What causes seizures in dogs?

From epilepsy to tumors, a number of things can cause seizures in dogs. Today, our Ventura vets explain some causes of seizures in dogs, and what to do if your dog has a seizure.

Seizures in Dogs

It can be concerning and anxiety-inducing to see your dog have a seizure. That said, understanding the causes of the seizure and what to do if your dog does have one may help to make the situation somewhat less distressing.

What Seizures in Dogs Look Like

Some types of seizure are more obvious than others. If your dog is experiencing a seizure, you may notice muscle twitching or uncontrolled, “jerky” movements, but a seizure may also include drooling, unusual rolling of the eyes and even loss of consciousness. If you notice your dog displaying signs of a seizure, it’s important to contact your vet right away.

Causes of Seizures in Dogs

Faulty electrical activity in your dog’s brain leads them to lose control over their body. Underlying causes of seizures in dogs can include:

  • Heartworms
  • Ingested poisons such as chocolate or caffeine
  • Diabetes
  • Head injuries (due to collisions, road accidents, etc.)
  • Epilepsy
  • Liver disease
  • Tumours
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Nutritional imbalances such as thiamine deficiency
  • Low blood sugar levels

Dog Breeds with Increased Risk of Seizures

While not all dogs mentioned in these breeds will experience a seizure during their life, these breeds tend to be more susceptible to seizures than others:

  • Breeds with short, flat noses such as English Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers.
  • Bull Terriers (which can inherit epilepsy which can cause behaviors such as tail chasing, unprovoked aggression and irrational fear).
  • Herding dogs with the MDR1 gene. These breeds include German Shepherds, Shetland and Old English Sheepdogs, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and Longhaired Whippets.
  • Large retriever and herding dogs including Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Australian Shepherds and German Shepherds.

When to Contact a Vet

Contact your vet immediately if:

  • Your dog’s seizure continues for longer than 3 minutes
  • Your dog has two or more consecutive seizures

At Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group, we are here to help any time you are unable to reach your primary care veterinarian. Our specially trained veterinarians are experienced in emergency medicine and triage, and are here to provide their expertise.

Pet owners often want to know if a seizure can kill their dog. Most seizures are brief, lasting less than 3 minutes.

With proper treatment, dogs who have suffered these may be able to lead a normal life. However, even short seizures can cause brain damage and all seizures are a serious health concern. If your dog seizure lasts longer than 30 minutes, serious permanent brain damage may occur.

If your dog experiences a brief seizure then quickly recovers, make sure to call your vet and notify them. Your vet will complete a number of tests to find the cause of your dog’s seizures. If no cause can be determined, the disease will be diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy.

Once your dog’s seizures have been diagnosed, your vet will work with you to plan the best treatment for your dog’s seizures. This may include maintaining a seizure diary and/or administering medications.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog is having a seizure? Our emergency veterinarians in Ventura are specially trained in emergency medicine and triage. If your pet is having an emergency late at night, on a weekend or holiday, or any time you are unable to reach your primary care veterinarian, we are here to help.

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