Canine Seizures – Whole Dog Journal

Seizures should not frequent in canine – however they aren’t uncommon, both. The Veterinary Information Network estimates that the prevalence within the canine inhabitants is about 1%. While distressing to witness, they’re hardly ever life-threatening. After you’ve gotten previous the shock of the occasion and your canine is popping out of the seizure, your thoughts will probably be racing. What induced the seizure within the first place? Does your canine have epilepsy? Is this going to occur once more? Turns out, these should not at all times simple inquiries to reply. 

“Epilepsy” refers to a seizure dysfunction through which all different attainable causes have been eradicated; it’s a analysis of exclusion. The seizures appear to happen spontaneously, with no underlying structural mind illness or metabolic sickness. This signifies that there isn’t a take a look at that can determine epilepsy. Rather, all different causes have to be dominated out earlier than this analysis might be made. Doing this may be an intensive and dear course of.

Certain breeds are predisposed to epilepsy, together with Beagles, Poodles, Boxers, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, and Shelties. While the illness might have genetic roots, it might probably additionally happen spontaneously in any canine. 

First Aid for Seizures

Your canine is having a seizure! What do you have to do? First, each canine proprietor ought to know some primary seizure first help.

First and foremost, in case your canine has a seizure, ensure that he’s on a low or flat floor from which he can not fall. Keep your fingers away from his mouth, as a seizing canine will not be conscious and should inadvertently chunk. Monitor your canine carefully.

If the seizure persists longer than 5 minutes, get your canine to an emergency veterinary hospital as quick as attainable.

As lengthy because the convulsion stops inside 5 minutes, speedy emergency care will not be obligatory. A follow-up along with your canine’s veterinarian is required, however usually, you’ll be able to await an open
appointment. Always verify in along with your canine’s veterinarian for suggestions shortly after the episode.


Seizures happen when neurons within the mind quickly discharge again and again. Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter within the mind that inhibits excitation of neurons, and in a seizure, the GABA receptor system is especially concerned. When seizures happen, regular GABA inhibition is overcome, and the mind can not “calm down.” The elevated electrical exercise results in modifications in habits, which might manifest in many alternative methods. 

The traditional seizure sort, as soon as known as grand mal, is now known as tonic-clonic; tonic refers back to the stiffening of the canine’s muscle mass and clonic refers back to the canine’s twitching or jerking. Strong muscle contractions happen, the canine is unable to face, and should lose bowel and bladder management. The canine can also vocalize. 

The hallmark of a real seizure is the post-ictal interval. Once the muscle contraction ceases and the seizure is over, a canine will take a while (from minutes to hours) to return to regular. In some circumstances, blindness and disorientation can persist for a day or extra. Behavior could also be very unusual, corresponding to an entire disinterest in meals or ravenous consuming. Difficulty strolling can also happen. Your canine might sleep deeply or be stressed. 

Other seizure sorts embrace focal seizures (additionally known as petit mal), through which just one a part of the physique is concerned (such because the face); the muscle mass in that space might twitch or contract. In absence spells, throughout which a canine is aware however not responding, the eyes could also be open, however he might not reply when his title known as or he’s touched. These kinds of seizures might presage tonic-clonic and may go unnoticed, as a result of they’re typically refined. 

In most circumstances, these electrical discharges are self-limiting, which means the seizure will stop by itself. In occasional circumstances, the seizure doesn’t finish, resulting in a situation known as standing epilepticus (see sidebar, web page 7). 


To attain a analysis of epilepsy, an intensive work-up will probably be obligatory. At the preliminary examination, your veterinarian will collect a historical past. 

Be ready to reply questions in regards to the period and severity of any seizures you might have witnessed, in addition to any precipitating occasions that you simply observed, corresponding to stress, pleasure, or sleeping. Toxins or drugs in the home are additionally an essential piece of the puzzle. While seizures are distressing to see, getting a video to your veterinarian may assist with the analysis. Once your canine is in a secure place, attempt to file the occasion.

After history-taking, your veterinarian will study your canine. This nose-to-tail examination will assist determine any abnormalities which will level towards a analysis. Once accomplished, the diagnostics begin. 

Initially, a “minimum database” of diagnostic assessments is advisable. This features a full blood depend (CBC), chemistry panel, and urinalysis. Depending in your canine’s age, a blood stress measurement and x-rays can also be advisable. These will determine underlying metabolic causes that may result in seizures, corresponding to extraordinarily excessive blood sugar (as in diabetic ketoacidosis) or kidney failure associated to antifreeze ingestion. 


The reason behind seizures might be damaged down loosely into age teams:

Puppies youthful than 6 months.

It is unusual for a canine to develop true epilepsy earlier than six months of age. In canine this younger, different causes are more likely. These can embrace every part from parasitic an infection with protozoa corresponding to Neospora species, to viruses corresponding to canine distemper virus, to toxin publicity (a typical downside in curious puppies).

A radical work-up for a pet with seizures will embrace the minimal database above, in addition to suggestions for the next (relying on breed and historical past):

  • Bile acid take a look at. This is finished if a liver shunt is suspected. Liver shunts are irregular blood vessels that intervene with correct metabolism by the liver. When current, they’ll trigger seizures and irregular habits, particularly after meals. Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Bichon Frises, and Miniature Poodles are all predisposed. 
  • Titers for infectious illness. Canine distemper virus (CDV), the fungi Cryptococcus and Coccidioides, and protozoal illnesses corresponding to neospora and toxoplasma can all trigger seizure exercise.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These instruments for imaging the mind can decide whether or not structural abnormalities like hydrocephalus (a situation the place cerebrospinal fluid builds up in a canine’s cranium) or Chiari malformation (structural defects within the base of the cranium and cerebellum, the a part of the mind that controls stability)are current. 
  • Cerebrospinal faucet. This may help determine meningitis, as seen with irritation or an infection.Work-ups might be costly and time intensive, so many house owners decide to deal with with drugs and wait to see how the canine responds. With puppies, although, epilepsy is an unlikely trigger, which suggests one other illness could also be at work and can seemingly progress and worsen.In puppies, it is usually crucial to rule out publicity to toxins. Puppies are naturally inquisitive, and this typically results in unintentional publicity to drugs, cleansing merchandise, and even illicit medicine. 

Dogs 6 months to five years.

At this age, an absence of different medical signs or identified toxin publicity makes epilepsy the commonest trigger. This is very true in predisposed breeds. As a outcome, as soon as the minimal database has been accomplished and apparent causes corresponding to toxins dominated out, many house owners decide to deal with with anti-seizure drugs and see how a affected person responds. 

Dogs older than 5 or 6 years.

In canine older than 5 years, the commonest reason behind acute onset of seizures is mostly a mind lesion, notably mind tumors (plenty). These are often benign meningiomas, which might trigger issues because of stress on adjoining constructions. 

The advisable diagnostics are just like different age teams, beginning with the minimal database. In this group, although, it’s additionally essential to rule out hypertension (by checking blood stress) and undetected most cancers (by taking chest and stomach x-rays) as attainable causes. 


The remedy for seizures is evolving. First-line remedy stays drug administration. These drugs are known as anti-epileptic medicine (AEDs). Phenobarbital and potassium bromide have lengthy been the medicine of alternative, however different drugs are actually changing into in style. These embrace Keppra (levetiracetam) and Zonegran (zonisamide). 

Phenobarbital has been used within the administration of human seizures for a few years. It is dependable, efficient, and comparatively low-cost. However, phenobarbital is a managed remedy and needs to be dealt with with care. It should at all times be saved away from youngsters. 

Phenobarbital works on the canine’s GABA receptors, serving to to inhibit the excitation of neurons. 

Phenobarbital does have vital unwanted effects. It may cause ravenous urge for food, weight acquire, elevated consuming and urinating, and induction of liver enzymes. In uncommon circumstances, it might probably trigger liver failure. As a outcome, liver values needs to be monitored carefully (no less than each six months) by your veterinarian. If liver enzyme elevations happen, a more moderen seizure remedy could also be advisable. 

The dosage of phenobarbital have to be individualized, so monitoring the canine’s phenobarbital ranges is vital. This is often initiated about two weeks after beginning the remedy, when it’s anticipated to achieve “steady state” ranges. (A drug is at a gradual state when the consumption of the drug is at an equilibrium with its elimination.) At therapeutic ranges, it might probably trigger sedation and ataxia. Usually, canine will acclimate to this over time. 

About 85 to 90% of canine will expertise a major discount in seizure exercise with phenobarbital. 

Potassium bromide can be thought of a first-line remedy, though that is shifting. Potassium bromide has lots of the identical unwanted effects of phenobarbital and should even be monitored, as toxicity is feasible. It can take as much as 4 months for this remedy to achieve regular state ranges. 

Diet is a crucial a part of remedy with potassium bromide. Food with larger ranges of sodium can enhance the excretion of potassium bromide, resulting in decrease ranges and elevated seizure exercise. The canine’s food regimen have to be constant whereas on this remedy. 

Levetiracetam is getting used extra steadily to deal with seizures. Initially, it was utilized in people, and its use has been extrapolated to canine. Its mechanism of motion will not be effectively understood, however it might have an effect on the discharge of neurotransmitters. It is minimally metabolized by the liver, so it doesn’t trigger the liver enzyme elevations which are seen with phenobarbital. Levetiracetam ranges within the blood are therapeutic inside about 24 to 36 hours (versus two weeks for phenobarbital). 

Levetiracetam additionally doesn’t trigger ravenous urge for food and weight acquire. It is taken into account so secure that common monitoring will not be often obligatory. It is essential to notice that two formulations can be found and every have to be given in several methods. “Regular” Keppra have to be given each eight hours; Keppra-XR, an prolonged launch formulation, might be given each 12 hours however can’t be crushed and positioned in meals (doing so would thwart the mechanisms that trigger the drug to be launched repeatedly over a 12-hour interval). 

At 6 years outdated, after being secure on AEDs for a number of years, Bixby skilled standing epilepticus. It took many drugs over a full 24-hour interval to cease his seizures. After two weeks of devoted care from his vet and proprietor, he recovered absolutely.

Zonisamide doesn’t act as shortly as Keppra however is quicker than phenobarbital (about one week to achieve regular state). Like Keppra, zonisamide usually has minimal results on the liver. It does, nevertheless, have some uncommon unwanted effects corresponding to hepatopathy (liver congestion), dry eye, bladder stones, and hypothyroidism. Regular bloodwork monitoring is mostly not obligatory, however any modifications in a canine’s situation ought to at all times be delivered to the eye of your veterinarian. 

Unfortunately, drugs are sometimes a life-long necessity. Working carefully along with your veterinarian to taper to the bottom dose attainable for administration is the most effective strategy. 


Products containing CBD (cannabidiol, a phytochemical compound extracted from hashish crops) have gotten in style with homeowners as an adjunctive remedy for a lot of sicknesses. It is essential to know that presently, aside from in a handful of states, veterinarians should not allowed to suggest or focus on CBD as a remedy (see “Know Your CBDs,” WDJ August 2019).

Status Epilepticus: The Seizures That Don’t Stop

Bixby is a 6-year-old Boston Terrier that belongs to my technician, Laura. When Bixby was 2, he was presumptively identified with epilepsy. He was the best age, a predisposed breed, and had a standard minimal database. Bixby was began on anti-epilepsy medicine (AED) and did effectively – till he didn’t. Recently, Bixby went into standing epilepticus (SE).
SE is actually a steady seizure. It presents a singular state of affairs that have to be handled instantly and aggressively. SE doesn’t terminate by itself and is a real emergency. Prolonged muscle contraction throughout a seizure results in growing physique temperature. Heat stroke may result.
If a seizure lasts greater than 5 minutes, emergency care needs to be sought. Initially, an intravenous (IV) catheter will probably be positioned and a benzodiazepine like diazepam (Valium) or midazolam (Versed) will probably be given. Usually, one dose is enough to interrupt the seizure. In some circumstances, this doesn’t occur. Up to 3 doses of those drugs might be given earlier than they’re thought of to have failed.
When it’s obtainable, Levetiracetam (Keppra) might be given IV, however the injectable kind will not be carried by many normal practices. It is often discovered at emergency and referral practices. Phenobarbital will also be given IV to interrupt seizures, however once more, it’s costly and in addition hardly ever discovered on the whole practices. If a benzodiazepine doesn’t work, and different IV medicine should not available, propofol (a normal anesthetic) and fuel anesthesia can be utilized.
If a canine’s physique temperature has turn into dangerously excessive, remedy for warmth stroke have to be aggressively instituted. This will embrace IV fluids, energetic cooling with followers, water, and presumably ice packs. Multiple organ dysfunction can happen after a warmth stroke. This can result in clotting difficulties, in addition to harm to the mind, kidneys, liver, and intestinal tract.
The prognosis for SE is at all times guarded, and it might probably take a number of days for a affected person to recuperate and return to regular. In some circumstances, residual abnormalities can persist.
When Bixby began seizing and wouldn’t cease, Laura rushed him to the ER, the place they struggled to get his seizures underneath management. Benzodiazepines didn’t do it, in order that they gave him Keppra. Bixby continued to grab. He spent the night time on the emergency clinic, however he wasn’t responding. Laura and Bixby’s veterinarians feared the worst. Had the extended seizures broken his mind?
Fortunately, Bixby’s seizures have been lastly managed. After two weeks of hand feeding, he returned to his regular self. Now, he’s the loopy “Boston Terror” everyone knows and love.
Bixby’s case is a crucial reminder that typically it might probably take fairly a very long time for a canine to recuperate from SE. Heat stroke and harm to the mind can happen, however full restoration can be attainable.

A research printed within the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (“Randomized blinded controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of oral cannabidiol administration in addition to conventional anti-epileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy,” June 1, 2019) evaluated CBD as an extra remedy in sufferers with intractable seizures. 

While the usage of CBD was related to a major lower in seizure exercise, additional investigation is warranted earlier than therapeutic suggestions might be made. As legal guidelines change, your veterinarian might be able to focus on this with you. Use warning when selecting to manage CBD merchandise with out veterinary supervision, as neither the unwanted effects nor interactions with different, FDA-approved drugs are effectively understood. 

In 2015, a research supported the usage of medium chain triglycerides (MCT) as a dietary complement to lower seizures. The food regimen studied was ketogenic (excessive fats, low proteins and carbohydrates). There are just a few industrial diets obtainable that handle this want and could also be useful in managing seizures. 

Nutritional dietary supplements corresponding to omega-Three fatty acids, thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin E, and s-adenosyl methionine with milk thistle can also have some profit when used together with customary Debra Canapp remedy. Much of the information now we have in veterinary medication about these dietary supplements is extrapolated from human medical research and anecdotal. However, the dietary supplements are unlikely to trigger hurt. As at all times, seek the advice of along with your veterinarian earlier than including any dietary supplements to present therapies. 

Lastly, a number of research have demonstrated attainable profit with the usage of acupuncture. The precise purpose acupuncture might assist decrease seizure frequency will not be understood. The principle is that acupuncture stimulates the discharge of inhibitory neurotransmitters, subsequently “calming” the mind. While it isn’t sometimes first-line remedy, in sufferers with intractable seizures or these with poor response to drugs, it’s one other modality which will provide some aid. 

After 9 years in emergency medication, Catherine Ashe, DVM, now works as a aid veterinarian in Asheville, NC, and loves the GP aspect of medication. 


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