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Common Causes of Seizures in Dogs

Common Causes of Seizures in Dogs

Seizures in dogs are not uncommon but not all seizures are the same. There are many different types of seizures your dog can experience, and each seizure your dog has could differ by type, severity, and length. Today our Kittrell vets explain more about the types of seizures seen in dogs.

Understanding Seizures in Dogs

Most seizures in dogs occur without warning and last for a seconds to a couple of minutes. 

There are a number of different types of seizures seen in dogs, and it's not unusual for an individual dog to experience more than one type of seizure. Not only that, how each type of seizure affects individual dogs can also be very different.

Many pet parents are concerned that their dogs could hurt themselves while having a seizure, but injury is rare. Nonetheless, if your pup has a seizure it's important to contact your veterinarian to let them know. While some seizures require urgent veterinary care many do not.

Simple & Complex Focal Seizures in Dogs

Focal seizures in dogs, also called partial seizures, only affect one half of the brain, and within a particular region of that half. When focal seizures are diagnosed, they will either be described as simple or complex, depending on your dog’s level of awareness during the seizure. During a simple focal seizure dogs usually remain conscious, whereas dogs typically lose consciousness during a complex focal seizure.

Signs That Your Dogs Could Be Having a Simple Focal Seizure

Focal seizures in dogs can be difficult for pet parents to spot since these seizures often present as strange behaviors. If your dog is experiencing a simple focal seizure  your pet could display one or more of the following signs:

  • Hallucinations (Your dog may bark, growl or moan at nothing, bite at the air or behave fearfully for no apparent reason)
  • Signs of vision or hearing changes
  • Fur standing up
  • Dilated pupils
  • Specific muscles may contract and relax
  • Balance problems
  • Involuntary movements

Generalized Seizures in Dogs

A generalized seizure occurs within both sides of the dog's brain. These seizures often begin as a focal seizures then evolve into a generalized seizures. Typically, dogs experiencing a generalized seizure will lose consciousness and may urinate or defecate while unconscious.

Types of Generalized Seizures Seen in Dogs

Where focal seizures only affect one specific region on one side of the dog's brain, generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain and are characterized by movement on both sides of the body. Different categories of generalized seizures include:

  • Tonic: Muscle contraction or stiffening
  • Clonic: Involuntary rapid and rhythmic muscle contractions or jerking
  • Tonic-Clonic: Tonic phase followed immediately by a clonic phase (see above)
  • Myoclonic: Sporadic jerks or movements on both sides of the body
  • Atonic: Often called 'drop attacks' these seizures will sudden cause the dog to collapse
  • Cluster: Two or more seizures within a 24-hour period with the dog regaining full consciousness between seizures
Status Epilepticus: Either a single seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes, or a number of seizures over a short period of time without regaining full consciousness between each seizure. If your dog suffers from a Status Epilepticus seizure call your vet immediately for advice. Seizures lasting longer than 5 minutes can be life threatening.

Focal Seizure Into Generalized Seizure

Focal seizures which develop into generalized seizures are the most common type of seizures seen in dogs. The focal seizure which begins the episode is often so short or subtle that the signs are missed by pet parents.

If your dog has a generalized seizure, try to remember exactly what they were doing right before the seizure began. Was there an unusual behavior right before the seizure? Provide your vet with a detailed explanation of what your pup was doing before the generalized seizure occurred. The more information your veterinarian has, the better able they will be to diagnose the type of seizure your dog had and 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.

If your dog has had a seizure and requires urgent care, contact our Kittrell vets at Kittrell Animal Hospital. For after-hours care contact your nearest emergency vet.

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At Kittrell Animal Hospital we operate as a walk-in clinic for cats and dogs, so if you require veterinary care, call us to inform us you are on your way. We look forward to meeting you and your pet!

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