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Seizures Are the Stuff of Dog-Parent Nightmares

What you need to know about seizures and dogs (and canine epilepsy) so you’re prepared and your pup is cared for.

by Susan Tasaki
Updated December 1, 2022
Dog laying on couch in the sun
Photo: David Keller / Stocksy

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As dog parents, we hope we never have to face those scary health emergencies. You know, the ones that have us Googling symptoms at 1 a.m. or praying we can get into the emergency vet ASAP. Seizures fall into that category. But when they happen it’s helpful to understand what we’re looking at and what we need to do next.

Seizures, which are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, can indicate a variety of conditions, some transitory, some longer-lasting. When the cause of the seizure is unknown, it’s called “idiopathic” — or, of unknown origin — which is more common than we or our vets would like. 

Dr. Joseph Mankin, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, describes a typical seizure: “The dog may become agitated or disoriented, and then may collapse on its side. It may exhibit signs of paddling, vocalization, and may lose bladder control. The seizure may last for a few seconds up to a few minutes, and often the dog will be disoriented or anxious afterward. Occasionally, a dog may be blind for a short period of time,” he explains.

“A single, short seizure that is ‘typical’ for a known epileptic pet is probably not an emergency,” adds Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Seizures that last more than three to four minutes, violent seizures, new seizures, more than one seizure in 24 hours, or severe after-effects of a seizure are emergencies.”

When a dog is in the grip of a seizure, Dr. Rutter says there’s little we can do, other than to keep our hands away from their mouth. Afterward, the most important thing we can do is take the pup to the vet for investigation into the cause. Fortunately, a number of treatments, ranging from allopathic (Western medicine) to complementary (including acupunctureacupunture) exist for pups.

Natural Remedies For Dog Seizures

Acupuncture.

This holistic practice focuses on the stimulation of a specific point on the body. Some patients have seen significant effects in seizure reduction.

Diet.

In some cases, a change in diet alone is enough to decrease or eliminate seizures in dogs. A special diet based on medium-chain fatty acids was found to have a direct anti-seizure effect.

Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3 And Omega-6 Oils).

These support neural development, immune systems, and slow tumor development in dogs.

Nutraceuticals.

Dr. Jenny Taylor, founder of Creature Comfort Holistic Veterinary Center notes, “A variety of vitamins and nutritional supplements have been highly effective in decreasing seizures in dogs naturally. In my practice, we regularly recommend the following for our epileptic patients: DMG (n, n dimethyl-glycine); Choline; taurine; L-tryptophan; magnesium; melatonin; phosphatidylserine; and antioxidants such as vitamins C, A, and B complex.”

CBD Oil

Both humans and dogs who experience seizures have taken full-spectrum CBD oil to control them. It’s easy to supplement with a simple dropper in the dog's mouth or on a treat.

Like most things, especially those related to health, knowing what we're dealing with is half the battle. If your dog is experiencing epileptic seizures, you should contact your vet to get a diagnostic evaluation as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment with anti-seizure medications or natural remedies is important to stopping and preventing future seizures.

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Susan Tasaki

Freelance writer Susan Tasaki lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her Husky, who wishes they both got out more.