Your little furry friend is usually happy and chipper, but suddenly it seems confused and disoriented and then flops to the floor. He is having a seizure. You panic and rush to the vet immediately, but, in the end, you really want to know why this happened in the first place.
If your beloved dog has seizures often, he may be suffering from a seizure disorder, also known as epilepsy (which is a condition that hits humans as well). Seizures happen because of the abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain of your dog, and they can have a great effect on the quality of your friend’s life, his behavior, and the way he looks. Seizures in a dog can look like a twitch or shaking of the whole body, and they can last from half a minute to even several minutes. But what can actually trigger a seizure in a dog?
Triggers of Seizures in Dogs
Unfortunately, triggers of dog seizures are still unknown, however, it has been noticed that many dogs get seizures when they are excessively excited. The excitement, in this case, can be either positive or negative, so your dog may experience a seizure when he or she sees you after a longer period of time, or when they are going to the vet.
The important thing to note is that you should not confuse seizures with dreaming. It is quite common for dogs to shake, bark, run or do something else while they are sleeping, but remember that you can always wake up a dreaming dog, while you cannot do the same with a dog who has a seizure.
Causes of Seizures in Dogs
There is a number of causes of seizures in dogs, which can range from diseases to other conditions. Some of the most common causes for seizures are congenital defects (which are the traits of an animal that exist since birth), high or low blood glucose levels (diabetes mellitus – a disease caused by the inability of pancreas to produce insulin, or hypoglycemia), low levels of oxygen in the blood (which can be caused by heart problems, breathing issues, or anemia), kidney and liver disorders, various infections (such as canine distemper (a virus that can affect the brain, eyes, respiratory and intestinal tract, and the skin of a dog).
Furthermore, a seizure can be caused by a brain tumor, by the exposure to various toxins such as lead, chocolate, or antifreeze, by hyperthermia and fever, from various medications, low calcium levels in female dogs that are nursing, epilepsy (primary and idiopathic), and brain damage caused by trauma or poor blood flow, stroke.
In the next section, we will cover several types of seizures caused by different factors, and list the pieces of advice and the general reasons for their occurrence, so keep on reading.
Liver Disease Seizures
The liver is the organ which cleans the blood from the waste and filters it back to the rest of your dog’s body, so when the functioning of the liver is compromised, your dog may experience seizures. The toxins can spread throughout your dog’s body, too many organs, including the brain, and this malfunction is known as hepatic encephalopathy, which basically means that there is an excess of ammonia in your pet’s body.
Be aware of the signs of liver failure: your dog may be confused after meals, it may be disoriented, comatose, suddenly aggressive, lethargic. Its urine can be dark in color, he can have diarrhea, vomit, and finally, experience seizures. In these cases, it is of an essence to examine the liver to determine the cause of its malfunction and the proper treatment.
The vet will prescribe the proper medication after the diagnosis, and he or she will most likely recommend a diet change for your dog in order to relieve the stress put on the liver and kidneys. Use zinc supplements that you can add to your dog’s food to help him metabolize it quicker. If your dog is eating meat, make sure to purchase good quality cubed or ground meat, such as chicken or turkey neck. Never feed your dog cooked bones.
Epilepsy Caused Seizures
Epilepsy is a brain disorder which can make your dog have uncontrollable and sudden seizures. Some of these can actually lead to the loss of consciousness, but others can have the dog fully awake. Epilepsy can be caused by genetic abnormalities or idiopathic, which basically means that it happens for an unknown reason.
Symptoms of the epileptic seizure can be the following: your dog can become stiff, fall onto its side, urinate, salivate, defecate, or paddle with all four of its limbs. These attacks can last from thirty to ninety seconds, and will usually happen while your dog is asleep or resting. It is important to note that the attacks are more aggressive the younger the dog is and that before the age of two, most dogs will respond quite well to the medication. Remember that epilepsy treatment is long-term, and should be monitored by a professional, in this case, a vet.
Kidney Failure Caused Seizures
Any dog can experience kidney failure and kidney disease, but dogs that are most likely to develop these problems are elderly and senior dogs. Kidney failure can be caused by a myriad of reasons such as diabetes, urinary blockage, genetic causes, lymphoma, and even some medications. Kidney failure may lead to seizures, but also depression, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, blood in your dog’s urine, acute blindness, and increased thirst among others.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for chronic kidney failure, but there are medications that can help manage the condition and elevate the quality of your dog’s life. The most common treatments will correct the psychological and biochemical abnormalities that are the result of the disease. Your vet will probably recommend one or a combination of these possible methods of treatment: specialized diet, fluid therapy, ulcer medication, nutritional supplements, blood pressure medication, supplements which increase the levels of potassium and lower the levels of phosphorous in the blood, protein reduction medication, and medications and supplements that combat anemia.
Poison Caused Seizures
More often than not, your dog will roam and explore the places he is not supposed to, and in the process, get in contact with dangerous chemicals. Always make sure to dog-proof your house, especially cabinets and doors. If your dog comes into contact with substances such as tobacco, aspirin, antidepressants, marijuana, alcohol, gasoline, insecticides, drain cleaners, and furniture polish, he may get a seizure upon ingestion.
When your dog is outside he can still get into contact with harmful natural substances that can cause a seizure such as venomous snakes, horse chestnut, various spiders such as the brown recluse spider, and poisonous toads such the Florida marine toad. Always keep an eye on your puppy and carry with you medications that can help if something happens.
Blood Sugar Levels Caused Seizures
Unfortunately, dogs can become diabetic, and that is due to the fact that dogs have a very limited glucose storing function. When a dog has low blood sugar levels, he can experience a seizure, and this is most prominent in puppies because their livers are still underdeveloped and have a lower capacity of glucose storing.
Luckily, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can be treated fairly easily once diagnosed. This can be as easy as topping your dog’s food with a couple of tablespoons of vanilla ice cream or rubbing some ice cream inside his cheeks.
Brain Cancer Caused Seizures
Brain cancer in dogs can develop in the membranes that cover the brain, in the pituitary gland, or some other part of the brain. Cancer can affect your dog’s behavior and functioning and can cause seizures which are often accompanied by the oversensitivity to pain, vision issues, and altered mental status.
Once diagnosed, possible treatments for cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Also, a vet can prescribe medications that can prevent the growth of the tumor and the development of further tumors. These medications will also help your dog cope with seizures.