Having a cat or a dog (or both) as a companion is the most beautiful relationship. But watching them fall ill or struggle with a disease like seizures can be heartbreaking. Seizures/convulsions/epilepsy also more commonly known as fits are neurological and genetic conditions that affect the brain and nervous system. They are a common abnormality occurring in cats and dogs across all breeds and age groups.
Fits are a temporary, involuntary and uncontrollable muscle activity that can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 90 seconds. In some cases, a fit also appears as an abnormal burst of energy with the pet looking dazed, confused and directionless. So if you see your dog twitching or shaking, know that it’s a seizure attack. Let’s know more about the causes, symptoms, types and treatment for seizures in detail.
Dog seizures can be controlled with the right drug
Causes of dog seizures
It is essential to know the causes behind a seizure attack as it helps determine the root cause and further diagnosis. Seizures usually occur due to some abnormality in the cerebral cortex of the brain, some other causes can be -
Consuming anything poisonous like medicines, animals, plants etc
Liver disease or failure
Hypoglycemia (low sugar levels) or hyperglycemia (high sugar levels)
Kidney and renal disease
Toxins in the body
- Cardiopulmonary (heart and lung) disease
- Head injury
- Brain tumor, trauma and infections
- Xylitol (an artificial sweetener)
But that’s not all. Sometimes there’s no particular cause behind a seizure attack in dogs. The seizure attack is either due to unknown causes or has been inherited genetically. This is known as idiopathic epilepsy. A fit or a seizure attack can happen at any time of the day. But it has been observed that they frequently happen when there is a change in brain activity. For example - excitement, falling asleep, waking up etc.
With the right care, epilepsy in dogs can be controlled
Symptoms of seizures
The first sign of symptoms happens when your happy and active dog or cat starts losing control over their body. This happens out of the blue, without any warning signs. Some other symptoms to look out for are -
- Stiffening and involuntary movement of muscles
- Twitching uncontrollably
- Loss of consciousness or partially conscious
- Excessive drooling
- Chomping, tongue chewing
- Foaming at the corners of the mouth and vomiting
No awareness of the surroundings
After a seizure attack, they might try to hide due to fear as well.
Types of seizures
There are different types of seizures in dogs and cats -
Generalized seizure - This is the most common type of seizure also known as grand mal seizure. During a generalized seizure, a dog loses consciousness and convulses uncontrollably. This lasts for a few seconds upto a minute.
Focal seizure - Like the name, the seizure attack is focused in a certain part of the brain only. It causes unusual movements in just one part of the limbs or body. They usually last only a few seconds.
Psychomotor seizure - A psychomotor seizure is different from a generalized and focal seizure. It usually involves a strange behavior like chasing an invisible object or the tail. Initially, it might look like a fun activity that the dog is involved in. But dogs suffering from psychomotor seizures exhibit the same strange behavior during an attack.
- Idiopathic seizure - A seizure or fit that happens without any apparent cause or reason is classified as an idiopathic seizure. Dogs between the age of 6 months to 6 years are more prone to it.
Regular vet visits during epilepsy are a must
Phases of a seizure attack
A seizure or epilepsy attack can be divided into three phases -
Pre-ictal (or aura) phase - This is the first stage of an epilepsy attack where symptoms start to show. Pets will appear confused and restless. You will also see them panting, drooling, whining and looking for their owners/pet parents. In other words, dogs are able to recognize the change in brain activity but are unable to bear and communicate it. If you see this happening, be there for them as this phase can last anywhere from a few seconds to even an hour. Don’t leave them alone.
Ictal phase - This phase marks the beginning of the seizure attack. Full-blown symptoms will start to appear. In extreme cases, dogs might also end up urinating and vomiting. This phase is the most critical phase and can last from a few seconds upto minutes. If it lasts longer than five minutes, it’s termed as prolonged seizure. This is a sign to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Post-ictal phase - This phase marks the gradual end of the seizure attack. Dogs will slowly start recovering and will look disoriented because their brain is trying to recover from the attack.
What should I do if my dog has a seizure?
Dog seizures are highly unpredictable. That’s why it becomes important for you as a pet parent to be equipped with the right knowledge, tools and medicines to handle it with care. If your dog has recurring seizure attacks, here are a few things you should know -
If you see your dog convulsing, it’s better to leave them untouched. Be there but don’t try to jump into it. Make sure that there’s no furniture or anything that could harm them. If you have to move them, hold them gently from their chest and pull them to a safer location. When you are touching them, an accidental injury might also occur to you. Understand that it’s not on purpose and your dog is going through a difficult time.
If you are trying to comfort them, don’t move your hand on their jaws. This might make them bite you accidentally.
Your dog won’t choke. Please don’t put anything in their mouth as a hindrance between their teeth and tongue.
We understand that you may panic during a seizure, but try to keep track of how long the seizure lasts and if possible record a video to show it to your vet. Take mental notes of the symptoms and their activity during the seizure.
- Keep a track of time and call for emergency veterinary services if the seizure lasts for more than five minutes or multiple seizures occur within 24 hours.
Cannabis-infused oils like this one have healing effects on dogs with seizures
Don’t skip the medicines. While seizures don’t have a full-proof solution, medicines are the best way to keep them under control. Be careful with the dosage as well.
Rearrange your house according to your dog’s needs. Remove any items that can cause harm like items made from glass (cabinets, showpieces etc) and furniture with sharp edges. It’s better to cover hardwood or marble floors with carpet.
Consult pet nutritionists to focus on how a better diet can help reduce seizure attacks. Add cannabis-infused oil for that extra layer of healing without any side effects.
Seizure medicines and treatment
Dog seizures are not 100% treatable. But don’t lose hope as with the right medications and some extra care, you can keep the seizure attacks under control. In recent times, the use of the anticonvulsant drug Levetiracetam* has gained prominence. With minimal long-term side effects, better results and amazing efficacy, this drug is being preferred by veterinarians across the country.
Levetiracetam is a prescription drug for treating epilepsy in dogs and cats
We realized pets were suffering from epilepsy and there was no veterinary formulation in the market which addressed this fatal ailment. Pets were often administered human epilepsy medicines or other formulations that were toxic in the long run. Their long-term side effects decreased the quality of life as well. We decided to change that and are proud to present Wigepsy™ to ensure dogs and cats across India have a safe, vet-approved formulation that treats epilepsy.
Other more common lines of treatment for dog seizures include Phenobarbital* and Potassium Bromide*. They are the traditionally used anticonvulsant drugs but unlike levetiracetam, they have serious long-term side effects like liver failure, development of pancreatitis and in some cases even drug resistance.
*Please note that these are prescription-based drugs and should only be prescribed by a veterinarian.
Do consult your veterinarian and follow their prescription. Do not use any home remedies to treat dog seizures as there is no scientific or medical research that proves its effects.
Do share this blog with fellow pet parents and animal lovers. If you have more questions about the line of treatment for your dog or cat, do consult our in-house veterinarians for an online consultation. Call us on +91 8431620000 or join our free, online pet parent community Wiggles Tribe on Facebook. Remember, we are always here for you and your furry friends!
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*Disclaimer: This blog is vet-approved and includes original content which is compiled after thorough research and authenticity by our in-house team of vets and content experts. It is always advisable to consult a veterinarian before you try any products, pet food or any kind of treatment/medicines on your pets, as each pet is unique and will respond differently.