Seizure Disorders in Dogs
The balance of inputs to a nerve cell
determines how excitable it will be.
What do you do if your pet has a seizure?...DON'T PANIC!
Most seizures, although very scary, will be very brief. They may seem to go on forever, but the average active seizure lasts less than 1-2 minutes. Looking at a clock and timing approximately how long the seizure lasts will be helpful. By observing exactly what your pet does during the seizure, you may be able to provide your veterinarian with important clues to what is going on, so watch carefully and keep a diary of your observations.
Make certain the dog is safe, that they won't fall down stairs, bang into a sharp edge on the furniture, get tangled in an electric cord, or otherwise injure themselves. They will NOT SWALLOW THEIR TONGUE. They will frequently chomp their jaws, so if you try to pull the tongue out, either you or their tongue is likely to be bitten. KEEP YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM THEIR MOUTH.
There typically will be altered behavior following a seizure, called post-ictal behavior. This behavior can often be as disturbing as the seizure itself. Most dogs will appear disoriented or even blind for a period up to several hours after the seizure. Usually just leaving the pet alone and ensuring that they won't injure themselves until they get back to reality is the best approach.
Sometimes reassuring words and petting can calm them; other times they are oblivious to our attempts to help. Rarely dogs can become irritable during the post-ictal phase. If your dog is very agitated or irritable, be careful, especially if children are involved, since the dog may snap even if they normally wouldn't do such a thing. Don't attempt to hug or hold them still if they are behaving this way.
When do you seek immediate care?
If your dog's active seizure phase is brief and stops in under 5 minutes, emergency care is not needed. However, you should still contact us to let us know about the event. If this is your dog's first seizure we will want to schedule an appointment for an exam and some laboratory work. We will also want to know about your dog's future seizures so that we can help track and monitor trends in your dog's seizure behavior.
If your pet has an active seizure that has lasted more than 5-10 minutes without stop, they need to be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Within 30 minutes of continuous seizing, the risk of brain damage skyrockets, and it will take time to get to your veterinarian or the emergency clinic.
Don't confuse the post-ictal behavior (blindness, pacing, agitation, etc.) with the seizure itself. The post-ictal behavior can frequently continue for hours, and in most cases does not require emergency care. If the post-ictal behavior is prolonged or severe (for example the animal is at risk for hurting themselves or behaving aggressively), it may be worth a trip to the veterinarian even though they aren't actively seizing.
Repeated seizures can also be dangerous. Clusters of seizures have a tendency to progress to continuous seizures (status epilepticus). If you pet has 3 or more seizures in a day, they also need to be seen immediately.
If Deer Run Animal Hospital is not open when an emergency situation arises, click here for Emergency Care Facilities. The NORTH CENTRAL VETERINARY EMERGENCY CENTER in Highland IN is our recommended emergency facility. Their address is 2427 Ridge Road, Highland, IN 46322 and phone number is 219-881-1600. They are located in the plaza behind the Walgreens and next to Jimmy Johns. The CALUMET EMERGENCY VETERINARY CLINIC 219-865-0970, 150 W. Lincoln Hwy (US Route 30) in Schererville, is also available.
BELOW ARE MORE HANDOUTS & RESOURCES TO HELP YOU BETTER UNDERSTAND SEIZURES:
Seizures & Convulsions A handout on First Aid Care and what to do at home if you dog has a seizure.
Seizure Disorders A handout from VIN's VeterinaryPartner with great information on seizures, what causes them, how do we treat them.
Idiopathic Epilepsy in Dogs is a common cause of seizures in young adult dogs. This info comes from veterinarians at the Pet Health Network.
Epilepsy & Seizures in Pets info from the VetSTREET website.
Understanding Canine Epilepsy This website from the University of Missouri has great information on seizures, what causes them, what tests are needed, how are they treated. An extremely thorough coverage of the topic!
Canine Epilepsy This is also an excellent veterinary website and comes from the United Kingdom.
Dog Owner Fact Sheet About Epilepsy from the UK's Canine Epilepsy Website.
Downloadable seizure record forms also from the UK's Canine Epilepsy Website.
Fighting "Fits" Free Webinar Another great resource from the UK! A free webinar for pet owners about what causes epileptic seizures (commonly called "fits" in Europe) and how they can be treated. The presenter is a world renowned expert, but has a French accent that may be a tad hard to understand, but the webinar slides and videos clarify things well. Some of the drug info is relevant to the US, but the newest drug they mention is not yet available here. But it is a great way for a pet owner to learn a lot of information to understand their pet's seizures. Registration is required to play the webinar but it is FREE!
SOME OF THE MEDICATIONS COMMONLY USED FOR CONTROLLONG SEIZURES:
Potassium Bromide (K Brovet)
Zonisamide- This medication has similar half-life and side effects to phenobarbital, although side effects when they occur are much milder. The medication itself is moderately expensive but not prohibitive for most owners. Little to no organ toxicity is seen with zonisamide. Mild sedation may be seen with this medication, but usually resolves quickly.