- Epilepsy is complex, and there are many reasons a dog can have a seizure.
- The most common culprit for seizures is Idiopathic or genetic epilepsy.
- This form is incurable but typically manageable with common anticonvulsants.
- Pharmaceutical anticonvulsants can bring alongside effects, especially as dosage rises.
- To prevent high doses, many pet owners are feeding their dogs a high-fat, high-protein, and low-carb diet — called a Ketogenic diet.
- As well, many owners are giving their dogs cbd oil tincture as it can reduce seizures, and be used in tandem with other anticonvulsants allowing their thc dosages to stay low. Check out our recommended cbd dosage
- Because CBD is new, it’s recommended to check pet CBD reviews, talk to other dog owners, and read about its role as an anticonvulsant before giving it to your pup.
- We recommend checking out this in depth guide for all you need to know about CBD oil for canines.
If you have witnessed your dog having a seizure before, then know how horrific of an experience it can be. Most pet owners are completely taken by surprise the first time it happens and really freak out.
Unfortunately, this may end up doing more harm than good causing further damage to the dog and potentially harming yourself in the process.
On the brightside, as time passes, individual epileptic episodes become much less of a worry. This is because the severity of a seizure is time sensitive — most seizures only last a few minutes.
During them, your dog does not feel pain nor will they have any recollection of the incident. As well, most make a 100% recovery, so while it’s not fun, most seizures are fairly harmless.
This is hard to hear this if you’ve never experienced one before or have just witnessed one for the first time. However, it does become easier, and the vast majority of pet owners with epileptic pets will agree with this.
Signs and What to Do
When a seizure occurs, the dog will fall to the ground and start convulsing. If this happens to you, it’s important to remember that you need to stay calm, keep your hand out of their mouth, and start tracking how long the seizure lasts.
If they are still shaking unconsciously after a more than a few minutes, immediately call your veterinarian because a relatively harmless seizure may have just become a level 10.
However, when the seizure resides before that, stay with your dog as there is no need to immediately call the vet — unless they go into another seizure. For small seizures, it’s more important to monitor your dog before rushing to call as your dog will be confused when they first come out it.
They might not know where they are, and it can take a few minutes before they process things as normal again.
This is another reason you want to stay calm and never overreact — let them naturally come out of the spell.
- 1-3 minutes — most common, often minor, and will likely not require medical attention
- 5+ minutes — uncommon, extremely dangerous, and can lead to brain damage
Diagnosing Seizures in Dogs
If you suspect that your dog had a seizure, you will need to make an appointment with your veterinarian. They will perform several tests: blood work, physical exam, MRI, as well they’ll create a detailed history report.
The goal of these tests is to both confirm that a seizure happened and to figure out what caused it in the first place.
Types of Seizures
There are three main reasons that dog can experience seizures.
Ingestion of harmful and poisonous substances can cause seizures, so you want to be aware of a few things that are common in your environment.
First, watch out for any use of herbicides and insecticides.
They may make your yard look fantastic, but they are a real risk to your dog’s health if they go rolling around in a recently treated area. As well, you’ll want to google “plants that are poisonous to dogs in my area” and familiarize yourself with them.
Last, look for things that could cause head-injuries as they are well-known for causing seizures.
There are a number of illness which can trigger seizures.
- Brain cancer
- High Blood Pressure
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
Idiopathic / Genetic Epilepsy
Idiopathic epilepsy is the most common form of seizures in dogs, and they no identifiable cause. We do know that these types of seizures are related to genetics, as well, male dogs experience them at have a higher rate.
Idiopathic epilepsy usually occurs within the dog’s first year or two, and sadly there is no cure. This does mean a lifetime of seizures, but in the majority of cases, it’s manageable — to the point that most dogs can experience a fairly normal, healthy, and long life.
Dog Breeds Prone To Seizures
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Saint Bernard
Dog Breeds Not Prone To Seizures
- Norwegian Elkhound
- Shih Tzu
- Bearded Collie
- Soft-coated Terrier
It’s not quite a silver lining, but the nature of idiopathic epilepsy often gives us the chance to catch warning signs that a seizure is going to happen well before they do. You might see signs happen an hour before, in the morning, and even days in advance.
Here are early signs that a seizure may be on its way:
- They’re quieter than normal
- Shy, easy to startle, and seem on edge
- They seem uninterested in normal activities
- Acting foggy/hazy
- Appetite fluctuates
The symptoms typically become more pronounced the closer they are to the epileptic episode. When you see the signs, there isn’t much you can do to stop it from happening, but you can take precautions to ensure the epileptic episode is as safe as possible.
Keep them close to the home and away from anything that can get them in trouble: bodies of water, hills, traffic, etc. Watch playtime with other animals, as well as loud noises inside and outside the house.
It’s OK: At some point, you’re going to be the one responsible for triggering your dog’s seizure. Sometimes all it takes is coming around the corner too soon, startling and sending them into an episode.
There are a number of treatment options — both natural and man-made. If the seizure is due to environmental reasons, it’s unlikely that your pet will be prescribed medication. The same case is also likely for illness-related epilepsy unless it becomes a common occurrence.
For idiopathic epilepsy, your vet will likely recommend a pharmaceutical anticonvulsant, such as phenobarbital. Again, in many cases these work well, and if dosages stay low, your dog will see little to no side effects.
The issue, however, is that some forms of genetic-related seizures aren’t well managed by common pharmaceuticals. It’s common that when one falls, the others will as well, so a combination of them or a higher dosage is used. This is when we start seeing serious health-related issues.
This is why there’s a number of natural treatments that can be used in combination with these powerful anticonvulsants. The goal is to have them keep the anticonvulsants’ dosage at low levels where they are relatively harmless.
When it comes to different natural treatments, CBD oil is showing the most significant progress. In fact, CBD oil rose to popularity for its use in safely treating those rare genetic cases of epilepsy where pharmaceutical anticonvulsants partially, if not completely, failed.
Epilepsy is a complex disease, and one of its more notable complexities is those drug-resistant forms of epilepsy. This type of epilepsy is more common in people than dogs, and to get help, many people started turning to cannabis and CBD oil (cannabis without THC so you can’t get high).
This turned into an interesting discovery. We found that compounds in CBD oil act like anticonvulsants that operate in rather different way then current pharmaceutical anticonvulsants.
CBD oil has popularity exploded in the last two years and with this has brought along companies that are trying to make a buck fast. So here are tips for finding the best CBD oil:
- Check the reviews
- Look for a Certificate of Analysis
- Make sure it pet CBD oil and not human CBD oil
- Derived from hemp not cannabis or marijuana
- Read more about using CBD for epilepsy
Food Therapy & Monitoring Blood Sugar
A diet rich in fats and protein while low in carbohydrates is often recommended for controlling seizures — especially for the drug-resistant forms.
Remember, similar to CBD oil and the others, a healthy diet in the vast majority of cases won’t treat the seizures alone. This is OK because our goal should be keeping pharmaceutical anticonvulsants as low as possible to avoid side effects.
Because a keto diet requires low carb intake, sugar intake plummets, and low blood sugar can cause diabetic seizures. Because of this your vet may recommend monitoring blood sugar levels.
Keeping Them Cool
Seizures occur when a metaphorical flood drain opens up, and too many electrical impulses escape the brain and spread throughout the neighboring regions. There is mounting research showing that cooling both the brain and entire body can prevent seizures
In fact, a number of researchers are hoping that one day an implanted cooling device could prevent seizures in the same way a pacemaker is use to correct abnormal heart contractions.
Unfortunately, using cooling to stop seizures usually involves surgery and how effective it truly is still unknown.
However, while you can’t personally cool your dog preventing seizures, you can ensure they don’t have seizures due to heatstroke by carefully monitoring your dog in the summer/times of extreme heat.
Epilepsy is not a death sentence by far. With care and treatment, even a dog that started having seizures when they were only 6 months can live into their teens and have a fulfilling and fantastic life.
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