If you have witnessed an animal or person having a seizure (convulsion or fit), you will know how frightening it can appear. An animal suffering a generalised seizure (also known as grand mal seizure) will be unconscious. They may show violent, rhythmic movement of their legs, excessive drooling and twitching of the face and jaws. Some animals cry out and it is not uncommon for them to lose control of their bladder or bowels.
Although time seems to slow down when you are faced with a seizuring animal most seizures only last for 2 minutes or less. Seizures are not uncommon in dogs, but many dogs have only a single seizure in their lifetime therefore do not be unduly alarmed if you witness your dog having a seizure. Remember your dog does not know what it is doing during a seizure so it is important to keep you and your pet safe.
The most important thing is to stay calm. Remember that your dog is not in pain or distressed during the seizure itself. The seizure is likely to be more distressing for you than your pet. Ensure your dog is in a safe place, i.e. not at the top of a flight of stairs and then do not intervene further or you may get hurt.
It is a good idea to have a plan that you can enact every time your pet has a seizure. If everyone in the family knows what to do in advance they will be less alarmed when a seizure starts. Print out the seizure plan and pin it in a prominent place in the house so everyone can access it in an emergency.
During the seizure keep notes as these may be helpful to your vet later on – write down the time the seizure started and finished and what your pet did during the seizure.
If your dog stops seizuring within 5 minutes allow them time to recover quietly. Immediately following the seizure your pet may show some strange behaviours and may be abnormal for minutes to hours after. If this is the first seizure your dog has had you should contact your vet and let them know. Your vet may ask you to bring your dog into the next routine appointment for a check and some routine blood tests. It is far better for your dog to recover quietly at home rather than be bundled into the car and carted off to the vet right away.
If your dog continues to have an active seizure as described above for more than 5 minutes or fails to recover fully before another seizure starts, or has repeated seizures within hours of one another, then you should contact your vet immediately.
Your vet will give some advice over the phone. If your dog has a history of seizures your vet may have given you medication to keep at home for emergency use. Some drugs (diazepam or valium) can be given per rectum or nasally (i.e. up the nose) and this can be given during a prolonged fit and/or after individual seizures if the dog is predisposed to severe clusters. If you have to give medication by mouth wait until your dog is fully recovered and never try to put tablets in your dog’s mouth while it is still dazed. Your dog may not be sufficiently aware to swallow properly and you may get bitten.
If your dog has more than 3 seizures in a day you should contact your vet for further advice.
If your dog is still having an active seizure after 5 minutes your vet will probably want to see it straight away. Always call your vet’s practice before driving there to be sure that there is someone on hand who can help your pet.
Immediately after a seizure your dog may be very confused and could show strange behaviour such as aimless pacing, wobbliness or a desire to eat and drink excessively. You must be very careful during this time as they can become aggressive.
Most of the time epileptic dogs recover perfectly well after a seizure. A very small number of dogs die as the result of an injury that has happened because of a seizure. In some cases, dogs do die during a seizure without any obvious explanation. Sudden unexplained death in epilespy (SUDEP) also occurs rarely in people affecting 1 in 1000 epileptics. Non-one knows how rare this is in dogs.
These directions will help you manage your pet in a safe way during and after a seizure.
1. Write your vets contact number here so you have it to hand
- Vets contact details………………………………………….
- Emergency contact number………………………………..
2. Know where emergency drugs are stored.
3. Instruct all adult members of household how to administer these drugs correctly.
1. Ensure your dog is in a safe place and if necessary move them away from hazards such as the top of stairs.
2. Ensure that any other household pets are shut up away from the seizuring dog. Other animals can become distressed seeing a companion having seizures and may get hurt if they go to investigate. In some cases dogs will attack a seizuring companion.
3. Write down start and finish time of seizure. If seizure lasts more than 5 minutes call your vet for advice.
1. Keep other household pets locked away from seizuring dog until it is fully recovered.
2. Keep human contact to a minimum until pet is recovered.
2. Immediately after seizure dogs may be hungry, thirsty or need to go out to toilet.
3. Allow animal to fully recover in a quiet peaceful environment but you should expect that your dog may be restless or agitated and may move around a lot so it is important that you provide a safe environment for this.