What Is the Difference Between a Muscle Spasm & a Seizure in a Dog?

by Slone Wayking Google
    In some breeds, epilepsy can be inherited.

    In some breeds, epilepsy can be inherited.

    Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

    Muscle twitching can be a sign of a strain, especially after exercise. But twitching can also be an early warning sign your dog is about to seizure. If your dog is starting to have tremor episodes in any form, he needs to see a vet to determine the cause.

    Muscle Spasms

    Typically, seizures are not localized, unlike spasms. Muscle spasms can be brought on by physical injury to a particular area. If a muscle is cramping, a localized knot can be seen. A disc problem will cause the back to spasm. Degenerative myelopathy, a loss of nerve function, will cause weakness or tremors in the back legs. Low blood sugar will also make legs weak and shaky. If your dog is trembling all over, however, he has a more serious concern.

    Neurological Tremors

    A full body tremor is not necessarily a seizure, but it is a neurological issue. The full body tremor can be caused by a birth defect, a brain tumor, a head injury or toxins such as antifreeze. Viruses are sometimes a cause. Tremors are a common sign of distemper, mainly seen in puppies and rarely in vaccinated adults. Rabies also presents neurologically.

    Grand Mal Seizure

    On average, a seizure will last for less than two minutes, although it can seem much longer if you’re the owner watching. During a grand mal seizure, a dog typically collapses to his side, and his body becomes rigid as his muscles tense. This is followed by convulsing or jerking and paddling of the legs. He may also drool, chomp, urinate or defecate depending on the severity. Although his eyes are open, he is in an unconscious state.

    Before, During, After

    A seizure has three phases. During the preceding phase, known as the aura, your dog will show signs of being worried or stressed. He may stay close to you, seeking your help. The second phase is the seizure itself. The third is the post. As your dog recovers, he is typically confused or disoriented; he may have trouble seeing.

    Epilepsy and Cluster Seizures

    If your young adult dog starts having seizures regularly, even months apart, epilepsy is likely. Other than injury, the causes of epilepsy are generally unknown. Anticonvulsant medications, with regular blood work to monitor levels, is an epilepsy management method.
    Cluster seizures are seizures that occur more than once in a 24-hour period or start happening back to back. This is an emergency situation that needs to be treated immediately with intravenous medications. These seizures are life-threatening, and the risk of brain damage is extremely high.

    Photo Credits

    • Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Slone Wayking worked as a professional in the veterinary field for 20 years. Though her interest in animal health led to this path, Wayking initially studied creative arts. She has been article writing for more than a year and is currently working towards her degree in multimedia. Her certifications include business writing and basic web design.

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