Seizures in Senior Dogs: What to Do

Geriatric black lab on an orange chair.

Seizures may affect both people and animals, but they can be frightening for both the person experiencing the seizure and their loved ones. While seizures can affect dogs of any age, older dogs are more likely to acquire problems that lead to seizures. Knowing how to spot the indications of a seizure, what could be causing it, and how to treat it can be beneficial to your senior dog.

What Are Seizures?

A seizure is an uncontrollable electrical disruption in the brain that can occur. This aberrant electrical activity causes a dog to lose control of all or sections of its body, resulting in a range of symptoms. Seizures can occur unexpectedly and vary in intensity and duration, but they are all caused by something malfunctioning in the brain.

Signs of Seizures in Old Dogs

Symptoms of Seizures in Old Dogs

  • Staring off into space
  • Exhibiting strange behaviors
  • Body shaking or twitching
  • Unable to use one or multiple legs
  • Stiffening of the body
  • Arching of the back
  • Falling over onto its side
  • Vocalizing
  • Salivating
  • Chewing or licking lips
  • Urination
  • Defecation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Leg paddling


Some seizures are minor and do not affect your dog's entire body, while others debilitate your dog entirely but only momentarily. Sometimes a dog will fall over, lose consciousness, paddle its legs, twitch, vocalize, salivate, urinate, defecate, and arch its back, and other times a dog will fall over, lose consciousness, paddle its legs, twitch, vocalize, salivate, urinate, defecate, and arch its back. A grand mal seizure is a more spectacular sort of seizure, and it's what most people think of when they hear "a dog had a seizure." Other indicators of a seizure include excessive licking and biting of the lips despite the absence of food in the mouth, or the inability to move one side of the body or a limb.

Causes of Seizures in Old Dogs

Seizures can be triggered by a variety of factors in dogs of any age, but one factor in particular may make them more likely in senior dogs.

  • Brain tumors - This cause of seizures is more common in old dogs. Some breeds are more likely to develop brain tumors than others. Overall, brain tumors are more common in dogs over the age of five.
  • Overheating - Any dog, especially those that are overweight, elderly, or have short muzzles are prone to overheating if they are exposed to high temperatures. If a dog gets too hot, seizures can occur.
  • Toxins - Any dog can consume something it shouldn't eat and some chemicals medications can cause seizures.
  • Epilepsy - Most dogs that are diagnosed with epilepsy are between one and five years of age which makes this an unlikely cause in old dogs.

Diagnosing Seizures in Old Dogs

Your veterinarian may prescribe an MRI or CT scan to determine whether or not your dog has a brain tumor after a thorough physical examination and medical history. To rule out other medical causes for seizures caused by toxins, bloodwork is usually performed.

Treatment of Seizures in Old Dogs

Depending on the cause of the seizures, treatment protocols will vary.

  • Brain tumors - Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery, and steroids are the most common treatments but prognosis is generally poor for dogs with brain tumors.
  • Overheating - Symptomatic treatments that include cooling the dog off, providing oxygen therapy, and administering IV fluids are usually warranted for dogs having seizures from overheating.
  • Toxins - Symptomatic treatment that includes IV fluids, supplements, and medications are typically used to treat seizures that are from toxin exposure or ingestion.
  • Epilepsy - If your dog is diagnosed with epilepsy, medications, diet changes, supplements, and acupuncture may be recommended.

If your elderly dog's seizures cannot be managed, your veterinarian should evaluate his or her quality of life. If your elderly dog is unable to live a pleasant life due to seizures, euthanasia may be suggested.

How to Prevent Seizures in Old Dogs

Some causes of seizures in senior dogs are unavoidable, while others may be avoided. Keep home contaminants, needless prescriptions or narcotics, and other objects that might trigger seizures out of your elderly dog's reach. Also, make sure your elderly dog does not overheat when outside or in a car. A dog should not be used for breeding if it has been diagnosed with epilepsy or a brain tumor.

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