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What causes seizures in dogs?

There are a number of reasons that your dog may have a seizure ranging from epilepsy to diabetes. In this post, our Charlotte vets explain some of the causes of seizures in dogs and what to do if your dog has a seizure.

Seizures in Dogs

Seeing your dog have a seizure can be a stressful situation. A seizure can take many forms, and some are more obvious than others. 

If your dog is having a seizure you may notice the more 'obvious' seizure symptoms of muscle twitching or uncontrolled jerking movements but a seizure can also look like a loss of consciousness, drooling, or unusual eye-rolling movements.

In the event that you suspect your dog has had or is having a seizure, it's important to contact your vet so they can offer you advice on whether or not your dog needs to be seen immediately or if you should book them an appointment for a physical examination

White French bulldog laying on a hardwood floor with eyes closed and tongue out

What causes seizures in dogs? 

Regardless of the underlying cause, a seizure occurs due to faulty electrical activity in the dog's brain which leads to a loss of control over their body. The main underlying causes of seizures in dogs can include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Heat Exhaustion
  • Nutritional imbalances such as thiamine deficiency
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Liver disease. 
  • Tumors
  • Ingested poisons such as caffeine, chocolate
  • An injury to the dog's head (such as a road accident)
  • Diabetes
  • Infectious diseases such as canine distemper virus infection (CDV) and rabies
  • Heartworms

Dog Breeds With Increased Risk of Seizures

While not all dogs within these breeds will experience a seizure in their lifetime, these breeds tend to be more prone to seizures than others:

  • Bull Terriers can suffer from an inherited form of epilepsy which causes behaviors such as tail chasing, irrational fear, and unprovoked aggression.
  • Large herding and retriever dogs may be prone to seizures, including German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, as well as Labrador and Golden Retrievers.
  • Herding dogs with the MDR1 gene commonly experience seizures. These breeds include Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Longhaired Whippets, as well as Old English and Shetland Sheepdogs.
  • Breeds with short, flat noses such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, and English Bulldogs can also be more prone to experiencing seizures.

When To Call A Vet

Contact your vet immediately or bring your dog to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital if there is a chance that your dog is having a seizure due to poisoning, if your dog's seizure lasts longer than 3 minutes, or if your dog has more than one seizure in a row. Seizures in older dogs can also be more dangerous and may require emergency medical attention.

Most seizures under 3 minutes are not fatal and with the proper treatment, your pet can lead a normal life. However, seizures can be a serious health concern and even short seizures could cause brain damage so it is important to let your vet know. 

If your dog has a brief seizure and then quickly recovers, your vet may suggest that you bring your dog in for an examination or they may simply make a note in your dog's records and ask you to bring your dog in for an examination if it happens again. Some dogs will have an unexplained ‘one off’ seizure, while other dogs continue to have seizures throughout their life due to epilepsy or illness.

Treatment for Seizures In Dogs

If your dog is experiencing seizures, treatment will depend upon the underlying cause. Your vet will run a number of tests to determine the cause of your dog's seizures, if no cause can be found the disease will be diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. Once your dog's seizures have been diagnosed your vet will work with you to determine the best treatment for your dog's seizures which may include medications or keeping a seizure diary.

At Providence Animal Hospital we handle emergency cases during our regular clinic hours. If your pet is having a seizure please contact us or the nearest after-hours emergency hospital to have their situation assessed.

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