As is the case with humans, not all dog seizures are alike. Depending on the root cause and how long the episode lasts, seizures can vary from somewhat minor to very serious conditions. When an animal is observed experiencing a seizure, many pet owners feel quite helpless, as they think that there is nothing they can do but wait it out. The best way of combating this feeling is to gain a better understanding of how to manage their pets’ conditions. Below is a brief description of seizure types, as well as a few tips on what owners can do to help ensure their dogs do not injure themselves or anyone else while in this state.
Types of Seizures
There are a few common types of seizures:
- Petit Mal – symptoms can include small periods of unconsciousness, blank stares, and loss of muscle tone
- Partial – one area of the dog’s body will experience muscle jerks, movement or twitches
- Complex Partial – animal will repeat the same bizarre or complex behavior during each seizure, unaware of what is occurring
- Cluster – multiple seizures occurring in a short time period
- Generalized – dog is usually fully unconscious, and will fall to the ground with limbs extended rigidly
- Status Epilepticus – long seizures (lasting more than half an hour), or multiple seizures during a short period; very serious and sometimes fatal
Some of these seizure types are associated with primary or secondary canine epilepsy, but they can also be brought on by traumatic brain injury, metabolic or inflammatory diseases, tumors, or toxins.
What to Do During and After a Seizure
While seizures can certainly be quite confusing for dogs, they are not painful. This does not mean that these animals cannot be hurt during these episodes; their loss of control over their bodies means that they can easily injure themselves and others. Some things to keep in mind to safely navigate a dog seizure are:
- Avoid touching the dog’s head and mouth. During seizures, dogs are not behaving consciously. Some experience psychomotor seizures, during which they bark and snap at the air. Unless it is absolutely necessary, try to avoid physically moving the animal’s head, as this may only result in injury to the person and will not likely help the dog.
- Clear dangerous materials away from the animal. Some dogs will move erratically, so any sharp objects should be moved out of the animal’s way.
- Provide reassurance. Dogs may rouse from their seizures feeling scared and confused. Having an owner speaking to them calmly and softly can help these pets recover from their episodes more quickly and with less anxiety.
Seeking Medical Assistance
Pet owners who notice signs of seizures in their dogs should seek medical help immediately, as seizures that last for longer than a few minutes may result in permanent brain damage and fatal consequences if intravenous anticonvulsants are not administered.
Continue to Monitor the Dog’s Condition
Seizure-prone dogs should be regularly monitored by both their pet owners and medical professionals, as these episodes can be indicative of systemic conditions. If this is the case, regular visits with the animal’s vet can pinpoint whether the seizures are caused by a disease, head trauma or prolonged exposure to dangerous substances. By arming themselves with information and working hand-in-hand with their vets, dog owners can place themselves in the best positions to manage their pets’ seizures.