What to Do When a Dog Has a Seizure

June 27, 2022

Dog Seizure Definition and Causes

Dog seizures are abnormal bursts of activity in the cerebral cortex located in the front part of the dog’s brain; recurring seizures are known as epilepsy. The causes of seizures in dogs can be grouped into three categories:

Meta cranial causes occur outside of the dog’s brain. These can be low blood sugar and severe liver or kidney diseases. They can also come from specific electrolyte abnormalities like deficient blood calcium levels. Toxins are common meta cranial causes in domestic dogs.

Intracranial causes of seizures in dogs happen within the dog’s brain and tend to be quite severe. They can include encephalitis or inflammation of the brain, brain tumors, or strokes deriving from malformations in the brain such as cysts.

Idiopathic epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in dogs. This is an inherited disorder where the exact origins are usually unknown. A dog with its first seizure between 1 to 5 years old is a common sign of idiopathic epilepsy.

Dog Seizure Symptoms

This may include convulsions, running around in circles, twitching, stiffening of muscles, unconsciousness, inability to maintain eye focus, drooling, uncontrolled urination, or defecation. It is essential to identify dog seizure symptoms before a dog begins convulsing, like standing entirely still while staring into space or immediately falling to the floor without any motion.

Duration of Dog Seizures

The length of seizures can tell you if a dog has underlying severe health issues. Episodes that last less than a minute or end within seconds are usually non-threatening. Dogs having seizures lasting more than five minutes are considered abnormal, and they are typically tied with serious meta cranial and intracranial conditions.

Seizures that happen multiple times within a day are very alarming, and you should visit your vet immediately. Seizures that occur a few times a month are also a cause for concern. If your dog has seizures successively without recovery, that can be considered an emergency. Duration and frequency can often tell your vet more about your dogs’ possible causes of seizures.

Things to Do When Your Dog Has a Seizure

Regain your composure: When your dog has a seizure, you will most likely panic and won’t be able to think straight. You’ll want to avoid exacerbating the issue by letting your panic take over. So, take a deep breath and regain composure before doing anything else.

Establish a safe zone: Remove objects around your dog to prevent it from hurting itself while convulsing. Do not move your dog during a seizure. The only exception is when your dog has an attack in the middle of an intersection, while swimming, or in places where they are in immediate danger. Never restrict the dog’s movements during a seizure; you could risk injury to yourself and the dog. As with human seizures, give your dog time and space.

Let your dog recover: The recovery stage is when your dog regains consciousness and control of its body. You can wrap your dog’s feet with a wet towel if their temperature runs high. Please provide them with food and water as seizures take a lot of energy and moisture from your dog. Never force them to eat or drink; lay the bowls down near your dog and let them recover independently. Comfort it only when it comes up to you; some dogs will avoid contact and should be allowed to recover on their own.

Write down important notes: Once your dog is no longer in immediate danger, you should write down important notes about the seizure; the time it started, the time of day it happened, and the duration.

Track sequence of events: This is also very important to vets when caring for dogs that just had seizures. Where was your dog, and what was it doing before the attack? Did it eat, chew, or smell anything out of the ordinary? When possible, take notes on what other people were doing before the seizure. Who else was in the house? Who was around the dog? What did they do before the episode happened?

Maintain good communication: The operator of any emergency pet hospital will tell you exactly what to do if dogs have seizures. You will have to learn to communicate under stressful conditions. Listen to the instructions given, execute them carefully, let the operator know what you did and repeat the process. It sounds easy, but this can entirely fall apart in the heat of the moment.

What to Do When Your Dog Has a Serious Seizure

Dog seizure symptoms that warrant immediate emergency assistance are seizures without a recovery period, multiple seizures within one day, and seizures lasting longer than 5 minutes. Contact your vet or an emergency pet hospital immediately if any of these happen.

Make a Checklist for What to Do if Your Dog Has Seizure

Create a checklist of essential information we have discussed: seizure start time, end time, duration, what the dog was doing, what people were doing, and any other symptoms observed during the episode. Include emergency pet hospital and your vet’s contact numbers into the list. Then call an emergency pet hospital if the seizure is severe or contact your vet after your dog recovers.

Expose Yourself to the Reality

Watch some videos of dogs experiencing attacks and have the checklist ready to document your observations. This will help you align your expectation because it is as close to a simulation as you can get. Take note of how you felt and if you were doing what you were supposed to do. Make notes on what you would do differently or do the same way. This can be further developed with information in our next section.

What Not to Do in the Middle of a Dog Seizure

Panicking: This should be self-explanatory; panicking always makes things worse. You may forget all the preparations you’ve made for what to do when your dog has a seizure. The pet emergency operator will first tell you to calm down for this very reason.

Restricting dog movements: Stopping your dog’s actions during a seizure is risky for your dog and you. Your dogs do not feel pain during an episode, and in most cases, it is the owner’s attempt at locking down the dog’s limbs that do real damage.

Getting emotional: Anyone will be upset when looking at their dogs having a seizure. Once panic sets in, then every single slight issue becomes exaggerated. Arguing and blame-placing does your dog no good and being unable to communicate with the operator effectively is just as bad. Who gave your dog pills? Why didn’t the person responsible keep an eye on your dog? None of that will help with the situation.

We Believe You Can Do It

Watching your mutt having a seizure is incredibly stressful and scary, but it is manageable with preparations. The importance of a checklist and exposure to real-life situations have the most effect on your preparedness. Please keep your dog safe, let it recover, and try to remember the three severe dog seizure symptoms. You are now better prepared for what to do when a dog has a seizure, and we wish all your dogs a speedy recovery.

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