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Causes of Seizures in Dogs

Dogs can experience seizures due to a number of reasons ranging from head injury to heartworm. Here are some reasons dogs might have seizures, and what do do if your dog experiences one.

Seizures in Dogs

It can be distressing to witness your dog having a seizure. Some dogs will recover quickly from a seizure and never have another, while other dogs may continue to have seizures throughout their lifetime due to illness or epilepsy. 

What do seizures look like in dogs?

Seizures in dogs can look different for every pooch. Some signs are more obvious than others but are often very brief. If a seizure is occurring, you may notice muscles twitching or uncontrollable spasms, but seizures could also result in loss of consciousness, drooling, or atypical eye movements. If you believe that your dog has had a seizure, it's important to contact your vet to let them know.

If your dog has been having a seizure for 3 minutes or longer, or has experienced multiple seizures in a row, contact your vet or emergency vet immediately.

What causes seizures in dogs?

All seizures occur due to faulty electrical activity in the dog's brain which leads to a loss of control over their body, regardless of the underlying cause of the seizure. Issues that may trigger seizures in dogs include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Heat Exhaustion
  • Heartworms
  • Liver disease 
  • Tumours
  • An injury to the dog's head
  • Diabetes, Low blood sugar levels
  • Ingested poisons such as caffeine, chocolate
  • Infectious diseases such as CDV and rabies
  • Nutritional imbalances (thiamine deficiency)

What dog breeds are prone to seizures?

Not every dog within these breeds will experience seizures in their lifetime. However, the following breeds tend to be more prone to seizures than others.

  • 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 some Sheepdogs.
  • Bull Terriers can suffer from an inherited form of epilepsy which causes behaviors such as tail chasing, irrational fear, and unprovoked aggression.
  • Breeds with short, flat noses such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, and English Bulldogs can also be more prone to experiencing seizures.

While these breeds are more prone to seizures than others, remember that seizures can happen to any breed - big dogs, small dogs, older senior dogs, and younger dogs,  If you think your dog may be experiencing a seizure contact your Tucson vet immediately.

Can a seizure kill a dog?

If there is a chance that your dog is having a seizure due to poisoning, if your dog's seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, or if your dog has multiple seizures in a row, then the seizure indicates a serious health threat. Contact your vet immediately, or your closest emergency veterinary hospital.

When to call the vet?

Most seizures are short, lasting less than 3 minutes and with proper treatment, the pet can lead a normal life. That said, seizures can be a serious health concern because even short seizures could cause brain damage. If your dog suffers a seizure that continues for more than 30 minutes, permanent brain damage could result.

If you witness your dog having a brief seizure, then he or she quickly recovers, contact your vet to let them know what happened. Your vet may suggest that you to bring your dog in for an examination or they may just make a note in your dog's records and only ask you to bring your dog in if it happens again. Unexplainable ‘one off’ seizures are common in dogs, but some dogs will continue to have seizures throughout their life due to underlying conditions.

Treatment for Seizures In Dogs

Treatment of seizures in dogs depends upon the underlying cause. Your vet may run a number of tests to determine the cause of your dog's seizures, if no cause can be found, the disease may be diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. Following a diagnosis, your vet can work with you to determine the best course of treatment for your dog's seizures. Treatment can range from medications to simply keeping a seizure journal to track your dog's seizures and overall health.

If your pet is experiencing an emergency, contact Veterinary Specialty Center of Tucson  immediately. We are here to help 7 days a week.

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Our board-certified critical care specialists and skilled emergency veterinarians are here for you and your pet. If your dog or cat needs emergency care, get in touch with us right away.

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