Dog Seizures: Symptoms and What You Can Do
by Brooke Butler, DVM
If you’ve ever seen a dog having a seizure, you were probably very alarmed. When a dog has a seizure, he usually falls down on the floor and may hold his legs stretched straight out from his body. He might also paddle his legs, depending on the situation, and he could run around in a panicked circle for a few minutes before falling over.
Whichever way your dog experiences seizures, seeing it happen isn’t fun, and you may be wondering what you can do to help your frightened furry friend when these occur.
Remember: If your dog is having or has just had a seizure for the first time, write down all the details you can remember about it and schedule an appointment with your vet. And if you think your dog may have ingested something toxic that could have caused the seizure, get to an emergency vet right away. Otherwise, chances are good your dog may have epilepsy, which is common in canines.
Read on to learn more about symptoms of seizures and how to progress when your dog has one.
Symptoms of Dog Seizures
- Running in circles
- Falling to the floor immediately, instead of laying down as usual
- Stiff muscles
- Going completely unconscious
- Being unable to look at you or anything else
- Urinating or defecating uncontrollably
- Staring blankly, but remaining standing
How to Help if Your Dog is Having a Seizure
Keep Yourself Calm
Whether this is the first time your dog has ever had a seizure or you’ve seen it happen before, try to keep yourself calm first before you attend to your dog. If you get in his face, crying or yelling at him, he’s going to be even more frightened by the whole situation.
Sit Near Your Dog
Sit near your dog, but be careful about petting him. You can sometimes, very carefully, pet his back or parts of his body that he can’t easily reach with his mouth. However, keep in mind that dogs may uncontrollably bite during seizures. Similarly, your dog may be confused when he comes to and could bite you out of fear, pain, or confusion.
If you’re dealing with a dog seizure for the first time, it may be best to avoid petting him, even though that can be emotionally painful for you.
Time Your Dog’s Seizures
If you are able to do so, time your dog’s seizures. A stopwatch is ideal, but even just keeping an eye on the clock can let you know how long your dog has been seizing.
If it’s less than two minutes, everything should be okay; two to five minutes is a warning zone, and your dog should be taken to the vet as soon as possible.
Any seizure lasting over five minutes needs to be treated immediately by a vet.
If your dog has several seizures in the span of a few minutes and does not wake up between each one, he needs to see a vet immediately.
Carefully Move Your Dog to a Safer Location
If your dog has a seizure near stairs or the edge of the bed, carefully push him to a safer location or place something in front of him that will prevent him from falling without hurting him. Dogs may become panicked before or after a seizure and may run around without thinking or looking at where they’re going. They also may not always be able to control their movements and could potentially seize so hard they fall.
Speak in Comforting Tones
Speak in low, comforting tones to your dog. Some owners even try putting on soft, gentle music for their dogs after a seizure. As long as you don’t play anything too loudly, this is fine. However, your dog may appreciate it more if you just let him come back to normal without adding distractions around him, too.
Lower Your Dog’s Body Temperature
Seizures cause your dog’s body temperature to climb quickly. Because of this, it can be helpful to gently place cool washcloths over his feet after the seizure has ended. Wait until your dog has come to before you do this, as he may bite you if you don’t.
Wrap and Comfort Your Dog
Some owners wrap their dog in a towel or blanket and hold him to comfort him after a seizure. It is fine to do this if your dog has become alert and is otherwise back to normal following the seizure. If not, however, don’t do this.
Avoid doing this if hugging usually bothers your dog, as he will not find it comforting in this situation, either.
Let Your Dog Sleep
After your dog is alert and awake again, he may be very tired. Let him sleep; you may check up on him periodically, but it’s best to let him rest.
Let Your Dog Eat or Drink
Your dog may also be extremely hungry or thirsty after a seizure. Don’t force him to eat or drink, but let him do so if he seems alert and is able to stand on his feet without wobbling or seeming confused.
Call Your Vet
If this is the first time your dog has had a seizure or if the seizure lasted longer than usual, call your vet right away and ask their advice. Follow what the vet suggests.
If your vet diagnosis your dog with epilepsy, he may be given epilepsy medication. You will need to speak with your vet for more information about how to administer this medication and what to expect in terms of side effects when you give it to your dog.
Take care not to skip it, as your dog may suffer from seizures again if you do.
Are Dog Seizures Treatable?
Seizures are not uncommon in dogs. Some breeds are much more prone to having them than others, but all breeds can suffer from seizures at some point in their lives. Seizures in dogs may be caused by a variety of factors, including diet, age, hereditary problems, underlying disease, and more. They may also be caused by epilepsy.
Only your vet can tell you for sure what causes your dog’s seizures as well as how to treat them. However, the next time your dog goes through a seizure, you’ll be prepared to help him through it every step of the way when you keep the above tips in mind.
Contact your nearest VEG location if you have any questions. You will always speak directly to a qualified veterinarian.
VEG is a network of Emergency Veterinarians located across the country. We are dedicated to helping people and their pets when they need it most. If your pet is ever in an emergency situation, use the link below to find our nearest location so we can get your pet the help they need.