Canine Seizures

Witnessing canine seizures are scary especially if it's the first time you are seeing a dog seizure. 

Canine Seizures

A seizure refers to the involuntary contraction of muscles. 

The seizure is caused by an electrical storm in the brain. Seizures can be placed into two categories, generalized and partial. 

In a generalized seizure, the electrical storm appears everywhere at once. In a partial seizure, the abnormal electrical impulses begin in a small area of the brain. 


3 Types of Canine Seizures

Generally, there are 3 types of canine seizures...

  • Grand Mal Seizure
    A Grand Mal Seizure refers to severe, widespread cramping of the body’s skeletal muscles. A grand mal seizure is also known as a tonic-clonic seizure and is a type of seizure characterized by loss of consciousness, falling down, loss of bowel or bladder control, and rhythmic convulsions. 

    convulsion usually refers to a grand mal seizure. Both convulsions and grand mal seizures are commonly referred to as an epileptic episode. Other common terms are epileptic attackhaving a seizure, or maybe having a fit.


  • Petit Mal Seizure
    A Petit Mal Seizure is a less severe form of seizure. There is a temporary disturbance of brain function caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This is a seizure where there is abrupt, short-term absense of conscious activity or other abnormal changes of behavior. 

    During a Petit Mal Seizure the patient still has some voluntary control of movement and coordination but where certain muscle groups are “doing their own thing” and brain electrical activity is mildly disrupted. The patient staggers with moments of staring off into space. Other forms of incoordination may be apparent.


  • Status Epilepticus
    Status Epilepticus refers to a very dangerous situation where a rapid successions of grand mal seizures occur without periods of rest or muscle relaxation between epileptic episodes. This is a serious seizure disorder in which seizures do not stop. Status epilepticus requires prompt medical intervention.
Canine Seizures

Canine Epilepsy Treatment

The cause of canine epilepsy can be anything that disrupts normal brain circuitry. 
Referred to as primary epilepsy, idiopathic epilepsy means "no known cause" and possibly inherited. 

Check history or pedigree and make sure your veterinarian has looked for possible underlying factors. 

Dog seizures caused by underlying factors are referred to as secondary epilepsy. 

Possible causes of secondary epilepsy include...

  • Congenital hypoglycemia
    A disorder that causes low blood sugar.


  • Portosystemic shunts
    Portosystemic shunts are improperly routed intestinal blood vessels that allows blood to bypass the liver. As a result the body isn't cleansed by an important waste-product detoxifier, the liver.


  • Vaccinations


  • Infections causing brain damage
    An example of infection is the canine distemper virus (CDV). Canine distemper is a contagious, incurable, often fatal, multisystemic viral disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems.


  • Ingestion of toxins
    Examples of possible toxins are lead paint chips and insecticides.


  • Hypothyroidism
    Hypothyroidism is a condition where low thyroid hormone is produced.


  • Brain tumors

Medical treatment is generally recommended for animals that have one or more seizures per month. 

Even though the rate of incidence is greater than once per month, animals may be treated who have cluster seizures or go into status epilepticus. 

Successful drug therapy depends upon the owner's dedication to delivering the drug exactly as prescribed. There should be no changes in dose or type of medication without veterinary consultation. 

Reckless drug administration or abrupt changes in medication is worse than no treatment at all. Haphazard drug treatment may cause status epilepticus. 

Status epilepticus (SE) refers to a life threatening condition in which the brain is in a state of persistent seizure. 

There is also talk that canine seizures may be a result of allergic conditions and some vets have had success in treating dogs for allergies and controlling the seizures. 


Why Treating Canine Epilepsy Fails

There are many reasons why medical treatments can fail. 

The biggest reason is the owner's lack of proper administration of the prescribed drug. 

Here are a few other possible reasons... 


  • Drug interactions may occur which actually adversely affect the level of anticonvulsant drug in the dog's system.


  • Gastrointestinal disorders could possibly affect drug absorption.


  • Tranquilizers may stimulate canine seizures.


  • The progression of an underlying disease (such as brain tumor) may resist treatment.


  • The particular drug that's prescribed for that animal just may not work.

› Canine Seizures

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