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Epilepsy in Dogs – Your A-Z Guide

November 29, 2022

The central nervous system is the backbone of all living creatures in the world. It receives sensory information from the world and sends it across to the brain for processing. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord: The brain controls how we think, learn, move, and feel while the spinal cord carries messages back and forth between the brain and the nerves that run throughout the body. The central nervous system is so vital that it controls voluntary movement, such as speech and walking, and involuntary movements, such as blinking and even breathing. Now any harm to the system and you can imagine the circumstances. Every consecutive action will suffer. And unfortunately, living beings don end up suffering from disorders of the system. Some of them include –

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Bell’s palsy

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Epilepsy

  • Motor neuron disease (MND)

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)

  • Neurofibromatosis

  • Parkinson’s disease


Epilepsy is a central nervous system or a neurological disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness. What happens in epilepsy is the electrical signals in the brain become scrambled and there are sometimes sudden bursts of electrical activity. There is no particular reason why this happens, but there are some symptoms that can help identify the occurrence. These include –

  • Staring

  • Confusion

  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs

  • Stiffening of the body

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Breathing problems

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

Epilepsy in Dogs

The condition is described as heterogeneous a disease that is characterized by the presence of recurrent, unprovoked seizures resulting from an abnormality of the brain. It can affect anyone of any gender, race, caste, age, etc. But it is not limited to that. Our loyal buddies, dogs, can also be very well affected by the same. It is actually one of the most common neurological disorders found in dogs. It is estimated that approximately 0.75% of the entire canine population is affected by it. This number may look small but when put into perspective, 0.75% of 470 million, which is the entire dog population in the world, comes to a figure of 35,25,000. And that becomes a cause for major concern.

There can be 3 types of epilepsy in dogs. These include

  • Genetic or idiopathic epilepsy – which is inherited

  • Structural epilepsy – is caused by structural problems in the brain

  • Epilepsy of the unknown case – which stems from an unknown reason

Your happy-bouncing dog may suddenly turn confused or unsteady. He/she may start flopping the floor and show weird behaviors. At such times, it is very much possible that he/she is having an episode of a seizure, which is another name for epilepsy. It can look like a twitch or uncontrollable shaking and can last from less than a minute to several minutes.

Signs and Symptoms of Epilepsy in Dogs

The symptoms of epilepsy can include –

  • Collapsing

  • Jerking

  • Stiffening

  • Muscle twitching

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Drooling

  • Chomping

  • Tongue chewing

  • Foaming at the mouth

There can be other symptoms as well like the dog peeing or pooping out of nowhere, falling and making paddling motions with the legs, being disoriented or temporarily blind, walking in circles, bumping into things, and him/her trying to hide.

Types of Epilepsy in Dogs

There can be different types of epilepsies or seizures in dogs depending on the amount of area affected by it. The most common type is a generalized seizure. It is also called a grand mal seizure where a dog can lose consciousness and convulse. The abnormal activities happen throughout the brain. They last for a few seconds to a few minutes.

The second type is a focal seizure. The word focal, coming from focus, indicates that the abnormality occurs in only a part of the brain. They can cause unusual movements in one limb or one side of the body. They last only for a few seconds but can turn into a generalized one.

The third is a psychrometer seizure is one which lasts only for a couple of minutes. Your dog may suddenly start attacking an imaginary object or chasing their tail. It may be difficult to identify a seizure of this type but every time your dog has one, it will behave in a similar way.

There is another type of seizure called idiopathic epilepsy, which occurs when the reason for the seizure is unknown. It usually happens in dogs between 6 months and 6 years old. Some breeds are more prone to this type of seizure as compared to others. These include Border collies, Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, beagles, Belgian Tervurens, collies, and German shepherds.

Causes of Epilepsy in Dogs

There can be various reasons for a dog to get a seizure. These include –

  • Eating poison

  • Liver disease

  • Low or high blood sugar

  • Kidney disease

  • Electrolyte problems

  • Anemia

  • Head injury

  • Encephalitis

  • Strokes

  • Brain cancer

What to do when your dog is getting a seizure?

  • The first thing you want to do is stay calm.

  • If there is any piece of furniture around or a pointed object that could hurt him/her, move it aside.

  • Do not put anything in the dog’s mouth and stay away from their head and mouth.

  • Avoid touching as he/she would end up biting without realizing it.

  • There is a possibility of your dog overheating if the seizure lasts for more than a couple of minutes. Place a fan in front of him/her and pour cold water on his/her paws to let them cool down.

  • Talk softly and calmly to your dog to bring them comfort

  • And lastly, call the vet as soon as the seizure ends.

If the seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes or if it keeps happening frequently in a very short period of time making them unconscious, take them to the vet at the earliest. The dog may experience difficulty breathing in the case of prolonged seizures as it causes overheating of the body. There exists a risk of brain damage here. Your vet would give your dog IV Valium to stop the seizure.

A thorough physical examination would be conducted by your vet to identify the exact reason for the seizure. Diagnostic imaging like MRI can help detect brain lesions. There are certain medicines that your vet may prescribe to control the episodes. It is important that he/she doesn’t miss the doses.

Treatment of Epilepsy in Dogs

The two most commonly used medications to treat seizures in dogs are Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide. Research into the use of other anticonvulsants is ongoing, and newer anticonvulsants, such as Zonisamide and levetiracetam are gaining popularity.


Epilepsy or seizures can occur in any dog of any age, breed, size, etc. It is something that can’t be avoided completely even through medications but can be controlled. The important thing as a loving and responsible pet parent is to be very calm and not panic and remember the instructions mentioned above. Also, read about Swelling in dogs & Fever in Dogs

Happy Mood and Health to your Dog and lots of Love and Licks to you!


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