Jon Geller 10:29 a.m. MDT June 26, 2015
First, there are some muscle twitches, and trembling of the head. The eyes will appear to glaze over, and possibly roll upward. Then there will be general muscle rigidity and stiffness, along with profuse salivation, uncontrolled and noisy chomping of the jaw and clattering of the teeth. Finally, a loss of balance and toppling over, followed by a paddling motion of all four legs. Loss of bladder and bowel control is likely. Your dog will not respond to your voice or touch. He has just had a seizure.
Seizures in dogs can be just as distressing for their owners as they are for the pets. They can occur at any time, unpredictably and out-of-the-blue. Older dogs and younger dogs are equally susceptible, depending on the cause. Seizures can be solitary episodes, occur in clusters or be continuous. Read the full article....
If your dog is having a seizure, do not try to intervene because you may be accidentally bitten. Get to a veterinarian as soon as possible afterward.
Your veterinarian’s job is to rule out any underlying cause of the seizure, initially by getting a thorough history, doing a physical exam and running a complete blood panel. Was there any exposure to toxins in the household or outside? Has your dog had a previous trauma that could have caused a brain injury? Could your dog have ingested medication being taken by anyone in the household? Has your dog had access to sugarless gum or other foods that might contain Xylitol? Has he been eating normally, and has he been acting abnormally in any other way? Is there any evidence of previous seizures, such as water or food bowls knocked over, or unexplained noises at night that might have been your dog falling over?
Some more common causes of seizures that can be identified include low blood glucose, possibly due ingestion of Xylitol (an alternative sweetener), a tumor of the pancreas (insulinoma) or brain (in an older dog), or inadequate calorie intake in a small dog without a lot of reserves. Alterations in some electrolytes such as sodium and calcium could potentially cause seizures, as well as infections or parasites. Scar tissue that has formed around previous brain trauma can trigger a seizure, just as a genetic malformation in the brain can cause one. Ingestion of psychoactive drugs, moldy food, compost, dead animals, certain plants and other various sundry items that dogs like to ingest can also lead to seizures.
In cases where no underlying cause is identified, epilepsy is diagnosed and considered to be hereditary. Epilepsy is most common in dogs 3-8 years old; when epilepsy is diagnosed, most likely the dog will be on an anti-convulsant medication for the rest of its life.
The most common medications used to treat seizures in dogs are valium (for immediate treatment) or combinations of drugs such as phenobarbitol, potassium bromide and Keppra. Several other medications are also used where the first wave treatments are ineffective. Depending on the size of your dog, the cost of the medications can vary greatly.
Seizures should never be ignored; untreated cluster or continuous seizures can lead to hyperthermia with body temperatures above 107 degrees and irreversible brain damage. Repeated seizures can cause “kindling,” which makes further seizures more likely. Most seizures can be effectively treated long-term with a combination of medications with minimal side effects.Cats can have seizures also, although it is less common. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine the cause and make the best plan for treatment.
Jon Geller is a veterinarian at the Fort Collins Veterinary Emergency and Rehabilitation Clinic.