Seizures in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, & What to Do

Your usually happy-go-lucky pooch seems unsteady and confused. Then he flops to the floor. Even though he’s unconscious, he looks like he’s treading water. He’s having a seizure. Why is this happening, and what can you do?

If your dog has them often, he may have a seizure disorder. Another name for that is epilepsy. Abnormal, uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in your dog’s brain cause seizures, affecting how he looks and how he behaves. Seizures can look like a twitch or uncontrollable shaking and can last from less than a minute to several minutes.

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What Can Cause Seizures in Dogs?

  • Eating poison
  • Liver disease
  • Low or high blood sugar
  • Kidney disease
  • Electrolyte problems
  • Anemia
  • Head injury
  • Encephalitis
  • Strokes
  • Brain cancer

What Are the Symptoms of Seizures?

Symptoms can include collapsing, jerking, stiffening, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, chomping, tongue chewing, or foaming at the mouth. Dogs can fall to the side and make paddling motions with their legs. They sometimes poop or pee during the seizure.

Some dogs may look dazed, seem unsteady or confused, or stare off into space before a seizure. Afterward, your dog may be disoriented, wobbly, or temporarily blind. He may walk in circles and bump into things. He might have a lot of drool on his chin and could be bleeding in his mouth if he bit himself. He may try to hide.

What Are the Types of Seizures?

The most common kind is the generalized seizure, also called a grand mal seizure. A dog can lose consciousness and convulse. The abnormal electrical activity happens throughout the brain. Generalized seizures usually last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

With a focal seizure, abnormal electrical activity happens in only part of the brain. Focal seizures can cause unusual movements in one limb or one side of the body.

Sometimes they last only a couple of seconds. They may start as focal and then become generalized.

A psychomotor seizure involves strange behavior that only lasts a couple of minutes. Your dog may suddenly start attacking an imaginary object or chasing his tail. It can be tricky to tell psychomotor seizures from odd behavior, but a dog that has them will always do the same thing every time he has a seizure.

Seizures from unknown causes are called idiopathic epilepsy. They usually happen in dogs between 6 months and 6 years old. Although any dog can have a seizure, idiopathic epilepsy is more common in border collies, Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, beagles, Belgian Tervurens, collies, and German shepherds.