How to Tell If Your Dog Is Having a Convulsion

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It's terrifying to stand there helpless as your dog experiences a seizure. It's especially terrifying if your dog has never had a before. If your dog has a seizure, you may be wondering what symptoms he may exhibit.

Symptoms of Canine Seizures

An disturbance in the electrical functioning of the brain causes a seizure. A dog's seizure might manifest itself in a variety of ways.

  • Your dog may show alterations in its level of consciousness or even become unconscious during a seizure.
  • There may be a change in the tone of the muscles, causing a stiffening or laxity of the muscles.
  • There may be jerking motions of the muscles and/or paddling of your dog's legs.
  • The facial muscles may also be involved in the seizure activity, causing your dog's eyelids to twitch or the mouth to open and close violently.
  • Your dog may temporarily lose control of its bodily functions and urinate, defecate or drool excessively.

It's likely that your dog will act as though something is wrong before the seizure takes place. This is known as the prodromal phase. Your dog may appear anxious or restless.

Your dog may appear listless or unhappy after the seizure. He may appear drowsy or have other unusual symptoms such as trouble walking or eyesight problems. This is known as the post-ictal interval, and the duration of recovery varies greatly.

Types of Seizures in Dogs

There are that occur in dogs.

  • Generalized seizures are the most commonly seen type of canine seizure. Generalized seizures are those that were previously referred to as "grand mal" types of seizures. There is often a temporary loss of consciousness, muscle rigidity, jerking motions of the muscles and twitching of various body parts. Generalized seizures can have many causes, including brain tumors, infections or inflammation; head trauma; metabolic disturbances (abnormal electrolyte levels or low blood sugar, for example); and idiopathic epilepsy in which a cause of the seizure is not identified but the common causes have been ruled out.
  • Partial or focal seizures occur more focally within the brain and tend to affect only part of the body. These types of seizures may result in one or more unusual, repeated behaviors such as an unusual bark, howling, jaw snapping (as if your dog was trying to catch a fly), licking or chewing, or even aggressive behavior towards themselves or others. Focal seizures may also cause muscle twitching in a specific area of the body, stiffness of only one body part (such as one leg), or involuntary turning of your dog's head.
  • Mixed seizures can start as partial or focal and then become generalized.

What to Do if Your Dog Has a Seizure

Seizures, as frightening as they are to observe, generally only last a few seconds or minutes. Most dogs will heal and return to normal if they stop on their own within that time frame. If a seizure lasts more than five minutes or numerous seizures occur in a short period of time (known as clusters), emergency veterinarian assistance is required. The longer a seizure continues, the more serious the brain damage might become. During the seizure, keep your dog safe by keeping him away from threats (streets, high objects like furniture, and the tops of stairs), placing something soft under its head, and dimming the lights while remaining quiet but nearby.

For further information, contact your veterinarian or a 24-hour clinic. Your dog may need to be seen right away for treatment, depending on the severity of the seizure and his overall condition. Even dogs with brief seizures should be examined by a veterinarian to establish whether anticonvulsant medication is required and to rule out any underlying causes. If your dog's quality of life is suffering, there are a number of effective treatments that can help.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


"Dog Seizure SignsMetropolitan Veterinary Associates.", "Podell, M. et al. 2015 ACVIM Small Animal Consensus Statement On Seizure Management In DogsJournal Of Veterinary Internal Medicine, vol 30, no. 2, 2016, pp. 477-490. Wiley, doi:10.1111/jvim.13841" ;