You’re woken up at 6 am by your 4-month-old puppy shaking uncontrollably. What do you do?
It is what happened to me not long ago on a Sunday morning. Lucky for me, I was aware my new puppy had had seizures a couple of weeks prior, and we were waiting to see if he would have any more. Because I knew, I was prepared for what I needed to do, although this by no means lowered my sense of fear when it happened. Most people are caught by surprise when their dog first has a seizure and have no idea what to do when this suddenly happens. It is a frightening moment, and you can feel helpless.
When you’ve never had experience with seizures, it can be quite overwhelming. What caused the seizure, how long are they going to last, when are they going to have another, what can I do to help? It can be a lot for anyone. A seizure can range from small repeated muscle twitches in a focal area to full blown grand mal seizures. Any abnormal neurological behaviour you notice in your pet is worth bringing up to your veterinarian.
Seizure episodes can be triggered during a change in brain activity such as during periods of excitement/stress or when falling asleep or waking up. Seizures can be caused by many things including liver or kidney disease, exposure to toxins, electrolyte or blood sugar abnormalities, tumours or genetics among others. It is why in addition to a thorough exam and history, your veterinarian will likely recommend checking bloodwork and possibly other diagnostics to try and identify the cause. Unfortunately, sometimes we never identify the cause of the seizures, but this doesn’t mean we can’t treat them. If your pet has more than one seizure a month, it’s time to think about treatment to control their seizures. We have multiple options available to help.
In my personal case, my pup was having multiple aggressive seizures, so we performed blood tests. Then started him on IV fluids and began giving him daily tablets to control his episodes. Since all his tests came back normal, his condition is termed idiopathic epilepsy. Essentially, this means we don’t know the exact cause of his seizures. However, there is likely a genetic component. As he grows, he will have to have bloodwork done and be weighed frequently to ensure that he has the correct dosage of medication to control his seizures.
Keeping a diary of your pets’ seizures, dates and times, can be very helpful. This way you can see if there is a common factor to help you find a trigger or triggers. I know of a dog owner who had to tell all his friends and family to not just stop in at his house. They had to let him know they were coming over because his dog would go into convulsions if it were surprised by the doorbell or a knock on the door.
I have done a lot of reading on this subject, and it makes me feel slightly better to know that they say the dog doesn’t feel pain during the seizure. After an episode, they wake up wondering why they feel a little funny and disoriented. They are also likely wondering why you’re making such a fuss over them.
Written by: Amanda, Practice Manager