Epilepsy and the seizures associated with the condition can be terrifying to witness as a dog owner. If your dog receives an epilepsy diagnosis from a veterinarian, you are probably going to be unprepared for the care that your dog will need, but epilepsy is a manageable condition. When it comes to caring for a dog with epilepsy, you will need to be aware of the signs of a seizure, as well as other symptoms.
Signs Your Dog Has Epilepsy
While epilepsy can affect all dog breeds, there are a few breeds that are more prone to the disease due to genetics. Border collies are just one of these breeds.
Seizures are the most commonly reported symptom of epilepsy. This is due to the fact that epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes sudden and uncontrollable seizures. These seizures are often unannounced, but there may be some signs that your dog is about to have a seizure.
You may notice that your dog seems dazed, afraid, or confused. Your dog may also have rigid muscles or be unable to control their bowel movements or urination. The seizures associated with epilepsy can be partial, generalized, or focal seizures, all of which can be terrifying for dog owners. Each of them has different signs and symptoms, however, and you may notice that your dog’s seizures are different from time to time.
Generalized seizures can affect the entirety of your dog’s brain and cause jerking or twitching movement in your dog. During a generalized seizure, your dog may also lose consciousness.
Partial and focal seizures tend to affect only small parts of the brain and can present in a couple of different ways. They may turn into generalized seizures, however. Partial and focal seizures may only affect one limb or one side of the body. They can be harder to diagnose and catch early.
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Muscle rigidity
- Anxiety and stress
- Fear and confusion
History of Epilepsy in Dogs
Epileptic dogs are nothing new. In fact, veterinarians have recognized the disease in dogs for decades. Epilepsy and the seizures it causes have led to a number of different studies and research projects by veterinarians around the world. These studies have found that anticonvulsants and other medications can be beneficial treatments for epileptic dogs.
Some of the research into epilepsy in dogs has also discovered that epilepsy can develop from other conditions. Both kidney and liver disease can lead to seizures, as well as brain cancer, strokes, anemia, and head injuries. Seizures in dogs can also be caused by something unknown. In those cases, it is called idiopathic epilepsy and it generally occurs in dogs between six months and six years old.
It has also been discovered that between one and six percent of purebred dogs have epilepsy, which appears to be genetic in these cases. At least 20 different breeds are more prone to hereditary epilepsy including Keeshond, Beagle, Collie, German Shepherd, Boxer, Poodle, and more. Mixed breed predispositions haven’t been able to be tracked by researchers.
If your dog is one of the breeds that is more prone to epilepsy, you should speak to a veterinarian right away if you notice any common seizure symptoms.
Science Behind Dog Seizures
Medically speaking, epilepsy is characterized by seizures, but these seizures affect different parts of the brain and can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Seizures cause abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which can cause the shaking of limbs, loss of consciousness, and full body convulsions.
Dogs can experience grand mal seizures, which is a more generalized seizure that tends to affect more of the body. Focal seizures only affect one part of the brain, so seizures are localized to one part or side of the body. These focal seizures may only last for a few seconds before they become more generalized.
Psychomotor seizures are different than what you probably think of as a seizure. These seizures may cause your dog to start attacking an imaginary object or chase its tail. No matter what your dog does, it will be the same during every seizure.
Dealing with an Epilepsy Diagnosis in Your Dog
It can be hard to hear that your dog has epilepsy, but with a treatment plan in place, it is possible for your dog to live a completely normal life. However, you need to know how to handle the seizures. If your dog has a seizure, you should be sure that they are away from any objects that could hurt them. Stairs and furniture could be very dangerous to a dog having a seizure. Just gently slide your dog away from these objects to protect them. It is also important that you stay away from your dog’s mouth. Unlike humans, dogs can’t swallow their own tongues, but they can bite you.
You should try to time every seizure. If a seizure lasts more than just a couple of minutes, your dog could overheat, so you should turn a fan on your dog and put cold water on their paws. While you shouldn’t touch your dog, you can talk to them to make them feel better. Call your vet when the seizure ends.
If the seizure lasts more than five minutes, you need to get your dog to a vet right away, as the heat produced during the seizure could lead to breathing problems and brain damage.
Your veterinarian may also prescribe medication for your dog. Medications to prevent seizures can help your dog live a more normal life. For many dogs and their owners, these medications stabilize life and make things a little more normal, but they can lead to thyroid issues, so be sure that you speak to your veterinarian about possible medications.
Safety Tips for Managing Your Dog's Epilepsy:
Move your dog away from any objects that could hurt them.
Work with your veterinarian to find a treatment that works.