Dachshund Seizures: How to Avoid and Treat


A Crash Course on Dachshund Seizures

If you’re a Doxie lover, and you have one or are thinking about adopting one, the first thing you need to consider seriously is the health of the breed.

Dachshunds are prone to all sorts of diseases, and most of them have to do with their back, bones, and joints. IVDD is a common occurrence, not only with the purebred dogs but also with Dachshund crosses, and so is hip dysplasia, among other things.

None of these issues is as terrifying as witnessing your beloved pooch having a seizure. Seeing your (or any!) poor pup spasming on the floor, maybe even with foam around their mouth, seeming like they’re going to meet their maker any time now… Well, it’s bound to give you a proper scare at the very least. Luckily, most of the time, it’s not as terrible as it seems. Here’s all you need to know about Dachshund seizures.

Meet the Doxie

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One of the American doggy sweethearts, Doxies are among the best dog breeds to adopt. But how much do you know about them?

Dachshunds began somewhere in the 16th century, in Germany. They were bred to hunt badgers that used to terrorize the local country folk. If you’re not familiar with badgers, you can’t fully grasp how impressive it is that such a small dog has the guts to go against them, so here’s about the only thing you need to know—some subspecies eat crocodiles and go after lions. All subspecies are relatively small (especially when compared to crocodiles and lions), and all of them are nasty, mean, and not at all easy to get rid of.

Clearly, this was not the job for any old dog, and the Germans needed to be creative. They required a dog fearless enough to go against such a foe, and independent enough to be able to battle the pest on its terrain without human help. The dog needed to be able to navigate the underground tunnels, so a tall pup wouldn’t do—if they were unable to move properly, they’d be more likely to become the hunted than the hunter. The hunters had to know the dog’s underground location because they couldn’t go in themselves, so the dog needed to bark loudly.

Enter Doxie.

Dachshunds’ elongated bodies, short and sturdy legs, their keen sense of smell, and their task-oriented, stubborn minds all come from centuries of selective breeding. Unfortunately, everything comes with a price, and favoring specific characteristics is bound to neglect some other aspect of the dog’s development. A Dachshund’s spine suffers more pressure because of the long body shape, and their joints and bones are more prone to damage because of their disproportionate legs. They’re smart, brave, and independent but also disobedient, pig-headed, one-track minds, and have a short attention span.

Somewhere along the road, Dachshunds developed a tendency toward issues connected with the nervous system. They often have seizures without any apparent reason and don’t even seem to remember them afterward. Many times, it’ll be just a glitch in the system of sorts—a small price to pay for all the awesomeness that is a Doxie. From time to time, though, there’ll be something else lurking beneath the surface, in which case you’ll be able to help your buddy.

What Is a Seizure and How Can You Recognize the Symptoms?

A seizure is a kind of malfunction of the brain. It’s not clear what exactly goes on in your pup’s head, but something happens, and a bunch of neurons go crazy for a while before they return to normal. This short period of neuron craziness is what we perceive as a seizure.

Think of it as you would think about a computer bug. You know how your PC just stops for several moments, causes incredible frustration, and just goes on merrily after the bug is over? A similar thing happens to Dachshunds. There is something in their head that goes on (or off), and it’s usually gone in a few minutes.

The symptoms of a seizure vary a lot, and so does the length. The most common symptoms include collapsing to the ground and shivering and spasming, sometimes accompanied by drooling or foaming at the mouth. Your pup might wet or soil themselves, and they might lose consciousness or even go blind or deaf during the continuation of the seizure.

It should all be over in a few minutes. If it goes on for five minutes and longer, call your vet.

Your dog might never have a seizure in their life. They might have one, and never have it again, or they can get them twice a month. The frequency depends on the causes, and it’s fairly unpredictable.

Symptoms
  • Twitching
  • Shivering
  • Spasming
  • Convulsions
  • Collapse
  • Incontinence
  • Losing consciousness
  • Going temporarily blind, deaf, or both
Duration
  • From a few seconds to a few minutes
  • Dangerous if it goes on for 5 minutes and longer
FrequencyUnpredictable

Stages of a Seizure

Your dog won’t just suddenly collapse—they’ll let you know something is wrong long before the actual symptoms start. There are four stages of a seizure.

  1. Prodrome stage
  2. Aura stage
  3. Ictus stage
  4. Ictal stage

The Prodrome stage is the stage that precedes any apparent signs that something is wrong. Your dog will behave just a little bit strange. They’ll seem slightly nervous or a bit clingier than normally. They might refuse to eat or eat less than they usually do. Maybe they’ll seem sad or depressed. In any case, you probably won’t notice that anything is going on. You may find a particular behavior a bit out of the ordinary, but it won’t trigger any suspicion, until the next stage.

You don’t need to wait for the actual seizure—the Aura stage will give you plenty of evidence that something is wrong. Your poor pup might start to whine and pace or lick and drool much more than what you’re used to. They’ll bark to get your attention and want to be close to you. They’ll act scared and will need comfort. Some dogs will even get aggressive. This stage can go on for a few minutes, or it can stretch on for hours. 

The Ictus stage is the actual seizure. It lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes, and symptoms vary—they can be nothing but an eye-twitch, but your buddy can go through a full-blown seizure, also called a grand mal. If it goes on for five minutes, it can pose a severe threat to your dog’s well-being, and you need to contact a vet immediately.

After everything is over, there is the Ictal stage—the period of recovery. Some dogs will want your attention, and some will want to be left alone. Respect their wishes, and make sure they are in a safe and peaceful environment while they recover. 

Seizure stages

Prodrome stageThe first stage, during which your pooch may show no obvious symptoms
Aura stageThe pre-seizure stage, during which your pup will start showing symptoms such as barking, licking and drooling
Ictus stageThe actual seizure
Ictal stagePost-seizure state, during which your pup will recover

Is It Dangerous?

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Usually, seizures are not dangerous. They will frighten you and your pooch, but aside from the momentary scare, they’re not likely to leave any consequences. They can be a sign that something else is going on, though, and you should take your pup to a vet as soon as possible. The seizures themselves are not dangerous, provided that they don’t go on for too long.

If a seizure goes on for more than five minutes, or there are three seizures in a single day, it becomes an emergency, and you need to call a vet. If your dog is exposed to such a traumatic condition for a prolonged time, they can suffer severe brain damage, and even die.

What Causes Seizures in Dachshunds?

There are many possible causes of seizures in Dachshunds. As soon as your dog suffers one, you need to take it to the vet to determine what’s wrong and what—if anything—can be done about it.

The most common causes are the following:

  • Inherited disorder
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Poisoning
  • Brain tumors
  • Head or brain injury
  • Encephalitis

Some of these conditions are treatable, so it’s important to know what it is that’s causing the seizures—or, at the very least, to rule out the things that are not.

Inherited Disorder

Dachshunds are prone to seizures. There doesn’t seem to be a real reason for this—they simply are. You can’t test for this possibility—you only settle on it after you’ve checked for everything else.

If this is the cause of the seizures, you can’t treat it. You can modify your dog’s diet and lifestyle to make the seizures less likely to occur, but you’ll need to get used to the idea that your dog will have to go through them their whole life.

There’s a silver lining, though, if you’re lucky enough—you pooch may only go through one or two seizures, and live an otherwise perfectly healthy life.

Kidney or Liver Disease

Even though this is not common, kidney failure and liver disease can be the cause of your dog’s seizures. The good news is that, when you know what it is, you can deal with it. The liver, in particular, has an astonishing ability to regenerate, and most of the kidney-related issues are treatable as well.

The bad news is that kidney failure is irreversible, so if that’s the case, you won’t be able to do much other than being there for your buddy in their time of need.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is probably the first thing you vet will suspect when you tell them your dog has had a seizure. It is the most common neurological issue in dogs, and seizures are its most obvious symptom.

If your dog has epilepsy, it’s treatable. You can’t cure it, but you can treat it, so your buddy doesn’t have to feel the symptoms. You’ll need to follow the vet’s orders considering the type of medicine and the dosage, and your pooch will be able to live a long and happy life.

Poisoning and Injuries

Poisoning and injuries can cause seizures in dogs. If your dog has suffered a brain injury, observe them closely over the next couple of days, and take them to the vet at any sign of unusual behavior. If your dog has had a seizure, head trauma is probably the thing you should hope for, because it’s the most curable of all the items on this list. 

Poisoning, though, can be far more sinister than a blow to the head. You may not even realize that your pooch has eaten something that they shouldn’t have, and you may not suspect poisoning. In this case, a seizure is most commonly the last stage, and by the time it happens, it might be too late to do anything about it.

Brain Tumors and Encephalitis

If your dog is five years old or older by the time they go through their first seizure, the cause is probably a brain tumor. If the seizures couple with unusual behavior, such as increased aggression, this is what your vet should look out for. In some cases, this condition can be fixed. In others, you might be able to reduce the symptoms. In the worst-case scenario, though, you’ll only be able to end your dog’s suffering. The sooner you diagnose the problem, the more likely you are to save your pooch’s life, so don’t postpone the visit to the vet.

Brain inflammation—or encephalitis—is another probable cause of seizures in dogs, but it’s not too common in Dachshunds. It’s not unheard of that a Doxie gets this disease, though, so make sure you test for this as well, especially if the seizures come with high fever, face paralysis, or lack of responsiveness.

What Do You Do?

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There isn’t much to be done once the seizure starts. You can’t stop it by yourself, but you can make sure that your beloved dog is comfortable. Stay calm, and try to make things a bit less scary for your pooch. Here are some things you can do.

  1. Stay with your buddy. Some people don’t have the stomach to watch as their loved ones go through something as terrible-looking as a seizure, but your dog needs you. Keep in mind that right about now, they are scared out of their wits, and your presence brings them comfort.
  2. Talk to them. Use your best soothing voice, even if they don’t seem responsive. They might not hear you at all, but if they do, you can comfort them.
  3. Don’t pick your dog up or move them. Unless they are in a dangerous area, sit next to them, pet them gently, but don’t move them. If they are close to a fireplace, a pool, or something sharp is close, wrap your pup in a blanket and move them to safety, making sure every part of their spine is supported.
  4. Make the environment safe. Put a blanket or some pillows around your precious Doxie, so that they don’t get hurt. When the seizure is over, and they start getting up, they might still be a bit shaky, so pillows and a blanket can keep them safe in case they fall over.
  5. Give them time and space. During the period of recovery, some dogs will want their humans around, and others will need a bit of time for themselves. Make sure you respect their wishes. Put them in a safe place, and make sure they aren’t bothered by the rest of the family.

If you can deal with this in a productive way, your pup will learn that it’s not a big deal, and they’ll be less scared when it happens next time.

What Are the Possible Treatments for Seizures in Dachshunds Dogs?

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The treatment depends on the cause. You need to strengthen your dog’s liver, kidneys, and brain.

The liver is crucial because it helps remove the toxins from your Doxie’s body. If it’s weak or not working properly, the poisons enter the blood that goes to the brain and get into the nervous system, which causes seizures. To avoid this, you’ll need to provide high-quality food for your pooch. Check out this list of best dry dog food for small dogs if you need suggestions. If your Doxie prefers wet food, that’s okay, too—there are high-quality options available. Here is an overview of the best canned dog food brands.

Both kidney and liver health depend on a proper diet, and you need to make sure it’s age-appropriate. Check out this list of best senior dry dog food brands.

When it comes to dealing with the brain, diet is not enough—you’ll need to talk to your vet about the appropriate supplements to strengthen your buddy’s nervous system. Make sure you always respect the frequency and dosage that the doctor recommends, otherwise you may cause more harm than good. Any specific condition will require specific solutions, and they range from surgery in case of a tumor to waiting it out in case of mild poisoning.

Is There Anything You Can Do to Avoid or Prevent Seizures?

Aside from improving your dog’s diet and lifestyle, there isn’t much you can do about this issue. You need to make sure your pup eats well and exercises regularly, and it should provide them with a robust immune system. It might be enough to keep the seizures at bay.

One thing you can do before you get the dog is your homework regarding the breeder. If you’ve decided to buy instead of adopting from a shelter, make sure the breeder can provide the health certificate for both parents. You might need to pay a bit more, but it’ll save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dachshund
  2. https://www.quora.com/Is-it-common-for-Dachshunds-to-have-seizures-and-what-are-the-causes
  3. Jensen, V. F., and K. A. Christensen. “Inheritance of Disc Calcification in the Dachshund.” Journal of Veterinary Medicine Series A, vol. 47, no. 6, 2000, pp. 331–340., doi:10.1046/j.1439-0442.2000.00297.x.
  4. Beauchesne, Ryan. Crusoe, the Celebrity Dachshund: Adventures of the Wiener Dog Extraordinaire. St. Martins Griffin, 2015.

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