Our Gentle Giants

The story of two Floridians and their foster Great Danes



June 27th, 2015

Epilepsy in Dogs

By Tara

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian or any sort of medical professional! Everything written below is based on my own experiences, thoughts, and research. If you have any questions, talk to your vet.

Rocco is prone to seizures. In the past, his triggers have been high heat and the sound of thunder, which makes Florida one of the worst states for him to be in.

I didn’t know much about seizures, much less canine seizures, before meeting Rocco. I did a little research to prepare myself in case anything should happen and have written down what I learned below.

Before I begin, I want to show you guys a video. When first I started my research, I came across this video of a Shiba Inu having a seizure. It disturbed me. Proceed with caution.

A lot of the commenters on the video criticized the owner. “Why are you recording him and not helping??”. I felt the same way at first. But as I continued my research, I learned that there really is nothing you can do during an episode. It is best to stay away from the dog and let the episode “run its course”. You should only intervene if he is about to hurt himself (for example, if he is near a coffee table when it starts, he could bump his head). He won’t respond to touch, so comforting him during a seizure is pointless.

I thought that armed with information, I would be well prepared. But the next day, I witnessed what I think was a seizure and freaked out. We were in the car and it was very hot (we had just left the house). Rocco was in the back, panting like most dogs do when they leave the house. Then, he put his head in the sunlight, and within 10 seconds, his body started to shake and his eyes twitched. I yelled his name and I rubbed the side of his body but he didn’t respond. After about 20 seconds, he stopped shaking, brought his head back to face me, was panting 10 times worse, and was responding to me. I turned the AC to full blast (it was already on high) and turned all the fans so that they were facing him.

I knew that in situations like these, you are supposed to remain calm and uninvolved. But in that moment, everything that I had learned the night before flew out the window and I panicked.

Thankfully for both of us, we were in the car and I was strapped in so I couldn’t really “help” him. Also, thankfully for all three of us (Roxie was in the front seat), we were stopped at a red light. If we had been moving and he seized, I’m not sure what would have happened.

I think part of me panicked because I had never seen a seizure before. I was completely unsure about whether he was freaking out for another reason or if it was a seizure. I am still not 100% sure if it was a seizure, just because I’m not an expert and an expert wasn’t there. But based on what I’ve read and videos I’ve watched, it looked like a mild seizure. Now that I’ve witnessed a moment like that, I think I’ll be able to remain calm in the future. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.

Here are the specifics of what I learned. Sources are listed at the end of this post.

Signs of a seizure before it happens

The moment leading up to a seizure is called the “pre-ictal phase” or “aura”. During this time, the dog will begin acting differently. Strange behaviors vary from dog to dog. You may witness the dog pacing (as if he’s restless), whining, shaking, salivating, etc. This period can last a few seconds or a few minutes.

Coincidentally, while I was writing that paragraph, it started storming. Rocco immediately stood up (he was laying on the ground, quietly sleeping) and paced back and forth and panted heavily. The rain subsided and he calmed down. I’m going to put white noise on next time and see if that helps. If that doesn’t, I’ll try putting soft music on, like Enya. We’ll see if that helps. Currently, he’s laying down peacefully:

mantle-great-dane-sleeping

Signs of a seizure in progress

A seizure in progress is called the “ictal phase”. During this time, the dog may:

  • lose consciousness
  • hallucinate (act as though something is there but it really isn’t)
  • experience muscle contractions (what I referred to as “shaking” and “twitching” earlier)
  • lose his balance and fall to the side
  • experience full-bodied muscle contractions
  • lose his faculties and pee or poop

Writing that list out made me so anxious. I’ve never had a seizure and I cannot imagine what a dog/person goes through during a seizure.

Seizures last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. If a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, take him to the vet immediately.

I would like to take a moment and urge you to stop what you are doing. If you don’t already know where the nearest emergency vet is, find them and write their information down. You won’t want to be scrambling to find an emergency vet during an actual emergency.

What should you do during a seizure?

If he is not in danger of hitting anything around him or otherwise hurting himself, do nothing.

For me, it went against all my instincts to not do anything, but there is truly nothing you can do to stop it. They won’t respond to physical comfort. I found that I felt a lot better when I was rubbing his side. From what I’ve read, there’s nothing actually wrong with petting the dog. I say that if it comforts you and doesn’t get in his way, go ahead and pet him. I know it kept me calmer.

Stay away from his mouth. He may accidentally bite you.

Again, if the episode lasts longer than a few minutes, you need to take him to the emergency vet!

What should you do after a seizure?

He’ll come out of it confused and stressed. Dogs pick up on our emotions easily, so it is important for you to remain calm and not anxious. At this point, comforting him with touch or your voice is recommended. Watch him for the next few hours. If he has another seizure within 24 hours, take him to the emergency vet, regardless of how intense the first or second seizure was.

I’ve had pets for over 10 years, but this is the first time I’ve come close to an emergency situation. I now understand how important it is to properly educate myself on what to do during any emergency situation before it happens.

Take some time right now and do some research on doggie seizures, broken bones, broken nails, poisonous foods, choking, etc. I found this great list of dog emergencies that can help you get started in your research. I also have a bunch of “cheat sheets” pinned on Pinterest. Check them out here.

Sources


Thoughts
  • Paved by Paw Prints July 7, 2015 at 12:59 am

    Those seizures sound terrible. I didn’t watch the video – but I can just imagine how awful it would be.

    Thank you for such an informative post and I agree, it’s important to be properly educated for these situations. I will definitely look into those lists of dog emergencies.

    • Tara July 7, 2015 at 11:02 am

      No worries on watching the video. I found the video pretty disturbing, but that might be because I’m pretty sensitive.

      Glad you got something out of the post! I’ve had my Roxie for 10 years and thankfully, she’s been ridiculously healthy the whole time and has never experienced any serious emergencies, but there is a first time for everything which is why I’ve been doing some research on doggie emergencies. Bubba (our first foster) split open his nail, which is something we had never experienced before so we had to do a lot of quick research.

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