A convulsing pet is frightening especially if it is the first time you have seen one. The owner would suffer more than the pet as in most cases a dog would not know that it is convulsing. It would be fortunate for the pet and more so for the pet owner if the dog suffer from seizure only once in their life time. However, seizures can be repeated and can be a common everyday occurrence in a dogs life. These repeated seizures that can last for 5 minutes and may recur after a brief interval is known as status epilepticus. An isolated case of seizure on a healthy dog does not really require an urgent need to visit a vet but a thorough checkup should be scheduled. A repeated seizure however, is an emergency situation and a vets attention must be sought without delay.
A single convulsion is seldom fatal but repeated seizures which can be status epilepticus or cluster seizures are very serious conditions. In status epilepticus, two or more seizures that last from seconds to five minutes would occur one after another with the dog not regaining consciousness. Cluster seizures also occurs one after the other but the only difference is that the dog would regain consciousness between the fits.
There are many known causes of canine epilepsy. This disorder can be inherited as some breeds like the Beagle, Collie, Golden Retriever, Labrador, Keeshund are predisposed to canine epilepsy. Canine epilepsy can be idiopathic or primary. This means that apart from the seizure, no other brain abnormalities are identified. Canine epilepsy can also be symptomatic or secondary. In this case the seizure would result from an identified cause. Some canine epilepsy is a consequence of diseases like diabetes, brain tumor, kidney disorders and intoxication from harmful chemicals.
There are 4 phases in a convulsing dog – the prodromal phase, the aura, the ictus and the post ictus. In the 1st phase the dog would show abnormal behavior. The pet may seek the attention of the owners and would seem to know that something is about to happen. The aura is the onset of the seizure. The dog would appear to be distressed and restless. You will notice the dog grimacing and incessantly licking the lips. The ictus is the actual seizure. The fit can be Petit Mal where the dog would lose balance and fall on its side, start to shake uncontrollably and salivate excessively. In some cases, owners may not notice that the dog is convulsing. The grand mal has very recognizable symptoms and there is no way that the owner will not recognize that the dog is convulsing. This is a violent type of seizure where the dog would whine, the whole body would shake, the limbs would continuously paddle, would lose control of urine and bowel. In most cases the dog would lose consciousness. In repeated seizures, the dog will not regain consciousness before another fit would start. This is an emergency situation. The dog has to be taken to the a vets clinic right away.
Repeated seizure attacks can be prevented by ensuring that the dog is given the medication prescribed by the doctor. Generally, a dog that has had a seizure attack would be its normal self after a while. Because of this the owner may not think that the medication is really necessary. A single fit attack that last for a few seconds to a minute may not be life threatening but recurring seizures can be life threatening. This is why daily anti-seizure medication is necessary. Unfortunately, some owners can not deal with the emotional distress and the financial burden related to an epileptic pet and would choose to have the dog euthanized.
It can be difficult but the most important thing that an owner has to do when the dog is convulsing is to stay calm. Make sure the dog is safe from falling from heights. Protect the head and the body from any sharp objects. Dont try to stop the dog from trembling as it may worsen the situation and you may be bitten by the dog too. This is an emergency situation that needs medical attention ASAP. It is imperative that the dog be taken to a vet at once.