Dogs are usually cheerful and active, especially when around their owners. This precedent makes a sudden change in their demeanor alarming. It could be terrifying for a pet owner to witness their dog switch from energetic and attentive to confused and unstable. When your dog suddenly drops to the floor while shaking uncontrollably, it could be that a seizure is occurring.
Most owners wouldn’t know what to do, especially if there are no easily identifiable causes, and your dog has no known health conditions. If such a situation happens to you, are you prepared to execute the necessary measures to save your dog’s life? Do you know the possible causes of dog seizures and how to avoid them? This article will tackle all of that and more.
Causes and Signs of Dog Seizures
Several reasons can cause seizures in dogs. If it’s an existing condition, you may have heard your vet refer to these episodes as epilepsy. Caused by sudden and irregular electrical bursts in the brain, it is similar to what happens when humans experience seizures. This condition in dogs is characterized by uncontrollable shaking or twitching that may last one whole minute or even more.
Symptoms of seizures in dogs may include jerking, loss of consciousness, drooling, stiffening of muscles, chomping, tongue chewing, and foaming at the mouth. In some cases, you will also see dogs that fall on their sides while making paddling motions with their limbs. Witnessing your dog like this, especially if it’s their first seizure, is both disheartening and terrifying. Additional behaviors during an episode may sometimes include uncontrolled pooping or peeing.
In other cases, dogs will exhibit a dazed or confused state before having a seizure. After the episode, the dog may seem unsteady, disoriented, and temporarily blind. Such an experience may confuse or frighten your pet, urging him to go into hiding. The confusion might also cause your pet to bump into things accidentally or move in circles uncontrollably. Do not aggravate your pets further by invading their space or touching them.
With that said, do you know what could be the possible causes of these epileptic episodes in your dog? Pinpointing one reason may be hard as seizures can either result from acute conditions or long-term ones. Seizures may also often be a result of the ingestion of poisons, consumption of foods with harmful toxins, the occurrence of low or high blood sugar, liver disease, kidney disease, head injuries, stroke, anemia, encephalitis, and brain tumors. The manifestation of a seizure in a healthy dog may be a telltale sign of the presence of toxins in the body.
In other cases, a dog may experience seizures due to a condition called idiopathic epilepsy. According to Ernest Ward, DVM, of the VCA Hospital, this condition is a common cause of seizures in dogs. Although it is known to be a disease passed on genetically and often seen in younger canines, its real cause remains unknown. Additionally, the Veterinary Health Center at the University of Missouri says dogs with the onset of idiopathic epilepsy will experience their first episode between one and five years old.
Which Chemicals Can Cause Seizures in Dogs
Several foods may trigger seizures in dogs. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, the ingestion of toxins found in food is one of the most common causes of dog seizures. Listed below are the various dog food chemicals or ingredients identified as seizure triggers:
Xylitol is a common ingredient in processed foods claiming to be “sugar-free” or “low-calorie.” Usually found in mouthwash, toothpaste, breath mints, and even baked goods, it is often used as a substitute for real sugar. Some commercially processed peanut butter brands may also contain this ingredient.
Ingestion of Xylitol can affect your dog’s blood sugar, causing spikes in insulin levels. This sudden change is what leads to a dangerous hypoglycemic state. What you think is a harmless amount of Xylitol in that dog treat may prove to be incredibly toxic, especially to small dogs. Also, apart from seizures, the toxin’s presence in the body often leads to vomiting, fainting, weakness, and difficulty in walking.
Unlike us humans, our dogs may be more sensitive to the adverse effects of caffeine. Caffeine poisoning in dogs is a severe and real thing that may lead to death when left unchecked. Although non-toxic in small amounts, moderate to large quantities of caffeinated beverages and food may easily poison small dogs. Ingestion of tea leaves or bags, coffee grounds, as well as medications containing caffeine also has the same effect.
Pet Poison Helpline says to watch for signs of caffeine poisoning within one to two hours of ingestion. Often accompanying these seizures are symptoms of unusual hyperactivity and restlessness, vomiting, elevated blood pressure, high heart rates, arrhythmia, elevated body temperature, and collapse.
Ethanol is a component commonly found in alcohol. This chemical, when ingested or comes in contact with the skin, can result in a decline in activity within the animal’s central nervous system. This decline may manifest as a lack of coordination, drowsiness, and unconsciousness. At the same time, extreme exposure may damage body cells, resulting in something moderately problematic as incontinence or to something as fatal as a heart attack.
Dogs may experience ethanol poisoning when exposed to industrial chemicals such as dyes, inks, disinfectants, paints, and gasoline. It is also crucial to place personal items such as perfumes and medicine that contain ethanol in places beyond your dog’s reach.
A variety of human foods also contain ethanol, and these include alcohol or liquor-infused foods and beverages, fermented fruits, and raw bread doughs. Such items may usually come across dogs that rummage through garbage.
One important thing to remember is that dog exposure to ethanol may lead to intoxication and other serious complications. Apart from seizures, signs of dog intoxication may include restlessness, excessive panting, vomiting, disorientation, high body temperature, and muscle tremors. Alcohol intoxication, when left untreated, may result in organ failure and death.
Chocolate, in general, is a commonly identified cause of poisoning among dogs. The seriousness of the dog’s clinical condition depends vastly on the amount of chocolate consumed by the pet. A considerable amount of dark chocolate in the system may cause restlessness, diarrhea, vomiting, excessive urination, increased thirst, and panting. Seizures often occur when a severe dose of chocolate is ingested by the dog, resulting in an episode usually accompanied by muscle tremors, and in worst cases, heart failure.
Pet Poison Helpline’s Associate Director of Veterinary Services, Ahna Brutlag, says measuring the toxicity of chocolate is often gauged by the amount of theobromine it contains. This chemical is what makes chocolate highly toxic to dogs. She further adds that the darker the chocolate, the more of the said toxin is present.
Extremely dark chocolate contains a high concentration of theobromine, around 130 to 450 mg per ounce. Older pets that eat copious amounts of high-quality dark chocolate may experience a sudden onset of cardiac arrest or even death, especially dogs that have preexisting heart conditions.
Dogs often look at anything they can get their hands on as food. This free access to different foods and chemicals, when you’re not looking, may also lead to potential poisoning accompanied by seizures. If you are a pet owner who loves taking your dogs outdoors, better steer them clear away from plants like Brunfelsia (also known as Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow), mushrooms, and sago palm.
Furthermore, seizures also are a result of the ingestion of other toxin-containing chemicals and compounds such as rat poison and insecticide. Illicit drugs such as amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, and synthetic cannabinoids may also result in epileptic episodes among dogs. Tremorgenic mycotoxins found in several types of nuts are also known to cause seizures, making them undesirable snacks for your pets.
If your pet was recently exposed to any of the said toxins and are showing any of the clinical signs mentioned above, please make sure to contact a veterinarian so that proper measures to remedy the situation may be applied.
What Foods Can Trigger Dog Seizures
Several food triggers may cause seizures in dogs. These triggers may come from your pet’s daily diet or accidental ingestion. Dogs with food allergies are also more prone to experience seizures, primarily as a result of allergic reactions brought about by commercially processed, low-quality dog food. The presence of unhealthy preservatives, chemicals, and emulsifiers in these dog foods increases the risk of health problems in your pet.
Also, several human foods serve as seizure triggers in some dogs. Although these are rare occurrences, tomatoes, carrots, moldy cheese, cottage cheese, milk, as well as raw and unclean pork and turkey products all pose particular dangers to dogs. Commercially prepared dog food and treats that may contain BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, as well as MSG-containing foods, are also common culprits. Furthermore, a diet high in sodium often leads to an inflammation of the pancreas, as well as seizures.
Pet owners who also have herb gardens may unintentionally be exposing their pets to seizure triggers. Herbs and spices such as fennel, saffron, and sage are also known to trigger episodes. Dog products such as uncleansed rawhide treats, flavored chews, and pig’s ears or feet may also expose dogs to the additives mentioned above.
How Can I Prevent Seizure in Dogs
When a seizure occurs as a result of toxicosis, prevention of the seizure from happening again will depend on the treatment plan for the toxin involved. However, treatment and prevention of other types of epileptic seizures may require a long-term treatment plan that may begin upon the identification of the kind of seizure afflicting the animal. Preventive and curative measures are necessary for frequent seizures, cluster seizures with short intervals, and severe grand mal seizures.
Listed below are the standard measures to prevent the occurrence of seizures in dogs:
The use of potassium bromide and phenobarbital are traditional practices in treating dogs with epilepsy. There is also ongoing research on new anticonvulsants such as levetiracetam and zonisamide. Dogs unresponsive to standard treatments may receive a combination of different anticonvulsants.
However, it is worth noting that a licensed vet must prescribe the use of anticonvulsants. Dog owners must ensure the proper use of medications for the treatment of dog seizures. Upon receiving the first dose, a canine must receive continuous doses for the duration of its life. Its prescription cannot be short-term or temporary.
Stopping the use of anticonvulsants may only be done with the express permission and specific instructions of the prescribing vet. Abrupt withdrawal may lead to more severe seizures. At the same time, misuse of the medication increases the risk of epilepsy and seizures in dogs with no prior history of the condition.
The implementation of a prescription diet is also commonly used by dog owners to combat various health conditions. The variety in these diets aid in the treatment of digestive problems, kidney conditions, skin sensitivities, weight management, and metabolic and energy deficiencies, to name a few.
In cases of seizures, prescription diets are used by pet owners to manage episodes and limit the dog’s access or exposure to food triggers. Such diets include the use of raw food and natural ingredients that may help lessen the occurrence of epileptic episodes. These diets often promote the use of high-protein, gluten-free, and wheat-free ingredients, as well as amino acids and omega fatty acids, specially made to address the nutritional needs of dogs. A diet rich in fatty acids is an essential component of seizure prescription diets, especially in boosting neurological health – something that must not be overlooked by dog owners.
Adding health supplements that contain Vitamin C is also advisable, especially in strengthening your dog’s immune system. Although canines are known to produce this vitamin, stress caused by seizures, other health problems, and environmental factors may affect Vitamin C production in the animal’s body. And because it is known to be the least toxic and healing substance among other vitamins, a little extra in your pet’s body won’t hurt at all.
Best dog food for seizures
Because certain foods often trigger seizures, changing your dog’s diet using specially created dog foods may prove to be beneficial. There are certain food products formulated to address nutritional deficiencies and restrictions often brought about by the health condition. When choosing the best dog food to stop seizures, it is crucial to consider the vitamin and nutrient content of the product. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best dog food to stop seizures:
- Be sure that what you’re purchasing for your pets are made from the highest quality natural ingredients. Keep in mind the harmful additives and toxins that may trigger episodes, and be sure to check the nutritional label for the list of ingredients.
- Your chosen dog food must be abundant in healthy animal fats, as these offer a wide range of neurological benefits. Keep in mind the importance of strengthening your dog’s neurological function, so focus on fats known to promote brain health.
- Choose a product that contains all the essential amino acids that promote healthy muscle growth in your dog.
- Dog food rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids is ideal for dogs that suffer from epilepsy, as these acids help deter the occurrence of seizures.
- It is also important to choose dog foods that contain other essential nutrients that may strengthen the heart and boost the immune system.
- According to the Clean Label Project, the best dog food brands that offer high nutritional value for pets are Pedigree and Purina. In contrast, Blue Buffalo received mediocre ratings amid mixed reviews regarding the product. Some users are claiming the effectiveness of the product in preventing seizures, while other users attribute the onset of their pet’s seizures to the use of the product.
How Many Seizures are Too Many
Often, seizures are not life-threatening. One episode may be indicative of toxicosis or other effects caused by the surrounding environment, but one seizure is not enough to make an accurate and sound epilepsy diagnosis. However, its occurrence is a clear sign that something is affecting your dog’s brain function. Repetitive or jerking body movements often characterize the physical manifestations of seizures. These movements are indications of an ongoing disorder attacking the dog’s nervous system.
What should be a cause for concern is when several prolonged seizures are happening in a row, with each episode lasting more than five minutes. Also, the occurrence of at least three seizures within 24 hours is a cause for concern.
What to Do When Your Pet is Having a Seizure
- If you witness your dog having a seizure, the first thing to do is stay calm. If this is the first time this happened to your dog, try to identify the probable causes of the seizure.
- Move your dog to a safe, comfortable, and well-ventilated space. Move pieces of furniture and fragile items away to avoid unnecessary accidents or injuries. If your canine is near the stairs or somewhere unsafe, slowly move your pet to safety as carefully as possible.
- If possible, monitor the length of each episode and the intervals. This step will give you an idea of the type of seizure happening. More importantly, steer clear and avoid touching your dog’s head, as involuntary biting my occur.
- Seizures that last more than a period of a few minutes increase the possibility of overheating in your dog. Place a fan nearby or use a cool damp cloth on his paws to cool down body temperature.
- Calm your dog by talking to using a soft and reassuring tone; immediately call your vet as soon as the seizure ends.
- As mentioned earlier, consecutive seizures that last five minutes or longer pose a significant risk to your dog. In this kind of situation, do not prolong your dog’s agony. Immediately contact and inform your vet of your pet’s current condition. Follow your vet’s instructions to the letter. The longer your dog stays untreated, the complications of aspiration and brain damage become higher.
- During severe seizures, the vet may inject Valium onto your dog intravenously to deter the seizure.
Remember, seizures are in no way healthy. Quick communication with your vet and well thought out decisions are crucial in saving your dog’s life. Always stay updated with your pet’s health, and don’t ever overlook any symptoms your dog may be showing.