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What can I do if my dog has a seizure?

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a condition that causes your pet to have multiple seizures or ‘fits’. This can be due to a structural problem in the brain, due to a genetic cause or sometimes due to unknown reasons.

Genetic epilepsy or epilepsy of unknown origin (called ‘idiopathic epilepsy’) most commonly starts between the ages of 6 months to 6 years and structural epilepsy can occur at any age.

It can be quite distressing to witness these seizures but it may help you to know that your pet is likely unconscious and unaware of the event.

With effective treatment an epileptic dog should lead a long and happy life, it may not be possible to stop every seizure from occurring but reducing them as much as possible is the aim of therapy.

Certain breeds are suspected to be more at risk due to inherited genetics including the: Labrador, German Shepherd, Pug, Basset Hound, Dogue de Bordeaux, Boxer, Beagle, French Bulldog, British Bulldog, Border Terrier, Pomeranian, Chihuahua and Border Collie

Seizures

These can present differently in each animal but can be classed as either ‘focal’ or ‘general’. In a focal seizure, only one part or side of the dog may be affected, such as localised muscle twitching/spasms or in some cases they may exhibit odd behavioural symptoms. In a generalised seizure, the dog lies on one side and makes paddling or running movements, is most commonly unconscious and may also lose control of their bowels or bladder.

Seizures often last for 1 to 2 minutes but can be longer and it is important to speak to your vet about when further action should be taken (for instance if a prolonged seizure occurred).

Before and after seizures

In addition to the seizure itself, you may notice unusual behaviour both before and after a seizure. In fact, you may learn to recognise the signs which indicate a seizure is about to occur. Your dog may be overly affectionate or anxious before the seizure and tired or restless afterwards. Each dog may present differently.

My dog is having a seizure – what should I do?

Keep calm

  • Whilst difficult to do as seizures can be distressing to witness, keeping calm will help you think with a clearer head and loud commotion can exacerbate seizures

 

Stay safe

  • Keep yourself and your pet as safe as possible!
  • Seizuring dogs do not swallow their tongue so there is no need to put your hands in or near their mouth. In fact, there is a risk of being bitten as your pet may clamp down their jaws during a seizure.
  • Where possible, move objects and people out of the way of your dog and do not try to handle them. If your dog is in a dangerous place then carefully roll them onto a towel and gently move them.

 

Reduce stimuli

  • Turn off any lights, speak in quiet tones and reduce any external noise (e.g TVs/stereos) to create a calm environment.
  • Excess noise and physical contact can potentiate a seizure.

 

Make a record

  • As soon as the seizure begins, start timing it.
  • If you can, video the seizure so that you can show your vet exactly what happened.
  • It is also helpful to make a record of the events before, during and after the seizure for reference.

 

Recover

  • Once the seizure has ended, keep your dog in a quietened room until they have fully recovered.
  • Due to behavioural changes (which can occasionally manifest as uncharacteristic aggression) and possible disorientation following a seizure, leave them alone until they are ready to come to you and you are sure how they are going to react.
  • Make sure food and water are available as they may be hungry or thirsty.
  • They may want to urinate/defecate immediately after a seizure also.

If the seizure lasts for longer than usual, for more than 5 minutes or they have more than two seizures in a day, contact your vet straight away.

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