Dog seizures can be a scary experience for both the dog and their owner. It’s important to know what a seizure looks like in dogs so that you can identify it quickly and take the necessary steps to help your canine companion. Seizures in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors such as epilepsy, brain tumors, or toxins and it’s vital to know what each different type of seizure looks like.
According to Dr. Joane M. Parent BSc, DVM, MVSc, a seizure in dogs can manifest in different ways. Some dogs may experience a full-body convulsion, while others may only have a partial seizure that affects one part of their body. It’s important to note that not all seizures look the same, and some may be more subtle than others. Understanding the different types of seizures and their symptoms can help you identify them more easily.
So, What Do Dog Seizures Look Like?
During a seizure, a dog may exhibit a range of symptoms, which can vary in severity and duration. The most common signs of a dog seizure include convulsions, stiffness, vocalizing, confusion, not being responsive to surroundings, confusion, repetitive movement, shaking and falling over.
It’s important to note that not all seizures look as dramatic as we think. A dog just staring into space or repeatedly licking the air may actually be experiencing a seizure.
See the video below for an example of an epileptic focal seizure.
Dog seizures can be a scary experience for both the pet and their owner. Seizures can occur in any dog breed, size, or age, and can be caused by various factors including metabolic disorders, infections, and brain tumors. The most common seizure is a Gran Mal Seizure you can see in the video below:
It is important to note that not all seizures are the same, and some dogs may exhibit different symptoms. Additionally, some seizures may last only a few seconds, while others may last several minutes.
If a dog experiences a seizure, it is important to remain calm and keep them away from any potential hazards such as stairs or sharp objects. It is also recommended to seek veterinary care as soon as possible to determine the underlying cause of the seizure and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Signs and Symptoms
Dog seizures can be a scary experience for both the dog and their owner. It is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a seizure in order to provide the appropriate care and treatment.
The most common signs of a seizure in dogs include shaking, convulsions, loss of consciousness, drooling, and foaming at the mouth. In some cases, a dog may also urinate or defecate during a seizure.
It is important to note that not all seizures look the same. Some dogs may experience a full-body convulsion, while others may only have a mild tremor in one area of their body. Seizures can also vary in length, with some lasting only a few seconds and others lasting several minutes.
If a dog experiences a seizure, it is important to keep them safe by removing any objects that could cause injury and ensuring that they are not near any stairs or other hazards. It is also important to stay calm and avoid touching the dog during the seizure, as this could cause them to become more agitated.
If a dog experiences a seizure that lasts longer than five minutes, or if they experience multiple seizures in a short period of time, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.
What do different types of seizures look like in dogs?
Seizures in dogs can take on various forms and can range from mild to severe. Here are some common types of seizures and what they may look like in dogs:
Generalized Seizures (Grand Mal Seizures)
Generalized seizures are the most common type of seizures in dogs, typically caused by epilepsy. They can affect the entire body and usually last for a few seconds to a few minutes. Here are some signs of generalized seizures in dogs:
- Loss of consciousness;
- Stiffening of the limbs;
- Jerking of the limbs;
- Uncontrolled shaking;
- Drooling; and
- Urinating or defecating.
Focal seizures, also known as partial seizures, only affect one part of the brain. They can cause abnormal behavior or movements in dogs. Here are some signs of focal seizures in dogs:
- Twitching of a limb or part of the face;
- Chewing or biting;
- Pacing or circling;
- Staring into space; and
Cluster seizures occur when a dog experiences multiple seizures within a short period of time, usually within 24 hours. Here are some signs of cluster seizures in dogs:
- Multiple seizures within a short period of time;
- Disorientation or confusion between seizures; and
- Extreme lethargy or sleepiness after seizures.
Status epilepticus is a severe and life-threatening condition that occurs when a dog experiences continuous seizures for more than five minutes or has multiple seizures without regaining consciousness in between. Here are some signs of status epilepticus in dogs:
- Continuous seizures for more than five minutes;
- Multiple seizures without regaining consciousness in between; and
- Extreme lethargy or sleepiness after seizures.
During a clonic seizure, the dog experiences rhythmic muscle contractions that cause shaking or jerking movements. These seizures typically last for a few minutes. The dog may fall to the ground and lose consciousness during the seizure.
During a clonic seizure, the dog’s eyes may roll back, and the tongue may protrude from the mouth. The dog may also drool and foam at the mouth. The shaking or jerking movements may be localized to one part of the body or may involve the entire body.
During a cluster seizure, a dog may experience multiple seizures in a short period of time, with little to no recovery time in between. This can be a particularly distressing experience for both the dog and its owner, as the seizures can be quite severe and may last for several minutes.
Some common signs and symptoms of a cluster seizure may include:
- Rapid and repetitive muscle contractions;
- Loss of consciousness;
- Uncontrolled shaking or convulsions;
- Foaming at the mouth; and
- Loss of bladder or bowel control.
Petite Mal seizures, also known as absence seizures, are a type of seizure that can occur in dogs. These seizures are characterized by a sudden loss of consciousness, which can last for a few seconds to a couple of minutes.
During a Petite Mal seizure, the dog may appear to be staring off into space, with a blank expression on their face. They may also exhibit repetitive movements, such as lip smacking or chewing, or slight muscle twitching.
Petite Mal seizures are typically not as dramatic as other types of seizures, such as Grand Mal seizures. However, they can still be concerning for pet owners, and it is important to seek veterinary care if your dog experiences these types of seizures.
There are several potential causes of Petite Mal seizures in dogs, including genetic predisposition, brain tumors, and metabolic disorders.
Myoclonus is a type of seizure that affects the muscles of a dog. During a myoclonic seizure, the dog’s muscles will contract and relax rapidly, causing jerking movements. These seizures can be brief and isolated, or they can occur in clusters and last for several minutes.
Some signs and symptoms of myoclonic seizures in dogs include:
- Sudden jerking movements;
- Muscle spasms;
- Twitching of the face or limbs; and
- Loss of consciousness (in severe cases).
Myoclonic seizures can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic predisposition, brain injury, or exposure to toxins. In some cases, the cause may be unknown.
Focal seizures, also known as partial seizures, occur when abnormal electrical activity is localized to a specific area of the brain. These seizures can affect a specific part of the body or cause unusual sensations, such as tingling or numbness, in a specific area.
During a focal seizure, a dog may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:
- Staring into space;
- Twitching or jerking in one area of the body;
- Lip smacking or drooling;
- Pacing or circling; and
- Vocalizing, such as barking or whining.
Focal seizures can be difficult to detect, as they may not involve the entire body and can be mistaken for other behaviors or medical conditions.
Atonic seizures are also known as “drop attacks” because they cause a sudden loss of muscle tone, leading to the dog collapsing to the ground. During an atonic seizure, the dog’s muscles become limp, and they may fall over without warning.
The dog’s head may also drop, and they may lose control of their bladder or bowels. These seizures can last for a few seconds to several minutes, and the dog may appear dazed and confused afterward.
It is important to note that atonic seizures can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as epilepsy or a brain injury. Therefore, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention if a dog experiences an atonic seizure.
During an atonic seizure, it is essential to keep the dog safe from injury by removing any nearby objects that could harm them. It is also important to monitor the dog’s breathing and heart rate and seek veterinary attention if the seizure lasts longer than a few minutes.
During a tonic seizure, a dog’s body will become stiff and rigid. They may fall to the ground and lose consciousness. Their limbs may extend outward, and their head and neck may arch backward. The dog’s eyes may roll back, and they may drool or foam at the mouth.
Tonic seizures can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. During the seizure, the dog may not respond to external stimuli or commands. Once the seizure is over, the dog may be disoriented and confused. They may also be tired or lethargic.
It is important to note that not all seizures are the same, and some dogs may exhibit different symptoms during a tonic seizure. Additionally, seizures can be caused by a variety of underlying medical conditions, so it is important to seek veterinary care if a dog experiences a seizure.
Psychomotor seizures, also known as complex partial seizures, are also most common type of seizures in dogs. These seizures usually last between 30 seconds to 2 minutes and are characterized by abnormal behavior.
During a psychomotor seizure, the dog may:
- Appear to be in a trance-like state, staring blankly into space or wandering around aimlessly.
- They may also exhibit repetitive behaviors such as chewing or licking, chasing their tail, or display aggressive behavior towards their surroundings.
In some cases, the dog may experience hallucinations and may exhibit fear or anxiety. They may also exhibit changes in their level of consciousness, going from alert to confused or disoriented.
Causes of Dog Seizures
Dog seizures can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic disorders, epilepsy, ingested poisons, brain trauma, kidney failure, liver disease, and brain tumors. In some cases, the cause of a seizure may be unknown or idiopathic.
Genetic disorders can cause seizures in certain breeds of dogs, such as Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and German Shepherds. These disorders may be inherited or caused by a genetic mutation.
Ingested poisons, such as antifreeze, pesticides, and certain medications, can also cause seizures in dogs. It is important to keep these substances out of reach of dogs to prevent accidental ingestion.
Brain trauma, such as a head injury, can also lead to seizures in dogs. These seizures may occur immediately following the injury or may develop over time.
Kidney failure and liver disease can also cause seizures in dogs. These conditions can lead to a buildup of toxins in the bloodstream, which can affect the brain and cause seizures.
Finally, brain tumors can cause seizures in dogs. These tumors can be benign or malignant and may require surgical removal or other treatment.
It is important to consult with a veterinarian if a dog experiences seizures, as they can be a sign of a serious underlying condition.
Diagnosis and Tests
When a dog experiences a seizure, it is essential to take them to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. The veterinarian will perform various tests to determine the cause of the seizure.
During a physical examination, the veterinarian will check the dog’s vital signs, including heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature. They will also examine the dog’s eyes, ears, nose, and mouth to determine if there are any signs of infection or injury.
Blood tests are essential to determine if there are any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the seizures. The veterinarian will check the dog’s blood glucose levels, electrolyte levels, liver and kidney function, and thyroid function.
A neurological examination is performed to check the dog’s nervous system. The veterinarian will evaluate the dog’s reflexes, coordination, and muscle tone. They will also check for any signs of pain or discomfort.
Imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, may be necessary to determine if there are any structural abnormalities in the brain that may be causing the seizures. The veterinarian may also perform an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the dog’s brain activity.
In conclusion, a dog seizure is a serious medical condition that requires immediate attention from a veterinarian. The veterinarian will perform various tests to determine the cause of the seizure and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
There are several treatment options available for dogs who experience seizures. The most common treatment options include medications, surgery, and dietary changes.
Medications are often the first line of treatment for dogs with seizures. There are several different types of medications available, including anticonvulsants, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. These medications work by reducing the frequency and severity of seizures.
Some common medications used to treat seizures in dogs include phenobarbital, potassium bromide, and diazepam. It is important to work closely with a veterinarian to determine the best medication and dosage for your dog, as some medications can have side effects.
In some cases, surgery may be recommended as a treatment option for dogs with seizures. Surgery is typically only recommended if the seizures are caused by a structural abnormality in the brain, such as a tumor or cyst.
During surgery, the abnormality is removed or treated in order to reduce or eliminate seizures. While surgery can be effective, it is also a more invasive option and may not be suitable for all dogs.
Dietary changes may also be recommended as a treatment option for dogs with seizures. Some dogs may benefit from a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, such as the ketogenic diet. This type of diet can help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.
It is important to work closely with a veterinarian to determine the best dietary plan for your dog. In some cases, dietary changes may be used in combination with medication or other treatment options to help manage seizures.
Living with a Dog with Seizures
Living with a dog with seizures can be challenging, but with proper management and care, it is possible to provide a good quality of life for your furry friend.
One of the most important things you can do for a dog with seizures is to establish a routine. This includes feeding, exercise, and medication schedules. Make sure your dog gets plenty of rest and avoid overstimulation, which can trigger seizures.
It is also important to keep a record of your dog’s seizures, including the date, time, and duration. This information can help your veterinarian adjust your dog’s medication and treatment plan.
In addition, you should take steps to ensure your dog’s safety during a seizure. Remove any objects that could cause injury, such as furniture or sharp objects. Place a soft blanket or pillow under your dog’s head to prevent head injury. Do not attempt to restrain your dog during a seizure, as this can cause further injury.
If your dog experiences a seizure that lasts longer than five minutes, or if your dog has multiple seizures in a row, it is considered an emergency. Contact your veterinarian immediately or take your dog to the nearest animal hospital.
In the event of an emergency, it is important to remain calm and focused. Keep your dog comfortable and quiet, and avoid overstimulation. If your dog is not breathing or has stopped breathing, perform CPR if you are trained to do so.
Remember, with proper care and management, it is possible to provide a good quality of life for a dog with seizures. Work closely with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your dog’s needs.
Preventing seizures in dogs can be challenging, but there are some measures that can help reduce the risk of seizures. Here are a few tips:
Maintain a stable routine
Dogs thrive on routine, and any changes to their routine can cause stress, which can trigger seizures. Keeping their routine stable can help reduce the likelihood of seizures.
Some dogs are triggered by specific stimuli, such as bright lights or loud noises. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can help prevent seizures.
Provide a healthy diet
A healthy diet can help keep a dog’s body and brain healthy, which can reduce the risk of seizures. Talk to a veterinarian about the best diet for your dog.
Keep up with veterinary care
Regular check-ups with a veterinarian can help identify any underlying health conditions that may be contributing to seizures. Following a veterinarian’s recommended treatment plan can also help prevent seizures.
If a dog is on medication for seizures, it’s important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions carefully. Missing doses or giving the wrong dosage can increase the risk of seizures.
Stress can be a trigger for seizures. Providing a calm and stress-free environment can help reduce the risk of seizures. This can include providing a comfortable bed, plenty of exercise, and spending quality time with the dog.
By following these prevention tips, dog owners can help reduce the risk of seizures in their furry friends.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the symptoms of a mini seizure in a dog?
A mini seizure in a dog, also known as a partial seizure, may cause the dog to exhibit abnormal behavior such as sudden twitching or muscle spasms, uncontrolled shaking, or even sudden aggression. The dog may also lose consciousness and fall to the ground, but this is less common.
What does a minor seizure look like in a dog?
A minor seizure in a dog can be difficult to detect, but some signs to look for include sudden muscle spasms, twitching, or shaking in one part of the body. The dog may also appear disoriented or confused and may have difficulty standing or walking.
What should I do after my dog has a seizure?
If your dog has a seizure, it is important to remain calm and keep the dog away from any objects that could cause injury. Do not try to restrain the dog or put anything in its mouth. Once the seizure has stopped, contact your veterinarian to schedule an appointment for further evaluation.
What toxins can cause seizures in dogs?
Several toxins can cause seizures in dogs, including chocolate, caffeine, certain medications, and household chemicals such as cleaning products. It is important to keep these items out of your dog’s reach to prevent accidental ingestion.
Why would a dog suddenly start having seizures?
There are several reasons why a dog may suddenly start having seizures, including genetic predisposition, brain tumors, infections, and metabolic disorders. It is important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of the seizures and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
In conclusion, witnessing a dog seizure can be a scary experience for any pet owner. However, it is important to remember that seizures can be managed with proper care and treatment.
If you suspect that your dog is experiencing seizures, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible. They can help diagnose the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your dog’s specific needs.
While it may be tempting to try and manage seizures on your own, it is important to remember that some medications and treatments can be harmful if not administered correctly. Always follow your veterinarian’s instructions and never give your dog medication without their guidance.
Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your dog can help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. This includes providing a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and minimizing stress whenever possible.
By working closely with your veterinarian and providing the best possible care for your dog, you can help manage seizures and improve their overall quality of life.
Meet Your Experts
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.