The first time you watch your dog go through an epileptic seizure, it can be a frightening thing to observe. And, although most seizures only last 90-120 seconds, it can seem like an eternity to you. It’s important that when your pet does have a seizure, whether it’s the first time or the 20th time, that you do a few things for the safety of your pet, and also to record information about this seizure to give to your vet so they can better understand your dog’s condition.
When a dog has a seizure, it loses control of its balance and its ability to move consciously. It may fall over, as they usually do, and if its at the top of the stairs or near a window well or hole where it could fall and hurt itself, you must do everything you can to move it to safety before it gets hurt, because it can’t do that for itself.
You don’t have to worry about putting a wallet in its mouth or trying to grab a hold of its tongue so it doesn’t swallow it or choke on it. Those are really not needed to be done, either. But they sure do make for good drama in a movie. You could hurt yourself trying to move your dog’s tongue away from its teeth. It could bite you accidently, or even bite itself. Do not try to stop it from what it is doing, just be sure to move it away from any potential harm.
Often just before your dog begins its seizuring it may behave in a certain way. Some people say they can tell when the seizure is going to occur because their dog may start whining, or pacing, or acting uncomfortable. Humans say that just before they have a seizure that they may hallucinate smells, or see lights flickering or out of the corner of their eyes. This period of time before the seizure when there are some symptoms noticeable by the epileptic, is called the prodromal period, and the smell or lights or unusual sensory input is called the “Aura”. Dogs probably get the same thing.
When it is actually having the seizure, your dog may begin to tremble and shake all over. It may fall onto its side, and start paddling its legs like it is running. It may whine or bark uncontrollably, and not be responsive if you speak to it. It may be drooling, and may lose control over its bowel or bladder. It may be looking directly at you, but not be able to see you, even though it looks to you like it can see you, while your dog is having this seizure, it can’t cognitively recognize you.
Try to time the seizure from the first moment you notice it until your dog stops shaking. Most seizures will only go for a minute or two. If it keeps on going past 5 minutes, then get on the phone to the Animal ER, and let then know you have a problem and then get ready to bring your dog there so they can give it the right drugs to stop its continual seizure. This continual seizuring condition is called “Status Epilepticus”, and can be a life-threatening, so it needs attention right away at the ER.
If it is daytime, and your dog has completed its convulsing in the normal, short, 90 – 120 second time period, then see if you can bring it right in to see your vet. They will want to draw blood to check for any abnormalities. Sometimes there can be a metabolic problem present, such as with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hypocalcemia, or hypercalcemia (too low or too high serum calcium levels). It may have electrolyte abnormalities as well, and the potassium and sodium levels may be abnormal. Some dogs who have hypothyroidism (too low thyroid hormone levels) will also have a tendency to have seizures, and if you supplement them with the appropriate amount of thyroid hormone, their seizures may stop. I’ve seen this happen many times.
Once your dog has had its first seizure, and you’ve taken it to your vet for a blood test right after its seizure, the course of action that your vet will take is dependent upon whether your dog has any more seizures, and how frequently these seizures occur. If they are infrequent, then it might be wisest to not use the strong and potentially toxic anti-convulsant medication, but instead to look at acupuncture and herbal therapies or even cannabis, as safer, lower impact therapies that can help to reduce the infrequent seizures and to reduce their severity.