legs (which resembles running or paddling). Some dogs also chomp, chew, drool, or urinate and defecate.


As the dog regains consciousness there is a post-seizure state characterized by disorientation and confusion. The dog may stumble into walls and appear blind. The post-seizure state can persist for minutes or hours. This sort of seizure is typical of epilepsy but unfortunately this isn’t the only cause.


A focal motor or partial seizure is one in which the jerking or twitching is limited (at least initially) to a particular part of the body. A focal seizure usually indicates a specific brain lesion, such as a scar, tumour or abscess.


Seizures are commonly associated with brain injury, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), heat stroke, brain abscess, brain tumour(s), stroke, poisoning, kidney failure, or liver failure.


Seizures associated with a concussion frequently occur weeks or months after the head injury and are caused by a focus of scar tissue in the brain.


What to do if your dog has a seizure?


If the dog is in a dangerous location at the time of the seizure, move him/her to a safe site. Otherwise, do not disturb the dog during or after the seizure. The dog needs to be kept in a clam quite prefferably dark place so, pull the curtains and turn off any lights. Even though it going against all your natural instinct but you need stay away from the dog, especially away his/her head and do not speak into ear, as this may trigger further seizures and you may also get bitten (as the dog would be disoriented). Despite the old wives’ tale, do not pull out the dog’s tongue or wedge something between her teeth. Dogs cannot swallow their tongue. Putting your fingers in their mouth is more likely to leave you with a nasty bite wound.


Seizures lasting more than five minutes or cluster seizures (several seizures one after the other without a return to consciousness) are emergencies. They must be stopped with anticonvulsants to prevent permanent brain damage or death. You need to seek immediate veterinary attention.


A protracted period of seizing is referred to as ‘Status epilepticus’. This has a poor prognosis, because it is usually caused by poisoning or a serious brain disease. Unfortunately protracted seizing may also cause further damage to the brain.


It is very important that you keep a note of the length of the seizure. Once the seizure is over, notify Grey Abbey, because we may need to examine the dog to diagnose and treat the underlying cause.




A number of drugs are available for treating or managing seizure disorders. However the drugs, either singly or in combination, are not 100% effective. Treatment of the underlying cause is the best way to prevent the seizure from recurring. Often with conditions such as epilepsy management with medication will significantly decrease the number and severity of the seizures while increasing the seizure-free interval between them.


Top 5 Tips for Fitting dogs


1) Move your dog only if its in a dangerious position.

2) Close the curtains, turn off lights and keep noise to a minimum.

3) DO NOT put your fingers in their mouths.

4) Take note of the length of the seizure.

5) If the fit last more than 2 minutes or you are worried contact Grey Abbey on 045 522 390.


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