Seizures in Dogs
There are a number of types of seizures which can be seen in dogs, and how these different types affect individual dogs can also be very different. While there are different categorizations for seizures, it's not unusual for an individual dog to experience more than one type of seizure.
Seizures in dogs often occur suddenly, and without warning, but most will only last just a short period of time (a few seconds to a couple of minutes).
Many pet parents are concerned that their pet will injure themselves while having a seizure, and while this can happen it is very rare. Most dogs having a seizure do not hurt themselves and often do not require a trip to the vet.
That said, if your dog has had even a short seizure it's important to contact your vet just to let them know what has happened. Your vet will decide whether an examination is required
If your pup's seizure lasts more than 3 minutes, or if you dog experiences recurring seizures over a 24 hour period, an urgent trip to the vet is required. Contact your vet immediately to let them know you are coming, or head to the nearest emergency animal hospital.
Focal Seizures (Partial Seizures) in Dogs
Focal, or Partial Seizures will only affect one half of your dog's brain, and within a particular region of that half. When you visit your vet, focal seizures will be described as either simple or complex, depending on your dog’s level of awareness while the seizure is occurring. Most dogs remain conscious during a simple focal seizure, whereas consciousness is likely to be more impaired if your pup is experiencing a complex focal seizure.
Signs of a Simple Focal Seizure
If your dog is experiencing a simple focal seizure you may notice one or more of the following signs:
- Hallucinations (Your dog may bark, growl or moan at nothing, bite at the air or behave fearfully for no apparent reason)
- Fur standing up
- Dilated pupils
- Balance problems
- Involuntary movements
- Specific muscles may contract and relax
- Signs of vision or hearing changes
Generalized Seizures in Dogs
Unlike focal seizures, generalized seizures occur within both sides of the dog's brain. Generalized seizures often begin as a focal seizure then evolve into a generalized seizure. If your dog is having a generalized seizure they will likely lose consciousness and urination or defecation could occur.
Types & Signs of Generalized Seizures in Dogs
Below is a list of different types of generalized seizures that dog's can experience. Generalized seizures are characterized by movement on both sides of the body and fall into a number of categories:
- Tonic: Muscle contraction or stiffening that can last from seconds to minutes
- Clonic: Involuntary rapid and rhythmic jerking or muscle contractions
- Tonic-Clonic: Tonic phase followed immediately by a clonic phase
- Myoclonic: Sporadic jerks or movements typically on both sides of the body
- Atonic (drop attacks, non-convulsive seizures): A seizure which suddenly causes the dog to collapse
- Cluster: Two or more seizures within a 24-hour period with the dog regaining full consciousness between seizures
- Status Epilepticus: Either (a) a single seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes, or (b) a number of seizures over a short period of time without regaining full consciousness between each seizure. If your dog suffers from a Status Epilepticus seizure call your vet immediately for advice. Seizures lasting longer than 5 minutes can be life threatening.
Focal Seizure Evolving Into a Generalized Seizure
Focal seizures which evolve into generalized seizures are the most common type of seizures seen in dogs. It is not unusual for the focal seizure to be so short or subtle that the signs are missed by the owner.
If your dog begins having a generalized seizure, try to remember exactly what your pup was doing before it began. Was there an unusual behavior (even very briefly) before the seizure began? Provide your vet with a full explanation of what happened, with as much detail as possible. The more your vet knows about what your dog was doing before the generalized seizure, the better able they will be to diagnose the type of seizure your dog had and possible cause.
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