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Why Is My Dog Having Seizures and What Can I Do to Help?

Witnessing your dog have tremors or any kind of seizure is downright scary and can leave you feeling helpless.

Seizures tend to come on suddenly with dramatic and distressing symptoms. Here’s what you need to know to help your dog.

What Are Seizures in Dogs?

A seizure in dogs is essentially a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain, leading to abnormal behavior, movements, and sometimes loss of consciousness.

Seizures can be unpredictable in their timing and intensity. While they can be frightening to see, it may be helpful to remember that your dog is unlikely to feel pain during the episode. And depending upon the type of seizure they experience, they may or may not lose consciousness.

dog laying sofa

Symptoms of Dog Seizures

Your dog might not experience all of the common seizure symptoms during each episode. However, many dogs experience:
  • Uncontrolled movements. Dogs experiencing seizures can exhibit violent and uncontrolled movements, such as convulsions, shaking, trembling, paddling their legs, and thrashing around.
  • Loss of consciousness. Some dogs lose consciousness during seizures.
  • Vocalization. Dogs might vocalize during a seizure, which can sound distressing, ranging from whining or whimpering to loud yelping.
  • Drooling and salivation. Excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth can occur during a seizure.
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control. Dogs may involuntarily urinate or defecate during a seizure.
  • Confusion and disorientation. After a seizure, dogs can be disoriented, confused, and may take some time to recover their normal behavior.
If your dog experiences a seizure, it\'s crucial to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. Over time, the condition gets worse, not better. And, left untreated, seizures can result in permanent damage.
senior dog looking up

Why Is Your Dog Having Seizures?

Determining the root cause of your dog’s seizure will determine how you can best help them.

But diagnosis requires a thorough examination by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian’s expertise will be invaluable in addressing your pup’s health issues. They’ll perform a range of tests such as blood tests, neurological exams, MRI or CT scans, and other diagnostic procedures.

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Ultimately, there are a number of health problems that could be causing your dog’s seizures. They include:

  • Structural brain abnormalities such as tumors, cysts, and lesions
  • Metabolic disorders like low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), liver disease, kidney disease, and electrolyte imbalances
  • Ingesting toxic substances such as certain plants, medications, or chemicals like antifreeze or lead
  • Infection or inflammation of the brain
  • Cancer of the brain
  • Head injuries
  • Inadequate blood flow to the brain caused by stroke, blood clots, or other vascular disease
  • Genetic predisposition
Your veterinarian will carefully consider all of these possibilities when evaluating your dog.
Dog at the doctors office

What To Do When Your Dog Has Seizures

While an expert diagnosis will need to come from your veterinarian, there’s still much help you can provide as a pet parent.

If your dog is actively seizing, there are important steps you can take to keep them safe and provide support. Your veterinarian may recommend the following:

  1. Stay calm: While it\'s natural to feel alarmed, try to stay as calm as possible. Dogs can pick up on your emotions, and remaining composed will help keep the situation under control.
  2. Time the seizure: It\'s a good idea to note the duration of the seizure. If it lasts longer than 5 minutes or if your pup has multiple seizures in a short period of time (cluster seizures), seek immediate veterinary attention.
  3. Note symptoms: Take note of all your pup’s symptoms. This information will be helpful for your veterinarian\'s diagnosis. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine recommends taking a video of the event, if possible. This can help your veterinarian determine the best course of treatment.
  4. Keep them safe: Clear the immediate area around your dog to prevent them from injuring themselves. Remove any sharp objects, furniture, or obstacles that could cause harm during the seizure. If your pup is in a risky spot (like at the top of the stairs), gently move them to a safer location.
  5. Do not restrain: Do not attempt to restrain the dog or hold them down. Seizures are involuntary, and restraining your dog could potentially lead to injuries.
  6. Dim the lights and reduce noise: If possible, dim the lights and minimize loud noises to create a calm environment. This can help reduce the stimulation that might worsen the seizure.
  7. Keep your hands away: Your dog isn’t aware of their surroundings and may unintentionally bite if their face is approached. For your safety, avoid putting your hands near their mouth during the seizure.
  8. Contact your veterinarian: Even if it\'s not your dog\'s first seizure, it\'s recommended to contact your veterinarian to discuss the episode. They can help determine whether further evaluation or treatment is necessary.

After the seizure, be sure to comfort your dog and keep the environment calm. In the minutes to hours after a seizure (called the postictal phase), they may be disoriented and confused. You may also notice that they are thirsty, panting, hungry, fatigued, or hyperactive.

Monitor them closely. Once your fur family is steady on their feet and feeling more like themselves, you can offer them some water and gradually introduce food.

dog laying on the floor

Can Dog Seizures Be Prevented?

Naturally, no one wants their pet to suffer through repeated seizures. Preventative care is a logical approach to addressing this troubling condition.

Preventing your dog’s seizures will depend largely upon the seizure’s underlying cause. Once your veterinarian determines the cause and type of seizures your dog experiences, they will recommend a treatment plan and even suggest specific preventative steps that you can take.

If the primary cause of the seizures is genetics, then it\'s very difficult to prevent future seizures from occurring. In this instance, your vet will likely suggest a treatment plan that focuses on managing and reducing their frequency. For seizures caused by other factors, taking certain precautions can minimize your pup’s seizures.

Your veterinarian may prescribe anticonvulsant medications. They may even suggest changes in your dog’s diet. Some prescription dog foods contain properties that are known to block receptors in the brain that are responsible for seizures. Some pet parents have found success when adding a natural supplement of omega-3 fish oil to their dog’s nutrition plan.

Smooth fox terrier, Ace, began experiencing seizures when he was just one year old. His paw-rent, Tanya, explains, “They were mild and happened on a rare occasion. But when he was 4 years old the seizures became more frequent, almost every day. They became quite strong and the duration of seizures became considerably longer. It was very hard to watch Ace suffer.”

Tanya consulted her veterinarian and other specialists. She diligently followed their recommendations. Yet she immediately introduced a specific kind of Omega-3 supplement into his diet.

“After one week the seizures became less frequent and they were getting milder. Ace has been taking Omega-3 for 2 years. He still has seizures from time to time. But it happens once every three months now instead of every day.”

One scientific case report even describes a 2-year-old Great Dane whose seizures reduced by 85% over the course of 18 months when omega-3 fish oil was added to her diet.

Another pilot study found that supplementing with omega-3 brought relief to epileptic dogs. Within a six-month period, 4 dogs showed a decrease in seizure frequency of 50% within 2 to 3 months. And after 6 months, the frequency for 3 dogs decreased to 0-1 seizure a month.

Similarly, Vera’s sweet pup Ludus also had a history of seizures. Although she consulted her veterinarian for help, Vera found dramatic success after using omega-3 fish oil.

Incredibly, Ludus hasn’t had a single seizure for an entire year!

Labrador Retriever

Benefits of Omega-3 Fish Oil For Dogs

Omega-3 comes from the oil of cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, or sardines. These fatty acids are considered essential because your dog’s body cannot produce them on its own, so they need to be obtained through diet. This nutrient is widely praised for its anti-inflammatory properties, and its ability to support brain and cognitive health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are important components of cell membranes in the brain and nervous system. They contribute to overall nervous system health and proper functioning.

Benefits of Omega 3 fish oil

Here at Pawsomely Healthy, we love this nutrient because it\'s bioavailable, supports overall wellness, and is nutritionally effective. We specifically recommend an Omega 3 supplement that is made from small, wild-caught anchovies sourced from the South Pacific.

The fish oil is conveniently spray-dried and stored in capsules in powder form. So you can choose to give your dog the whole capsule or sprinkle the contents onto their food.

It\'s also manufactured in the USA in an FDA-approved and CGMP-compliant facility. So you can have confidence in the safety and reliability of this natural supplement.To read more about our favorite Omega-3 supplement, go here.

dog taking omega 3 supplement

The Tail End

Seizures are very serious medical events that if left untreated can prove fatal. Only your veterinarian can properly diagnose and treat your dog’s seizures. In some cases, veterinarians cannot help your dog with seizures since not all medications work on all dogs.But as a supportive pet parent, you can help your fur family by taking preventative measures like regular wellness checks and supplementing with Omega-3 fish oil. According to some studies and based on the experience of our customers, Omega-3 can help reduce the amount of seizures dramatically.With prompt veterinary attention paired with love from their favorite human, your pup can get the proper care and treatment they need.
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