Dog Seizure Symptoms: What To Look Out For

Key takeaway

Dog seizure symptoms can vary depending on the type of seizures your dog is having. Convulsions are the most common symptoms of seizures in dogs, but dogs may also experience incontinence, unusual barking, and twitching. Seizures can be caused by a variety of factors, from genetics and brain tumors to electrolyte abnormalities. If you think your dog may have had a seizure, it’s important to visit a vet to get a proper diagnosis.

Dog Seizure Symptoms: What To Look Out For

Seizures are a medical condition that can affect both dogs and humans, causing convulsions that may lead to several other symptoms. Just like in humans, seizures in dogs are a serious medical condition, especially if your dog is experiencing frequent seizures. Recognizing the symptoms of seizures in dogs can help you figure out what’s going on with your dog sooner, so you can get them the treatment they need.

As a pet parent, dealing with dog seizures can be scary. It’s important to know what to do if your dog is having a seizure and what symptoms to watch out for. If your dog is trembling and you think they may be having a seizure, you should call a vet. Keep reading for more information about seizures in dogs.

What Is a Seizure in Dogs?

Dog seizures are a medical condition that may occur in dogs for various reasons. During a seizure, you may notice that your dog seems especially confused, and they may even run around in circles for a bit before falling onto the floor. All the symptoms you notice during a seizure are a result of overactivity of the cerebral cortex of the brain, specifically electrical activity. This activity begins in one place before spreading out in a process known as kindling.1

It’s important to keep in mind that seizures aren’t all the same. Your dog may show different symptoms and have seizures for different reasons than other dogs, so talking to your vet is a good first step.

Are There Different Types of Seizures in Dogs?

Yes, dogs can have different types of seizures. As a pet parent, you should know about the different types of seizures in dogs, including the symptoms that come with each type of seizure. Here’s a quick breakdown of the four types of seizures in dogs:

  • Generalized Seizures: Generalized seizures are the most common type of seizure. The animal typically loses consciousness and the entire body may become stiff. Tonic/clonic action is also common, which is the alternation between stiffness and contraction cycles. Urinary incontinence in dogs may occur with generalized seizures1.
  • Focal Seizures: With a focal seizure, only one body part is affected. However, your dog may or may not lose consciousness during a focal seizure. Focal seizures may occur with many seizure disorders.1
  • Psychomotor Seizures: During a psychomotor seizure, pets don’t necessarily lose consciousness, but they may appear to be in an altered state. It might even look like your dog is hallucinating. In some cases, psychomotor seizures involve episodes of rage or aggression.1
  • Idiopathic Epilepsy: This is a type of epilepsy with no known cause. Idiopathic epilepsy may be caused by genetic factors.2

What Causes a Dog to Have a Seizure?

Understanding what causes dogs to have seizures can help you prevent them in the future. If your dog is at high risk for seizures due to a medical condition, you should talk to your vet and make sure you know the symptoms of a dog having a seizure. Here are some of the potential causes of seizures in dogs3:

Causes of seizures in dogs

  • Genetics
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Brain tumors
  • Severe anemia
  • Cancer
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Trauma to the brain
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Low blood sugar

While seizures are often caused by serious medical conditions, they can also occur as a result of exposure to toxins, low blood sugar, and electrolyte abnormalities. These are all things you can prevent by working with your vet to address the potential causes of seizures in dogs. If your dog is lethargic or showing other signs of a medical problem, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

What Are Dog Seizure Symptoms?

Whether your dog is at a high risk for seizures or not, recognizing the symptoms is important. If you notice your dog showing dog seizure symptoms, you should monitor their condition and take them to the vet when they’ve relaxed a bit. So, what are the symptoms of a seizure in a dog? Here are some of the things to watch out for.4

Dog seizure symptoms

  • Entire body convulsions: When a dog has a generalized seizure, its entire body may convulse. If your dog is trembling or you notice them alternating between stiffness and contraction, they may be having a generalized seizure. Monitor your dog and call your vet when you get a chance.
  • Facial tremors: Facial tremors and head tremors are also fairly common in dogs who are having a seizure. If you notice your dog’s face twitching or its head shaking or bobbing uncontrollably, your dog may be having a seizure. 
  • Unusual barking: Dogs may also bark unusually during a seizure, so watch for signs of unusual barking. This barking typically begins suddenly and for no apparent reason.
  • Running in circles: With psychomotor seizures, it’s not uncommon for dogs to run around in circles for a bit before falling to the ground. This may occur with other types of seizures as well.
  • Twitching: Dogs may experience facial twitching and twitching in other parts of the body during a seizure, which can be hard to notice if your dog is also convulsing.
  • Biting: In some cases, dogs who are having a seizure may become confused and aggressive, leading them to bite somebody. It’s important to give your dog space if they’re having a seizure.
  • Urinary incontinence: Dogs may lose consciousness and lose control of certain bodily functions during seizures. It’s not uncommon for dog seizure symptoms to include urinary incontinence and accidental defecation.
  • Going unconscious: While it doesn’t always happen, your dog may become unconscious when they’re having a seizure.

Because the signs and symptoms of seizures in dogs vary quite a bit, it’s important to keep an eye on your dog if you think they’re having a seizure. 

What Happens When a Dog Has a Seizure?

When a dog has a seizure, it generally goes through three different stages: aura, ictus, and post-ictal. That being said, every seizure is different and some dogs may not experience all three of these stages. Here’s what happens during each stage of a seizure.4

  • Phase I (Aura): During Phase I, your pet may become upset and anxious. You may notice them hiding away from you. This is often the first thing that alerts pet parents to a dog seizure, and it can occur in both focal and generalized seizures in dogs.
  • Phase II (Ictus): Phase II is when the muscles begin to stiffen, and your dog may fall over onto its side. Your dog is no longer conscious during this stage and may drool, defecate, or urinate uncontrollably. 
  • Phase III (Post-Ictal): After your dog has had a seizure, it may lie there for a bit without moving. It can take a while for a dog to get back to normal after a seizure, and you may notice clumsiness and excessive hunger until your dog is back to normal.

Dog seizure phases

What Are Post-Seizure Symptoms in Dogs?

After a dog has a seizure, they usually go through the post-ictal phase that we talked about in the previous section. During this phase, you may notice several symptoms that indicate that your dog isn’t quite back to normal yet. Here are some of the dog seizure symptoms you may notice after your dog has had a seizure:

  • Temporary blindness
  • Disoriented
  • Pacing or running
  • Bumping into objects
  • Excessive hunger
  • Aggression
  • Lethargy

Keep in mind that these symptoms typically go away on their own with time. If your dog is limping or behaving strangely well after a seizure, you should talk to your vet.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Having a Seizure

Knowing what to do when your dog has a seizure is important. However, it can be hard to act fast and figure out what to do when your dog is having a seizure. Here’s what the experts recommend you do if your dog is having a seizure3:

  1. Remain calm
  2. Keep an eye on the clock to time the duration of the seizure
  3. Understand what seizures are
  4. Removing sharp or hard objects from the area
  5. Cool your dog with wet towels or fans
  6. Contact your veterinarian

Dog laying sideways on the floor

If you’ve got your phone on hand or if you have a friend or family member with you who has a phone, have them record your dog while they have a seizure. Having a video to show to your vet can help you figure out whether your dog had a seizure and what kind of seizure they had. Your vet can focus on dog body language to help you diagnose your dog.

How Are Seizures In Dogs Treated?

If your dog has a seizure, the best thing you can do is talk to your vet about potential treatment options. Seizures in dogs can be treatable depending on the underlying cause. For example, your vet may recommend surgery to remove a brain tumor if that’s what’s causing your dog’s seizures. In some cases, antiepileptic drugs may be recommended for dogs who have epilepsy, and therapy may even be a treatment option4.

  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • Therapy
  • Surgery

With telemedicine for pets from Dutch, you can get your dog the treatment they need from the comfort of your home.

Final Notes

As a pet parent, seeing your dog have a seizure is a scary moment. It’s important to monitor your dog during a seizure and keep any sharp or dangerous objects away from them. Treatment options for seizures depend on the underlying cause, so taking your dog to the vet for a diagnosis is crucial.

If your dog has recently had a seizure, Dutch can connect you with vets who can offer professional advice and treatment options. To find out more about Dutch or schedule an online video chat, contact Dutch today.

References

  1. Brooks, Wendy. “Seizure Disorders in Dogs.” Veterinary Information Network. https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4951440

  2. “Understanding Canine Epilepsy.” American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. https://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/top-health-concerns/epilepsy/understanding-canine-epilepsy.html

  3. Burke, Anna. “If Your Dog’s Having a Seizure, Here’s What You Should Do.” American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-seizures-what-to-do/

  4. O'Brien, Dennis. “Understanding Your Pet’s Epilepsy.” Canine Epilepsy Network. http://www.canine-epilepsy.net/basics/basics_index.html