1 Bay Road, Fennell Bay NSW 2283
Westlakes Veterinary Hospital

Westlakes Veterinary Hospital


Everything you need to know about canine seizures

What are the symptoms of a seizure in my dog?

A seizure can have several manifestations, from a far-away look or twitching in one part of the face to a dog falling on its side barking, clenching and unclenching its teeth, urinating, defecating and paddling all four limbs. Seizures can vary in time between seconds to hours.


What should I do when my dog is having a seizure?

First, do not panic! When a dog is having a seizure, she is not fully concious. Keep your dog as quiet as possible and prevent her from hurting herself. Loud or sharp noises may prolong the seizure or make it worse. Other animals in the household may become frightened or feel threatened by the seizing dog. Remove them from the immediate area for everyones safety. If you speak to your dog while she is experiencing a seizure, it may comfort her and can help smooth the recovery period. Never put your hands near the dog's mouth as she may involuntarily bite you. Remember: your dog is not themself right now and will do things they would never normally do.

Always have our phone number available (02) 4959 5766 or an emergency vet's number . Call if your dog has a seizure that lasts more than 2 minutes. If the seizure lasts more than 30 minutes, permanent brain damage can occur if the seizure is not stopped.


Are all seizures or convulsions in dogs epilepsy?

Short answer? No. A dog may have an isolated seizure unrelated to epilepsy. However, even if your dog has just had a one-off seizure, a complete physical and neurological examination is still in order. We may even need to perform blood tests to check your dogs body and organs are working as they should be.


Are there different types of seizures in dogs?

Yes - if you believe your dog is having a seizure, it's important to note all the details so that you can accurately describe them to us.

  • Generalized Seizure: This type of seizure can be grand mal (a serious form of seizure with muscle spasms and prolonged loss of consciousness) or mild. The grand mal seizure is also known as a tonic-clonic seizure because it typically has two phases. In the tonic phase, which usually lasts 10-30 seconds, the dog falls, loses conciousness and extends her limbs rigidly. Breathing also stops (this is known as apnea). It is followed by the clonic phase, in which the dog may start paddling her legs and/ or appear to be chewing. Other signs that appear during these stages are dilation of the pupils, salivation, urination and defecation. The mild seizure involves little to no paddling or extension of limbs and usually no loss of conciousness.  Generalized seizures are usually associated with primary epilepsy.
  • Partial Seizures: Movements are restricted to one area of the body, such as muscle jerking, movement of one limb, turning the head or bending the body to one side or facial twitches. A partial seizure can progress to (and be mistaken for) a generalized grand mal seizure but if the seizure starts with one specific area of the body, its a partial seizure. Partial seizures are usually associated with secondary epilepsy.
  • Complex Partial Seizure: These seizures are associated with bizarre or complex behaviours that are repeated throughout each seizure. People with complex partial seizures experience distorions of thought, perception or emotion (usually fear), sometimes with unusual sensations of sound, smell, hallucinations or taste. If dogs experience the same things, it may explain the lip smacking, chewing, fly biting, aggression, vocalization, hysterical running, cowering or hiding in otherwise normal animals. Vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal distress, salivation, blindness, unusual thirst or appetite and flank biting are other signs. There is an obvious lack of awareness, though usually not a lack of conciousness. Abnormal behaviours may last minutes or hours and can be followed by a generalized seizure. Complex partial seizures are usually associated with secondary epilepsy.
  • Cluster seizures: These are multiple seizures within a short period of time with only brief periods of conciousness in between. There may be as few as two seizures in a 30 minute period. The time between seizures may be as brief as 5 to 10 seconds or as long as 4 to 6 hours. They may be confused with Status Epilepticus.
  • Status Epilepticus: Status can occur as one continuous seizure lasting 30 minutes or more, or as a series of multiple seizures in a short time with no periods of normal conciousness. It can be difficult to distinguish status epilepticus from frequent cluster seizures, but both are life-threatening emergencies. Most status patients usually suffer from generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures. Though status epilepticus can occur with either primary or secondary epilepsy, it may also suddenly arise in dogs with no previous history of seizures, especially in cases of traumatic brain injury, toxins or disease.
  • Petit Mal Seizure (Absence Seizure): This type of seizure is rare in dogs. A dog having a petit mal seizure may tremble, arch his back or shake his head, have difficulty standing and/ or drool.


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