Understanding Puppies' Epileptic Seizures

Fluffy corgi puppy looks back

Puppies' seizures can be frightening for both you and your pets. While the majority of pups will never experience a seizure, canine seizures can have a variety of causes, symptoms, and treatments.

What Are Seizures?

A seizure is a kind of biological power surge that overwhelms the brain. Neurons carry electrical messages from the brain throughout the nervous system. A seizure happens if they fire excessively.

A generalized seizure (also known as a grand mal or tonic/clonic episode) is the most frequent type of seizure in dogs. While the legs paddle, twitch, or jerk, the puppy may fall over, lose body control, pee or defecate, and/or vocalize. They usually have anomalous behaviors before and after the seizure, which are referred to as the prodrome and post-ictal phases. After a violent seizure, post-ictal abnormalities may last a few minutes, many days, or possibly result in permanent alterations.

Dogs can also experience focal or partial seizures where they don't completely lose consciousness, and may have twitching or abnormal movement in just one part of the body.

Dogs can have psychomotor seizures as well; they may appear to be hallucinating (such as fly biting), become angry or afraid, or engage in obsessive/compulsive behavior (such as tail chasing).

Most seizures last only a few seconds to minutes but the post-ictal period can last much longer.

How Common Are Seizures?

Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder in dogs. Some experts estimate as many as five percent of all dogs suffer from epilepsy, and many breeds are predisposed to the condition.

Seizures have been reported in Keeshonds, German Shepherds, and Belgian Tervurens. American Cocker Spaniels, Collies, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters, Poodles, Beagles, Dachshunds, St. Bernards, Siberian Huskies, and Wire Fox Terriers are among the breeds having a high prevalence. However, seizure problems can affect any breed of dog, including mixed breeds.

What You Can Do

The first seizure can be terrifying, and knowing what to do to keep your puppy—and yourself—safe is crucial. Keep in mind that the pet will have no idea what's going on. The Prodrome stage is when some puppies have a "aura" immediately before a seizure that is defined by "strange" behavior. This might involve whimpering, roaming, begging for attention, or simply being "off." These behaviors, if identified, can serve as an early warning system for future seizures. You'll be able to get your pet to a safe location before the seizure starts.

Avoid touching the puppy's lips during the seizure because it may bite you without realizing it. Don't worry about your puppy "swallowing its tongue"—it won't, though it could unintentionally chew on your fingers or anything else in its mouth.

Because sensory input may excite a dog that is already agitated, it is necessary to talk in quiet, soothing tones, lower the lights, and keep extraneous noises to a minimum. To avoid injury, make sure your dog is in a safe place; if possible, keep them away from the edges of furniture or stairwells where they may fall. The majority of seizures last only a few seconds or minutes. Those that continue longer than five minutes are considered an emergency and require quick veterinarian assistance.

Seizures use a significant amount of energy. Your dog may appear weak or bewildered after the seizure has ended. You can reassure it and make your dog feel better. It will take some time for you to recuperate. Even if your dog looks healthy after the seizure, you should consult your veterinarian to assist discover the reason. If your dog has a seizure problem, it's a good idea to keep track of when they happen, as well as any unusual behaviors, dietary changes, and current medications, so you can keep track of any increases in seizure frequency. If your dog has numerous seizures in one day or the frequency of the seizures is rising over time, you should take him to the doctor. Make sure to take any anti-seizure drugs as directed by your veterinarian.

Causes of Seizures in Puppies

Toxin consumption, head trauma injuries, major diseases (distemper, heat stroke, brain tumors), low blood sugar, and congenital anomalies are all probable causes of seizures. Idiopathic primary epilepsy is a disorder that affects dogs that suffer periodic seizures for no obvious reason.

Between seizures, dogs typically function normally, but repeated seizures can affect the pet's quality of life and necessitate medicine. The objective of most drugs is to reduce the frequency of seizures, shorten the duration of each episode, and lessen the severity of the seizures while minimizing adverse effects. Reducing episodes to one or two per month in severe instances is considered a success.

How Puppy Seizures Are Treated

In veterinary medicine, several of the same drugs used to manage seizures in humans are also utilized. In the correct circumstances, phenobarbital, zonisamide, and levetiracetam are all employed, and your veterinarian can help you determine the optimal treatment strategy for your pet.

Newer choices may also be appropriate, and in certain circumstances, combining different therapies or medicines can be beneficial. Acupuncture, for example, can be a beneficial addition to anti-seizure drugs. Acupuncture points can be implanted with gold beads to provide long-term stimulation.

Because not all medications work for all epileptic dogs, there may be a learning curve in selecting the optimum prescription for your dog. A dog whose medicine is causing too many adverse effects or whose seizures are not under control should be evaluated to see if another drug might be a better fit.

If your puppy begins to have seizures, get medical attention as soon as possible. If the seizures are caused by a transient health problem, such as swallowing a toxin from a toxic plant, the puppy may recover completely and never have another seizure. Even if your dog is diagnosed with epilepsy and continues to suffer seizures into adulthood, with the correct medication, it is likely to have a decent quality of life.

CITATION

"Heske L, Nødtvedt A, Jäderlund KH, Berendt M, Egenvall A. A cohort study of epilepsy among 665,000 insured dogs: incidence, mortality and survival after diagnosis. Vet J. 2014;202(3):471-476, doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2014.09.023" ;

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