What are Having Seizures?
All breeds of dogs of all ages can experience a seizure. Seizures are the result of unusually large bursts of electrical activity in the brain. While epilepsy is what people think of when thinking of seizures, there are other reasons that seizures can occur in your dog. Should your dog have a seizure it is a good idea to understand the cause so you can try and prevent them in the future. Seizures can be due to conditions or defects that originate inside the skull (intracranially) or outside the skull (extracranially) to include:
- Heat stroke
- Neurological problems
- Head injury/trauma
- Kidney/liver disorders
Regardless of whether the issue is inside or outside the skull, the condition or defect will lead to nerve cells firing unpredictably and excessively in the cerebral cortex (outer layer of brain tissue that covers both cerebral hemispheres). This will cause the seizure. It may not always be obvious that a seizure is occurring; you may notice sudden collapse, muscle spasms, or an open mouth with a lot of drooling or foaming. In a seizure your dog will move but not have control over his muscles; he may eliminate waste during the event.
Seizures vary in their severity and how serious it is that your dog is experiencing them will depend upon the underlying condition causing the seizure. Should your dog experience a seizure, you should contact your veterinarian to schedule an appointment for an examination.
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Why Having Seizures Occurs in Dogs
Why your dog has had a seizure will depend on its cause. For example:
Exposure to lead or another toxic substance can cause poisoning and a seizure in your dog. Consuming something toxic, like chocolate or a particular plant can also lead to poisoning.
Should your dog get overheated, he may have a hard time reducing his temperature, causing heat stroke. In heat stroke, you may notice shallow breathing, pale gums, vomiting and collapse. Seizures can also occur.
- Epilepsy is repeated episodes of seizures. It is not clear what causes epilepsy though it could be hereditary
- The condition causes seizures, the frequency of which can vary
- For frequent seizures, medication is helpful
- A blockage of some sort, possibly in the esophagus, could also hinder swallowing
- Additional symptoms like gagging or retching will require urgent attention
Viruses cause this condition which can infect the brain of your dog and lead to severe damage. Transmission of the virus can be through saliva and other secretions, as well as through the air.
Neurological problems can cause seizures. Your dog’s nervous system can be inflamed and the additional pressure can lead to seizures. Brain cancer and malformation can put additional pressure on your dog’s skull, which can also result in seizures.
Low levels of calcium can cause a seizure in your dog. Dogs usually will not have a deficit in calcium however this can happen in dogs that are lactating.
A head injury can cause swelling in your dog’s brain that can lead to his experiencing seizures.
In late stage liver disease neurological changes often occur as a result of the high levels of toxins that are circulating in your dog’s system. These would typically be removed by a healthy liver, however with the diseased liver they are not. These toxins accumulate in your dog’s brain and can cause hepatic encephalopathy.
What to do if your Dog is Having Seizures
Should you observe your dog having a seizure, you will want to help him avoid hurting himself. You should remove all sharp and dangerous objects and surround him with a few pillows. Do not touch your dog, as he may inadvertently bite you while having the seizure. A seizure can be a symptom of an underlying condition or it can occur because he has experienced head trauma or is suffering from heat stroke. You can try and calculate the length of the seizure and consider what may have caused it to occur.
If you believe it is possible that your dog is experiencing heat stroke, recent head trauma or poisoning, you will want to get him to the veterinarian right away. As seizures can be the result of an underlying condition, even if those things are not suspected, you will want to schedule an examination for your dog to determine its cause and treat any health problems he is experiencing.
Your veterinarian will conduct a full physical examination of your dog, as well as ask you for information regarding the seizure itself, whether you noticed anything that could have triggered it, and whether your dog has had seizures in the past. Your veterinarian will also inquire about any other things that you may have observed in your dog.
Depending on what is seen during the examination, your veterinarian will likely order a complete blood count (CBC) and serum chemistry profile, urinalysis and fecal exam. Additional testing will be conducted based on these results as well as what was observed. Should your veterinarian be concerned about a head injury, for example, he may x-ray his head or use a computerized tomography (CT) scan for an image of his skull and brain. If your veterinarian suspects liver disease, he may get an x-ray or ultrasound of your dog’s liver to view any changes. A liver biopsy may be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.
Prevention of Having Seizures
You can do your best to prevent certain conditions that can lead to seizures in your dog. For example, keeping your dog on a leash when he is outside will ensure that he does not get in fights or run out into the street and get hit by a car, resulting in head trauma. If your dog has a yard that he runs around in, make sure that there are no plants that could be poisonous to him. Heat stroke can be avoided by making sure that when your dog is outside in the heat, that he has access to plenty of shade and cool drinking water. If you are leaving him in a warm place that is not outdoors, you will want to be sure that it has good ventilation.
There are numerous things that you can do through your dog’s life to promote good health. Talk with your veterinarian about what you can feed your dog that will provide him the nutrients he needs. Make sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise and if possible keep his stress to a minimum. Taking your dog to the veterinarian for annual check-ups will ensure that any health issues are caught early and treated before becoming more significant.
Cost of Having Seizures
The cost of treatment for your dog having seizures will depend upon the condition that is causing him to do so. Should your dog have epilepsy, the average cost of treatment is $3,000. Liver disease treatment averages $2,500, varying upon the severity of the condition. Hypocalcemia treatment can average around $3,000 and will be dependent upon any underlying issues causing it to occur. Costs will vary based on the location where you are seeking treatment and its cost of living.
Having Seizures Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
He starts shaking and is not cohosent
If you are noticing that Ernie is having seizures, try to gather some information by thinking back about frequency, duration, behaviour before the seizure (if you remember), eye position, limbs extended or not as these answers will help your Veterinarian when you visit. Most likely Ernie would require some medical management either daily or medication to give (suppository) during a seizure. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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