Seizures In Dogs - Types And Causes (I)

Health, last updated 17th, Jul 2014, Varun

My Dog recently had another seizure. This is his 4th seizure in the past 8 months.

Having seen this again, I took to the Internet for a little research on seizures. To my surprise, even though there is plethora of news regarding seizures and their causes and treatment, there were many dog owners who were completely unaware of this phenomenon and who were posting stuff like “my dog is shivering and can’t move what should I do” or “my dog has lost power in his limbs, suggest something please”.

I am writing this article in as much detail as possible for everyone to understand what seizures are and what you should do in-case one happens in front of you. I know it will be a long read, but it’s better to be informed than be sorry.

What are Seizures?

Nerve cells in the brain maintain a balance between activity (excitation) and inactivity (inhibition). During an abnormal burst of electrical activity within the brain, commonly in one of the cerebral hemispheres, a dog may lose control of his motor ability and normal functions, such as sight, hearing or standing may be impaired. This is known as a seizure. Some owners state that their dog has had seizures while playing ball or when children just returned home from school. The actual reasons for triggering of a seizure are still unknown.

Sometimes referred as a convulsion or fit, a seizure is a very common phenomenon in dogs.

Repetitive episodes of seizures may be termed as epilepsy, but it is important to note that a single episode of seizure does not guarantee that your dog has epilepsy.


Types of Seizures

Seizures are basically divided into two types:

Grandmal Seizure: Grand mal seizures are the most common. A dog experiencing a grand mal seizure usually falls on her side and has uncontrollable muscle activity such as kicking her legs as if swimming or paddling. Salivation is profuse and often the dog involuntarily urinates and defecates.

Petit mal seizures: Petit mal seizures do not result in convulsions, but the animal loses consciousness. It may look like the dog just collapsed. More often than none, he would look aimlessly here and there with no sense of direction or hearing.

Factors influencing Seizures

Neurological causes

Since this phenomenon is caused by a rapid change in the neuro-function of a dogs brain, the following may be the causes:

  • An inherited disorder (Exact cause is still unknown)

  • Blood Factors – Elements in the blood directly influence the brain. A difference in its composition or an infection in the blood caused by a virus or such things may lead to a Seizure.

  • Inhibition of Neurotransmitters: Neurotransmitters take info from one nerve and pass it on to the others. If they are prevented from their movement, it can alter the brain activity drastically.

Physical Influencers

  • Low blood sugar

  • Poisons and toxins- such as strychnine, antifreeze (ethylene glycol), lead, insecticides (organophosphates), and chocolate.

  • Medications

  • Kidney and Liver failure/damage

  • Heat Strokes

  • High Blood Pressure

  • Lack of Oxygen

Primary or Idiopathic Epilepsy:

Molecules in the blood, such as calcium, sodium, sugar (glucose) and potassium, affect neurotransmitter activity. Typical onset of epilepsy is between the ages of one to five years. Breed and family history may also play a role. Though uncommon, dogs outside of this age range may still be epileptic. Many epileptic dogs will respond quite well to drug therapy, but they usually must be on medications for life.

Editor's Note: In our next segment, we will share with you, the different types of seizures and tell you about what to do when your dog is having a seizure. Watch this space for more! If your pet or a friends pet suffers from seizures too, do share with us!

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