Canine Epilepsy

Canine Epilepsy is a sudden, involuntary change in behaviour, muscle control and consciousness. A seizure is often accompanied by an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. Canine epilepsy is broadly divided into 2 types of epilespy – idiopathic and symptomatic disorders.

Idiopathic (or Primary) epilepsy is where no identifiable cause can be found despite a thorough diagnostic evaluation. It is also referred to as genetic, hereditary or congenital epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy is often characterized by structural brain lesions and is more likely seen in male dogs. About 3% of dogs suffer from this type of canine epilepsy and about 80% of recurrent seizures are seizures with no known causes.

Most dogs with idiopathic epilepsy suffer their first seizure between the ages of one – five years of age. If left untreated, the seizures may become more severe and frequent. In some instances the seizure will be a one-time occurrence with no further episodes or after effects. In others dogs, epilepsy will be an ongoing battle for the owner and the dog.
Symptomatic (or Secondary) epilepsy is where a specific cause for the seizures can be found.

Common symptoms your pet may suffer during a seizure include – stiffness, loss of consciousness, urination, salivating, sudden violent shaking, staring altered vision and muscle twitching. Seizures most often occur while the dog is resting or asleep, often at night or in early morning.

What to Do If Your Pet Has a Seizure:

  • Do not panic. If your pet is having a seizure, he is unconscious and he is not suffering. Your pet may seem like he is not breathing, but he is.
  • Turn off all lights, TV and music. Get to a quiet, dark room and hold your pet in a comforting reassuring way. Say only positive things, ‘You will be okay, you will be get better.’
  • Keep your pet from hurting himself by moving furniture away from the immediate area. Also protect him from water, stairs, and other sharp objects. If possible, place a pillow under his head to prevent head trauma.
  • Time the seizure. Look at a clock or watch and note the time; although it may seem like forever, it may only be 30 seconds.
  • Pets do not swallow their tongues. Do not put your hand in your dog’s mouth – you may get bitten. Do not put spoons or any other object into your pet’s mouth.
  • Keep children and other pets away from your seizing animal.
  • Remain by your pet’s side; stroke and comfort your animal so when he comes out of the seizure you are there to calm him.

After the seizure observe your pet’s behaviour. Do not allow your pet access to the stairs until he is fully recovered. Offer water if he wishes to drink.

Be prepared for vocalisation and stumbling about. You need to be strong and offer support and comfort to your pet. He will be confused and may feel as though he did something wrong. Speak softly and with a soothing voice.

There are several anticonvulsant medications that are typically prescribed by veterinarians for seizure disorders. Their goal is to reduce the severity and frequency of the seizures while avoiding unacceptable side-effects. It is rare to completely eliminate all seizures in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy.


Signs That Require Emergency Veterinary Attention

Seizures that last longer than 10 minutes
Seizures that occur more than 2 times in a 24 hour time period
Seizures that begin before your pet has completely recovered from the previous seizure.


Just because a dog is diagnosed with epilepsy doesn’t mean he/she can’t live a long, happy life.