If your dog has epilepsy, either inherited or acquired from an injury, you know how powerless you feel watching your beloved pooch lose control and convulse. Around 5 percent of dogs experience seizures, but not all of them display the familiar shaking that's associated with seizures. Even if your dog has had what you might consider a typical seizure in the past, it's possible that she could have a non-convulsive seizure at any time.
If your dog has only ever displayed rigid muscles and jerking movements, then grand mal seizures are the only ones you're familiar with. There are actually a number of types of seizures that aren't marked by convulsive behavior. These include clonic, atonic and absence seizures, as well as focal seizures with autonomic symptoms.
You're probably wondering how you'll know if your dog is having a seizure if she isn't shaking. You'll have to watch for abnormal behavior other than spasms to know your pooch is experiencing an episode. She might "paddle" her feet as if she's swimming, or could collapse with or without losing consciousness. You could notice that she's "spaced out," staring at nothing, is nipping and snapping at the air or is barking frantically or making odd noises. Autonomic symptoms are drooling, foaming at the mouth and spontaneously vomiting or developing diarrhea. Clenched teeth, irregular breathing and aimless wandering or not seeming to know where she is are other signs of non-convulsive seizures.
It's awful to stand by helplessly while your dog has a seizure, but there's not much you can do for her while she's experiencing it. If she's wandering around not knowing where she's going, she could fall. Protect her by keeping her indoors and away from water, stairs or other heights. A seizing dog can't control her actions and doesn't always recognize familiar people and animals. Separate your seizing dog from children and other pets to keep them safe, and don't put your hands near your dog's mouth, as you could get bitten. Also, don't try to shock your pup out of a seizure by yelling or throwing water on her. Keep a record of your dog's seizures including the date, the time the seizure started, when it ended, how it began and what symptoms she displayed. This information is useful to help your vet control your dog's condition.
If your dog doesn't display typical, violent convulsing symptoms, you might think it's not necessary to treat her. If she experiences non-convulsive episodes infrequently -- such as less than once a month -- and they last less than three minutes, your vet may recommend not treating her with medication. It's when she has them more often than once a month and they last for longer than three minutes, or come one after another with no reprieve in between that the doctor will want to try to control the condition with phenobarbital, potassium bromide or a combination of the two. Even if your dog has one seizure and seems to return to normal within a few minutes, you should still notify your vet. It's always best to consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your dog.
- Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine: Seizures and Narcolepsy
- WebMD: Epilepsy in Dogs
- VeterinaryPartner.com: Seizures/Convulsions
- UK Health Care: Status Epilepticus
- North Carolina State University: NC State Scientists Looking for Genetic Clues in Canine Epilepsy
- VeterinaryPartner.com: Seizure Disorders
- Medioimages/Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images