Just like humans, dogs also have seizures due to an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. Seizures are believed to be caused by an imbalance of excitatory and inhibitory signals in the brain that trigger an uncoordinated nerve transmission. Being one of the most common outcomes of canine epilepsy, a seizure, convulsion, or fit is a shaking, fainting, or thrashing in dogs that can be a dreadful sight for any pet owner. It can be categorized into three stages.
- Pre-ictus Phase: Pre-ictus phase or aura is a stage wherein the dog appears nervous, starts shaking, whining, drooling, and wandering from one place to another. This stage may last from a few seconds to a couple of days.
- Ictus Phase: During the ictus phase, all muscles of the dog's body contract and the dog may appear uncontrolled or uncoordinated. It may fall on its side, thrash its limbs, and vomit. This stage usually lasts for a few seconds to a couple of minutes.
- Post-ictus Phase: Herein, the dog starts recovering but may still appear to be disoriented, shaking, and temporarily blind. This stage can last from a few minutes to a couple of days.
Though one cannot ascertain the exact causes, some of the probable ones are as follows.
- Brain tumors
- Liver disease
- Low or high blood sugar level
- Head injury
- Low or high blood calcium level
- High fever
- Certain medications
- Reaction to toxins or allergens like antifreeze, lead, or chocolate
- Bacterial or viral infection such as canine distemper
Given below are the symptoms that will help you know whether your dog is having a seizure or not.
- Sudden, violent shaking
- Loss of consciousness
- Muscle twitching or slight shaking of a limb
- Confusion or disorientation
- Excessive salivation
- Loss of hearing or vision
- Increased thirst and appetite
- Involuntary urination or defecation
Identifying the underlying cause is the most important step in finding the appropriate treatment. Also, the frequency with which the seizures occur is another factor to consider, as unless they persist on a regular or semi-regular basis, the veterinarian will not prescribe the treatment. Hence, it is important to conduct a proper diagnosis which may include an MRI, CT scan, toxin tests, spinal tap for infectious diseases like dog distemper, and antibody titers in order to know the actual cause of this health problem. However, the common medications mainly include the following.
- Phenobarbital: This medication is used to treat sedation, loss of coordination, lethargy, depression, increased thirst and appetite, excessive urination, weakness in rear legs, and chronic liver disease.
- Potassium Bromide: This medication is given to cure vomiting, depression, lethargy, and drowsiness in the dog.
- Clorazepate (Tranxene): Likewise, clorazepate is also one of the most effective drugs that is used to cure drowsiness, lethargy, and excessive shaking.
- Felbamate (Felbatol): This medication works well to overcome liver toxicity and bone marrow suppression.
- Levetiracetam (Keppra): This medication is used to control stiffness, a wobbly gait, and excessive vomiting and salivation.
- Zonisamide: This medication is given to dogs with high salt levels.
These medications can either be given singularly or in combination depending upon the severity of the condition and the dog's response to them. However, for chronic cases where these medications do not prove to be helpful, the dog may have to undergo a brain surgery, which is relatively uncommon but still possible. Another treatment option is kindling, wherein the dog is given low-voltage electric stimuli to certain parts of the brain.
Besides these, one can also consider the natural treatment which involves the use of all natural blends of herbs and other homeopathic ingredients to treat and prevent seizures. Diet also plays an important role in managing seizures. Ensure that the food you are giving to your dog is free of preservatives or chemicals and is made of natural or organic human grade ingredients. Vaccinations can also lower the risk and can be a good treatment as well as prevention for seizures in puppies.
Along with these treatment options, ensure that you are always there with your pet to take proper care. Keep your hands away from the dog's mouth, stay calm, and talk to your dog gently, as this will help it regain consciousness. The dog may have difficulty walking, or may bump into furniture or get stuck in corners. Hence, keep a watch.