Types of Seizures in Dogs

Does your dog experience seizures? The severity and type of seizures your dog suffers from can also differ. In today’s post, our Ventura vets explain the different types of seizures in dogs. 

Seizures in Dogs

Dogs can experience a number of seizures, and how different types of seizures impact individual dogs can differ greatly. While seizures are categorized differently, it’s not unusual for an individual dog to experience more than one type of seizure.

Seizures in dogs can occur suddenly and without warning. However, most will only last a short period of time (from a few seconds to a couple of minutes).

Many dog parents worry that their pet will injure themselves during a seizure. But, contrary to popular belief most dogs having a seizure do not hurt themselves and often do not require a trip to the vet.

That said, it’s important to contact your vet even if your dog has a short seizure, just to let them know what has happened. It’s important for your vet to have your dog’s full medical history on file. He or she will also decide whether an examination is needed.

If your pooch’s seizure lasts more than 3 minutes, or if recurring seizures happen over a 24-hour period, take an urgent trip to the vet’s. Contact your vet immediately to let them know you are coming, or go to the nearest animal emergency hospital. At Ventura Medical and Surgical Group, we have vets and board-certified specialists who use in-house diagnostic technology and imaging to diagnose medical conditions and tailor treatment plans to your pet's needs.  

Focal Seizures (Partial Seizures) in Dogs

Focal or partial seizures will impact only one half of your dog’s brain, and within a specific region of that half. Your vet will describe focal seizures as either simple or complex - this depends on your dog’s level of awareness during the seizure.

While most dogs remain conscious during a simple focal seizure, they are more likely to experience impaired consciousness during a complex seizure.

Symptoms of a Simple Focal Seizure

You may notice one or more of these symptoms if your dog is experiencing a simple focal seizure:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Fur standing up
  • Hallucinations (barking, moaning or growling at nothing. Your dog may also bite at the air or behave in a fearful manner for no apparent reason)
  • Balance issues
  • Signs of hearing or vision changes
  • Specific muscles may relax and contract
  • Involuntary movements

Generalized Seizures in Dogs

Generalized seizures happen within both sides of a dog’s brain. They often start as a focal seizure, then evolve into a generalized seizure. During a generalized seizure, your dog will probably lose consciousness and involuntary urination or defecation may occur.

Types & Signs of Generalized Seizures in Dogs

These are different types of generalized seizures in dogs. Generalized seizures result in movement on both sides of the body and can be categorized as:

  • Tonic: Muscle stiffening or contraction that may last from a few seconds to a few minutes
  • Clonic: Involuntary, rhythmic and rapid jerking or contractions of muscles
  • Tonic-Clonic: Tonic phase, immediately followed by clonic phase
  • Myoclonic: Sporadic movements or jerks, usually on both sides of the body
  • Atonic (non-convulsive seizures, drop attacks): Suddenly causes a dog to collapse
  • Status Epilepticus: Either (a) a single seizure with a duration of more than 5 minutes or b) multiple seizures over a short period of time, without fully regaining consciousness between seizures. If your dog experiences a Status Epilepticus seizure, contact your vet immediately for advice. Seizures lasting longer than 5 minutes may be life threatening.
  • Cluster: Two or more seizures within 24 hours, with the dog regaining full consciousness between seizures.

Focal Seizure Evolving into a Generalized Seizure

The most common type of seizures seen in dogs are seizures that evolve into generalized seizures. It’s not uncommon for a focal seizure to be so short or subtle that the owner misses the signs.

If your dog starts to have a generalized seizure, attempt to remember exactly what your pooch was doing before it began. Were they behaving unusually (even briefly) before it started?

The more information you can provide your vet, and with as much detail as possible, the better. The more your vet learns about what your dog was doing before the generalized seizure, the better they were able to care for your dog and diagnose him or her, as well as determine the possible cause.

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.

Is your dog experiencing seizures? 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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