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Veterinary Teaching Hospital

Seizures

Dog prepped and beginning have an MRI performed.

What should I do if my dog or cat is having a seizure?

If your pet is having a seizure, remain calm. Note the time the seizure started and how long it lasted, as this information could be helpful to your veterinarian.

To prevent your animal from hurting itself, attempt to move it away from hard objects like stairs and furniture. Cushion its head and gently hold and comfort it until it begins to regain consciousness.

Always call a veterinarian after your pet has a seizure. The WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital can be reached at 509-335-0711.

Seizures can be generalized, affecting the entire body and usually lasting several seconds to a couple of minutes, or remaining localized to one body region and usually lasting a couple of seconds.

Most commonly, animals will fall to their side and make paddling movements with their limbs. They will often urinate, salivate, and defecate during the episodes. Seizures may start in one region of the body and then the entire body. 

What causes seizures in dogs and cats?

There are several reasons a dog may have a seizure, but most are from primary brain disease (intracranial) or a disturbance outside the brain (extracranial).

Intracranial causes of seizures may include structural disease, such as hydrocephalus, head trauma, inflammatory brain disease (encephalitis), strokes, and neoplasia (brain cancer).

Poison and metabolic diseases are the most common extracranial causes. Metabolic diseases include low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), liver disease, kidney disease, electrolyte disturbances, toxins (poisons), and anemia.

Idiopathic epilepsy is another common cause of seizures in dogs. These are seizures of unknown cause. These episodes are thought to be due to “mal-wiring” within the brain. Idiopathic epilepsy is seen in dogs between the ages of 6 months and 6 years of age. It is more common in certain breeds like border collies, Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, beagles, Belgian Tervurens, collies, and German shepherds, however, it can occur in any breed of dog or cat.

To determine the cause of seizures, your veterinarian may recommend physical and neurologic exams, blood work, checking blood pressure, sometimes chest X-rays, liver function tests, or brain imaging such as CT scan or MRI.

How are seizures in dogs treated?

If an underlying disease is found, treating the disease may help make the seizures stop. If the seizures are recurrent, anticonvulsant medications are often given.

The choice of medication, such as anticonvulsants, depends upon the characteristics of the animal’s problem. It is important to remember that once your pet begins taking an anticonvulsant, it should not be changed without consulting with your veterinarian. Most animals with idiopathic epilepsy will require anticonvulsant medication for the rest of their lives.


This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.