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Epilepsy in dogs

Epilepsy is a complicated disease that occurs when there is an imbalance in the communication between the brain's nerve cells. It is difficult to diagnose and cannot be cured, only alleviated. Here you can read about different types of epilepsy and how to act when a dog has a seizure.

Epilepsy means that the dog has convulsions in all or parts of the body. These convulsions last from a few seconds to several minutes in more severe cases. The dog may fall over, chew its tail and jerk its head and legs. Sometimes the neck and legs are strongly stretched. Many times the dog pees on itself, sometimes it also poops on itself. During the attack, the dog is often unconscious, but not always.

After a seizure, many dogs are disoriented and confused, some are noticeably hungry and/or thirsty, many become tired and sleep a lot the next day. Individual dogs may behave aggressively.

What to do if your dog has an epileptic seizure

  • Keep calm. Seizures can feel like an eternity for a dog owner. The first time it happens, the owner is usually convinced that the animal will die. However, most seizures are time-limited and pass within a couple of minutes.
  • Turn off the lights. If there is only one seizure that is short, let the dog rest and recover in a quiet room with dimmed lighting.
  • Time the attack. If the seizure does not go away in a couple of minutes or if new seizures immediately occur, a veterinarian should be contacted urgently.
  • Do not put any fingers in the dogs mouth, nor try to pull out the tongue - there is a great risk that you yourself will be injured. Although a seizure looks very dramatic, it is very rare that the dog is seriously injured during the seizure itself.
  • Make an appointment with the vet for an examination whenever possible, it is probably not necessary to go to the emergency room if there is only a single attack.
  • Keep a diary or log book. Note the date and time of the seizure, how long it lasts and if any trigger can be identified.
  • If possible, film the seizure so you can show your vet

Different types of epilepsy

Epilepsy is divided into different types and can be due to different causes:

Reactive epilepsy

Reactive epilepsy is due to an underlying cause. Examples of underlying causes can be problems with the liver, kidney, heart, disturbances in salt balance or poisoning. In these cases, the treatment is focused on the underlying diseases.

Structural epilepsy

Secondary to changes in the brain. Examples of these are traumatic injuries, inflammation or infection, developmental defects and tumours

Idiopathic epilepsy

This condition is due to a disturbance in the release of impulses in the brain, the cause has not been determined. Idiopathic epilepsy has a genetic background. This means it can be hereditary and is more common in certain breeds. The diagnosis is based on the age of the dog at the time of the first seizure, that the dog does not show any neurological symptoms beyond seizures and is normal in its behaviour between seizures, and that reactive and structural epilepsy has been ruled out.

Diagnosis of epilepsy

Sampling during investigation may include blood and urine samples, EKG, cardiac ultrasound and x-ray. If structural epilepsy is suspected, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging is performed.

When should you go to the vet?

  • Short seizures of epilepsy, which pass in a few minutes, usually do not damage the brain. Book an appointment for an examination with a veterinarian. It is probably not necessary to go to the emergency room if there is only a single attack.
  • In case of long seizures of epilepsy, more than 5 minutes, seizures that succeed each other or recurring seizures several times a day, you should contact a veterinarian immediately. A life-threatening condition may have been reached - a status epilepticus. This requires immediate veterinary treatment.

Epilepsy has no cure, but it can be managed

Most dogs can live a good normal life, but the disease can never be cured, but the often life-long treatment aims to relieve and reduce the number of attacks.

The medication can initially cause side effects such as fatigue, shakiness, increase thirst and appetite, but they usually disappear after a few weeks. It takes a couple of weeks for the body to get used to the medication.

Frequently asked questions about epilepsy in dogs


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