Epilepsy In Puppies

by Elizabeth Muirhead
    Identifying the cause of seizures helps predict prognosis and determine treatment.

    Identifying the cause of seizures helps predict prognosis and determine treatment.

    Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    Epilepsy is a neurological problem causing your puppy to have seizures. This scary occurrence can be life-threatening. Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical impulses in your puppy’s brain, which can have a variety of causes.

    Identifying Seizures

    When diagnosing epilepsy in your puppy, it is important to make sure your puppy is having a seizure. Record the episode for your veterinarian to help make diagnosis easier. Your pet may act abnormal before the episode and after or show signs of fear, anxiety or even aggression. During the seizure, your puppy may fall over and convulse. You may see him paddle his legs, cry out or defecate. Your puppy will not be able to respond normally during the seizure.

    Potential Causes

    Many causes exist for seizures, especially in puppies. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is common in small breed dogs such as Yorkshire terriers and can cause seizures. Lead poisoning is common in puppies given their tendencies to chew on objects. Toxic exposure to rat poison or ingesting medication can cause symptoms including seizures. Infectious causes include distemper, especially in unvaccinated puppies or in puppies with unvaccinated mothers. Head trauma from injury or accidental falls can lead to neurological problems, as well. While uncommon in young puppies, idiopathic epilepsy is possible, where no cause is identifiable.

    Diagnosis

    Diagnosing your puppy with seizures can often be done based on a description of the event, especially if you present your veterinarian with a recording of the episode. Diagnostics tests are then utilized to determine the underlying problem, if possible. Full blood work, evaluating blood cells and organ function, is often warranted, but your veterinarian may elect to start by checking glucose levels, especially if you have a small dog. Radiographic images of your pet may be necessary to look for injury or ingested objects. More extensive testing may check for infectious causes. Always be up-front with your veterinarian about things your puppy may have been exposed to, which can allow for more rapid diagnosis of the problem.

    Therapy

    Your veterinarian may choose different treatment options based upon the underlying cause of your puppy’s seizures. If your puppy is hypoglycemic, more frequent feeding and possible supplementation with high-calorie additives like Nutri-Cal may fix the problem. Infectious or toxic exposure can be lethal, and your puppy may need to be hospitalized for around-the-clock care. If your puppy ate an object, surgery may be necessary to remove it. Traumatic injuries may result in permanent seizure activity, with symptomatic care needed. If your puppy is diagnosed with idiopathic seizures, anti-convulsant therapy with phenobarbital or a similar medication may be warranted. When you decide upon a treatment course with your veterinarian, do not discontinue it without consulting your veterinarian as seizures may restart or worsen. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Elizabeth Muirhead is a practicing veterinarian with an undergraduate degree in biological sciences. She has real-world experience with the husbandry, grooming, training and feeding a variety of household pets.

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