Seizures in Dogs

Seizures in Dogs german-shepherd-12270656

You dog is perfectly healthy one minute and the next he’s having a seizure. It may be small or it may be a long lasting one.  What do you do?

Your veterinarian can perform several tests to help ascertain the cause of seizures, including CBC, chemistry panel, liver function test, and advance imaging of the brain (i.e., CT or MRI scans). However, it is helpful if you note when the attack occurred, the duration of the seizure, and what the dog was doing prior to the incident.

As your dog is having a seizure, don’t put anything in his mouth. Dogs cannot choke on their tongues. If you can, time the seizure – it is important info for your vet.

If the seizure lasts for more than a couple of minutes, your dog is at risk of overheating. Turn a fan on your dog and put cold water on his paws to cool him down. The longer a seizure goes on, the higher a dog’s body temperature can rise, and he may have problems breathing. This can raise his risk of brain damage. Your vet may give your dog IV Valium to stop the seizure.

Talk to your dog softly and gently touch him to assure him if you feel it is safe to do so.

What Should I Expect When I Take My Dog to the Vet?

Your vet will want to do a thorough physical exam and get some lab work to look for the causes of your dog’s seizures.

Your vet may prescribe medicines to control seizures, like phenobarbital or potassium bromide. You can give your dog phenobarbital twice a day, but over time it can damage his liver. Dogs that take phenobarbital need blood tests about every 6 months.

Potassium bromide doesn’t work its way through the liver, making it a better choice for young dogs that need medicine for life.

Please note that the activity you observed is very important. In order to determine if seizures are due to an underlying disease or are a result of idiopathic inherited epilepsy, your veterinarian will consider the age and breed of your dog and the changes you observed, do various diagnostic tests to rule out other possible causes, and ask questions such as whether your dog may have been exposed to any toxins or possibly received a head injury.

My dog, Cocoa, went into numerous seizures because he ate rat poison that my husband put in a mole hole in the backyard—don’t ever do this! We had a happy outcome- $600 dollars later (and this was at least 15 years ago!) I like to spread the word since this episode that you NEVER, NEVER put chemicals or poisons in any area where your pet may wander especially in the house or back/front yard! Use natural deterrents and check to see if ingesting the product would cause harm to your pet before you use it!   The sudden onset of frequent seizures usually indicates an active brain disease (except in my poison scenario above), whereas otherwise normal animals that have a few seizures a year likely have idiopathic epilepsy.


Most forms of prevention will depend upon the frequency and underlying cause of the seizures. Your veterinarian may prescribe medication(s) or, if there is a behavioral cause (loud surroundings, etc.) to the seizures, he or she may teach you techniques for avoiding such triggers or direct you to a behavioral specialist

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.