Seizures in dogs can range from severe to virtually undetectable. Today, our Tigard vets explain the different types of seizures a dog can have and what to do if your dog has a seizure.
Can dogs have seizures?
Yes, our Tigard vets often diagnose seizures in dogs.
There are different types of seizures that your dog may experience and it is not unusual for a dog to experience more than one type of seizure. It is also important to note that not all seizures involve convulsions.
In dogs, seizures typically happen suddenly, without warning, and last just a brief period of time (a few seconds to a couple of minutes).
If your dog has a seizure, remain calm and try to keep in mind that most dogs having a seizure do not hurt themselves and often do not require a trip to the vet. Nonetheless, you should still let your primary veterinarian know about the seizure and follow any instructions they give you in regard to follow-up care for your dog.
If your dog is experiencing multiple back-to-back seizures or a severe seizure lasting longer than about 3 minutes, immediate veterinary attention is essential. Contact your vet or our emergency veterinarians right away.
What is a focal seizure, or partial seizure?
Focal, or partial, seizures occur when unusual electrical activity affects a small area in one side of the brain. These seizures will be described as either simple or complex, based on your dog’s level of awareness during the seizure. While many dogs remain conscious during a simple focal seizure, consciousness is often impaired during a complex focal seizure.
What are the signs of a focal seizure in dogs?
If your dog is experiencing a simple focal seizure you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Fur standing up
- Dilated pupils
- Growling, barking, or moaning
- Involuntary movements
- Specific muscles may contract and relax
- Signs of vision or hearing changes
- Balance problems,
- Hallucinations (Barking, growling, or biting at nothing)
What are generalized seizures?
Generalized seizures occur across both sides of your dog's brain. If your dog is experiencing a generalized seizure they are likely to lose consciousness, and urination or defecation could occur.
What are the signs and symptoms of generalized seizures in dogs?
These seizures are characterized by movement on both sides of the body and fall into different categories:
- Tonic: Muscle contraction or stiffening that can last from seconds to minutes
- Clonic: Involuntary rapid and rhythmic jerking or muscle contractions
- Tonic-Clonic: Tonic phase followed immediately by a clonic phase
- Myoclonic: Sporadic jerks or movements typically on both sides of the body
- Atonic (drop attacks, non-convulsive seizures): A sudden loss of muscle tone that causes the dog to collapse
Seizures can also occur in different ways. Many dogs will experience a single unexplained 'one-off' seizure during their lifetime, however other dogs can experience multiple or extended seizures.
- Cluster Seizures: Two or more seizures within a 24-hour period with the dog regaining full consciousness between seizures
- Status Epilepticus: Either (a) a single seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes, or (b) a number of seizures over a short period of time without regaining full consciousness between each seizure. If your dog suffers from a Status Epilepticus seizure call your vet immediately for advice. Seizures lasting longer than 5 minutes can be life-threatening.
Can a focal seizure evolve into a generalized seizure?
Yes, commonly a focal seizure will evolve into a generalized seizure in dogs. Often times the focal seizure is so short or subtle that the signs can be missed by even the most attentive pet parents. If your dog begins having a generalized seizure, try to think back to exactly what your dog was doing before it began, and let your vet know when you speak to them. A full understanding of what your dog was doing before the generalized seizure began can help your vet to diagnose the type of seizure your dog has had and what the possible cause may be.