What Do I Do If My Dog Has a Seizure?

One of the things people love about dogs is how much they have in common with humans.

There are dogs who love to exercise and dogs that are couch potatoes—just like their people. Some dogs love to run or walk; others would rather ride in the car. Some dogs like to have a job, and others are content to just hang out. Dogs are like people in many ways. Unfortunately, dogs suffer from many of the same health ailments humans do, including seizures.

What are the symptoms of a canine seizure?

Immediately prior to a seizure, a normally friendly, silly, happy pooch may act confused and dazed, or may just stare off into space. He also may be abnormally clingy or seemed stressed. When a seizure begins, just as a human does, a dog will fall to the floor. His legs and feet might start twitching or moving as though he were dog paddling. He may go stiff. His mouth might drool, chomp, or even foam at the mouth. He may lose bladder and bowel control. This will usually last from a few seconds to several minutes. Afterward, he may have difficulty walking or seem groggy for minutes up to 24 hours.

What causes seizures?

Seizures are a result of abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain. There can be a number of causes of seizures in dogs: medical conditions include epilepsy, kidney or liver disease, abnormal blood sugar, anemia, electrolyte imbalances, encephalitis, or even brain cancer. Canine seizures may also be caused by accidents or injuries, including consuming poison, head injury, or stroke. Having a seizure can be a one-off event, but repeated episodes indicates epilepsy. Certain breeds of dogs are genetically more prone to epileptic seizures: the list includes Shetland sheepdogs, Beagles, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrieves, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Irish Wolfhounds, and Vizslas. Male dogs tend to be afflicted with epilepsy more often than female dogs. Genetic epilepsy typically shows up when dogs are between 10 months and 3 years old.

What should you do if your dog has a seizure?

The main thing you want to make sure of is that there is nothing in the area that can fall and hurt your dog. He'll probably be on the floor. If he's near a piece of furniture or something that he could kick and cause to fall, try to gently slide him over to an open area of floor. Don't put your hands anywhere near his mouth. He could chomp down while seizing and injure you. Dogs can't swallow their tongues, so you don't have to worry about blocking his mouth or keeping his tongue clear of his airway. Dogs can easily overheat while they're having a seizure if it lasts very long. Keep him cool with a fan and some cold water on his paws. When "waking" from the seizure, your dog may be wobbly, disoriented, or even temporarily blind. Talk to him gently and try to keep him as calm as possible. Recovery can take anywhere from a few moments to a full day. Take your dog to the vet after his first seizure. Your vet will likely do a number of tests to find out the cause and help you determine the best course of treatment. If your dog has multiples seizures without waking up between them, or has one that last longer the five minutes, find emergency medical help.

Some additional thoughts.

If your dog has epilepsy, he shouldn't be allowed to swim. If he has a seizure while swimming, he could easily drown. Some anti-seizure medications can cause dogs to gain weight, so you may have to change your dog's diet. Other medications can cause seizures if your dog eats too much salt, so you may need to watch his salt intake as well. Watching your dog have a seizure can make you feel helpless, out of control, and can be a little frightening. Stay as calm as you can so you can help him feel calm when he wakes up. Just hearing your gentle, loving words of encouragement, and knowing you're there can help him recover as quickly as possible.

Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.
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