Most people only have a rudimentary knowledge of what a seizure looks like. So how do you know whether your dog is experiencing a seizure? The best thing to do if you suspect your dog of having a seizure is to take him to the veterinarian to receive a proper diagnosis. If your dog is indeed experiencing seizures, it is important to address the condition as soon as possible to avoid permanent health complications.
Dog Seizure Symptoms
There are a few important points to keep in mind when dealing with symptoms of seizures in dogs:
- It may be difficult to determine whether your dog has experienced a seizure as no two seizures are alike, therefore you don’t have something concrete to compare it to. To get a proper diagnosis, it is important to consult your local veterinarian as soon as possible.
- One of the best ways you can determine whether your dog is having a seizure is his level of consciousness. If your dog seems aware of his surroundings or reacts to your touch (such as awakening from sleep), then it is unlikely that he is experiencing a seizure. Dogs that experience seizures are often completely unconscious or unable to interact or respond to their surroundings.
- It is important to stay calm if your dog is experiencing a seizure. If you are panicking, you will not be able to ensure your dog’s airways are clear and keep him safe from injuring himself on surrounding objects.
As mentioned above, there aren’t a strict set of symptoms to look for to determine whether your dog is having a seizure. Typically, however, you can expect your dog to experience something like the following:
- Your dog may seem agitated, irritable, uninterested in activity, nervous or in need of comfort. Some dogs seek out their owners before experiencing a seizure, looking for comfort or attention. Your dog feels unwell and is aware that things are not normal. This is referred to as the “pre-ictal” period, and may last anywhere from a couple minutes to a couple hours.
- Your dog may become unresponsive and “zone out”. He may begin to tremble or experience minor muscle spasms. Some weak vocalization may occur. He will not respond to your voice or your touch.
- The dog stiffens and falls to the floor and may experience violent convulsions or paddle his legs uncontrollably. His jaw will likely seize up with teeth clenched, or display uncontrolled biting motions or “champing”. He may drool and appear not to be breathing. Vocalizations may occur in outbursts or strangled whining. It is common for your dog to lose control of his bowels, resulting in involuntary urination or even defecation. This is referred to as the “ictal” period, and is the worst part of the seizure. The ictal period is usually short-lived, typically lasting less than a couple minutes.
- When the dog begins to recover from the seizure, this is referred to as the “post-ictal” period. The dog may remain unresponsive and disoriented for some time after the seizure. Many dogs will try to stand up and run away; it’s important you try to contain your dog as his disoriented state may cause him to injure himself. He may be breathing heavily and seem exhausted. Some dogs will even sleep after a seizure. The post-ictal stage is the longest lasting stage of a seizure, spanning anywhere from about an hour to a couple days.
Below we’ve included three YouTube videos of dogs experiencing a seizure.
PLEASE NOTE: THE FOLLOWING VIDEOS MAY BE DISTRESSING TO SOME VIEWERS.
False Seizures In Dogs
Thankfully, many seizure scares are in fact false alarms. The most common culprit of false seizures is actually due to quirky sleeping habits. Many dogs (particularly young dogs) move erratically while in deep sleep. These dogs often twitch, shake, vocalize or paddle their legs while asleep. It has been said that a dog that “runs” in its sleep is dreaming about chasing a rabbit, or running through an open field. Whether this is true or not, nobody can say. What dog owners can be assured of however is that such behaviour is perfectly normal and is not usually harmful to your dog.
Some dog owners have become concerned when their dog does not respond to efforts to wake them from their “running dream”. When dogs are experiencing muscle spasms or paddling their legs during sleep, they are likely in a deep sleep state. If woken suddenly by a concerned owner, the dog may appear dazed. This is normal. It’s not recommended that you try to wake a dog when it is sleeping due to the risk of startling your dog and potentially being nipped at.
Below are three YouTube videos of dogs that are exhibiting common deep sleep behaviour:
Some other instances of false seizures are due to the dog’s physical condition. If your dog suffers poor balance or has his head tilted at an odd angle, he may be experiencing an infection or disease of the middle ear. Likewise, fainting episodes, sporadic breathing and strange snorting noises may also stem from cardiac or respiratory diseases, kennel cough, bracycephlactic (short muzzled) breathing issues or reverse sneezing. All of these conditions are quite common, and not an indication of seizures in dogs.