Witnessing a beloved dog experiencing a seizure can be both heartbreaking and frightening. Many pet owners are unprepared for this event and may not know how to handle it. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm and collected. Quickly move any furniture or other objects that may cause injury to your dog out of the way and remove other dogs from the area. Occasionally, other dogs will see the seizure as a sign of weakness and attack the seizing dog.
Don’t try to interfere with the seizure movements or open your dog’s mouth as his jaws can clamp down hard during a seizure and cause injury to you. Be as calm and soothing to your dog as possible during the seizure and immediately report the event to your veterinarian, particularly if it’s a new onset seizure. Once the seizure is over, it’s important to determine what caused the seizure to occur in the first place. What are the most common causes of dog seizures?
If your dog has no prior history of seizures, it’s important to consider the possibility that your dog has ingested a toxin. This is of particular concern if your dog had been spending time outside prior to the event where he could have come into contact with a toxic substance in a trash can, pesticides, antifreeze or any of a number of other chemicals that can induce seizures. The most common cause of toxin related seizures is lead poisoning. If you have lead based paint in your house or peeling off of your walls, this could trigger a seizure if your dog ingests high amounts of it. Certain indoor and household plants can cause seizures in dogs as well as some foods, particularly chocolate. If this is a new seizure for your dog, have him seen by a veterinarian immediately to rule out poisoning or exposure to toxins.
Distemper is one of the most common causes of infection related seizure. This is most commonly seen in puppies who haven’t been vaccinated against the distemper virus. If your dog has received the distemper vaccination, this is unlikely to be the cause.
If a dog has a genetic predisposition to seizures, a simple vaccination can sometimes trigger seizure activity. Talk to your veterinarian about spacing your dog’s vaccines days or weeks apart if he has a history of seizures in the past. Be sure your dog is only receiving vaccinations that are necessary to preserve his health. Some vaccinations have been associated with health problems in dogs.
Two other causes of seizure in a dog include an underactive thyroid and a low blood sugar level level. An underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism is not a common cause of seizures in a dog but it can be successfully treated with thyroid replacement therapy. Certain medications can also lower thyroid hormone levels and should be considered if your dog develops new onset seizures. Low blood sugar can trigger seizure activity and a full workup will be needed to determine why your dog’s blood sugar is low.
Most veterinarians recommend a workup to rule out a brain tumor in a dog older than five years of age that has a new onset seizure as a seizure can sometimes be the first sign of a brain tumor. Certain breeds are more predisposed to brain tumors such as Boxers and Doberman pinschers but they can occur in any breed.
If no cause can be found for the seizure and your dog goes on to have more of them, the diagnosis becomes idiopathic seizure disorder which basically means the cause is unknown. Sometimes this can be due to a previous head injury or your dog may be genetically predisposed to seizures. Fortunately, idiopathic seizures can usually be controlled with prescription medications from your vet and your dog should be able to resume his normal activities.