What you need to know about seizures in dogs - Dr. Marty Becker

What you need to know about seizures in dogs

Friday, Feb 5th, 2016 | By Dr. Marty Becker

Litter of Cavalier King Charles spaniel

Knowing what a seizure looks like, what to do if you think your dog has had one, and what other diseases can mimic seizures may save your dog’s life! Here’s what I told a reader:

Q: I found my 14-year-old dog trembling as if she were having a seizure. As far as I know, she doesn’t have epilepsy, but she does take medication for mitral valve disease. Should I be concerned?

A: Seizures, sometimes referred to as convulsions or fits, are a common reason that owners bring dogs and cats to the veterinarian. They result from uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain, and they may cause signs such as loss of consciousness, trembling or shaking, drooling, vomiting, urination or defecation.

One cause of seizures is epilepsy, a chronic neurologic condition. It’s the most common chronic disorder of the nervous system veterinarians see in dogs and is often manageable with medication.

Dogs or cats with epilepsy have recurring seizures. Often, we don’t know why pets develop epilepsy. Some forms of the disease appear to be heritable in certain dog breeds, including Australian shepherds, beagles, Belgian Tervuren, Bernese mountain dogs, border collies, boxers, cocker spaniels, English springer spaniels, German shepherd dogs, golden retrievers, Irish setters, Irish wolfhounds, keeshonden, Labrador retrievers, Shetland sheepdogs, standard poodles and vizslas.

Not everything that looks like a seizure is a true seizure, though. Conditions that can cause signs resembling seizures include syncope, a temporary loss of consciousness — like a faint — that can have a number of causes; vestibular disease, a sudden disturbance of balance that’s not uncommon in older dogs; narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that’s seen in Doberman pinschers, Labrador retrievers, miniature poodles and other breeds; and certain behavioral disorders.

If you note a recurrence, a medical history, veterinary exam and certain lab tests can help to determine whether your dog is having a seizure or some other problem. Always take your pet to the veterinarian if a seizure lasts for more than five minutes: That’s a real emergency.

All this and more in this week’s Pet Connection!